By Diana Preston
In 1898, Marie Curie first defined a phenomenon she known as "radioactivity." A half-century later, physicists may stand prior to sunrise within the New Mexico barren region, slathering themselves with sunscreen-and fearing that the upcoming try detonation could ignite Earth's surroundings in a cataclysmic chain response and rework our planet right into a burning star.
This is the epic tale of Curie's quest to liberate the secrets and techniques of the cloth global; of the scientists-Rutherford, Bohr, Einstein, Oppenheimer-who equipped upon her paintings; of the day the 1st weapon of mass destruction dropped on Hiroshima, bringing either surprising terror and unexpected peace, and of the recent period of worldwide uncertainty that emerged in its wake. With the readability of serious technological know-how writing, the vividness of historic narrative and the perception of biography, Before the Fallout is an unforgettable and sweeping account of the medical discovery that modified the area.
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Extra resources for Before the Fall-Out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima
They began breaking down the pitchblende to extract the tiny fragment containing the activity, hoping thereby to solve the puzzle. They did this by extracting from the pitchblende sulphur of bismuth, a substance which, according to their measurements, was far more active than uranium. Since pure sulphur of bismuth was itself inactive, this meant that the new active ingredient had to be present in the bismuth. It was laborious, painstaking but exciting work. As soon as they had extracted a tiny amount of active material, Marie bore it off to Eugene Demarcay, a specialist in spectrography - the science of identifying elements by the rainbow-coloured 'spectra' they display when energized by an electric current.
They decided not to patent their process for extracting radium, believing it to be against the spirit of science to seek commercial advantage. Knowledge should be available to all. BEFORE THE FALL-OUT 46 * * * Marie Curie's discovery of radium was an emphatic push on a door just starting to open on a new sub-atomic world whose implications challenged long-established beliefs. To some they were unthinkable. Unravelling the mysteries would require intuitive skills, a daring but disciplined imagination, physical energy and a first-rate scientific mind.
Rutherford pinned his hopes on winning an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship. The Great Exhibition, an international celebration of industry, science and commerce instigated by Prince Albert and held in London in 1851, had attracted over six million visitors and made a fat profit, some of which had been channelled into scholarships to pluck gifted science graduates from across the Empire and bring them to Britain. Rutherford was digging in the family garden when the postman brought the letter announcing he had been awarded a scholarship for his work on magnetism and electricity.