Plutonium: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element

Overview

We have created a monster, one that is undeniably hard to get rid of. A history of plutonium reveals that it is as strange as the element itself. It has almost no use save as a powerful nuclear weapon. The author weaves together the many strands of plutonium's story, explaining the science & the people involved.
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Overview

We have created a monster, one that is undeniably hard to get rid of. A history of plutonium reveals that it is as strange as the element itself. It has almost no use save as a powerful nuclear weapon. The author weaves together the many strands of plutonium's story, explaining the science & the people involved.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Physicist and former New Yorkerstaff writer Bernstein presents a scientifically rigorous (equations and all) but clearly written explanation of the recondite reasons why plutonium is supremely suited for bomb-making material—and little else. From the discovery of uranium in 1789 to the Manhattan Project, Nazi attempts at a nuclear bomb and the post-WWII efforts of the U.S.S.R. to become a nuclear power, Bernstein reviews the element's storied past. Although the discovery of the atom's structure has been covered before, Bernstein spins an accessible, insightful description of how the great scientists Curie, Bohr, Rutherford and Fermi, among others, deconstructed the atom through a combination of individual brilliance, a spirit of collaboration and serendipity. He also brings his acquaintance with several Los Alamos scientists (he interned at the laboratory in 1957) to the less canonical subject of the scientific and engineering problems inherent to building a working nuclear bomb. Here the search for the elusive element comes to center stage in this challenging but rewarding account (after 2005's Secrets of the Old One: Einstein 1905). (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Plutonium was the heaviest natural element found in minute amounts of pitchblende in the mining area of Saxony, Germany, at the beginning of the 20th century. The radioactive substance is now overwhelmingly prevalent, and because of its extensive half-life, it poses an environmental threat. Intrigued by its bizarre chemical and physical properties and its subsequent role in nuclear reactions, physicist Bernstein, who has written both technical papers and popular science (e.g., Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma), here traces plutonium's history and describes its chemical and physical properties along with its role in the construction of nuclear arms. Running through a spectrum of Nobel prize winners, he grippingly portrays the race to develop the first nuclear weapon during World War II as well as the interplay among the global personalities involved. Readers learn that this hazardous element, good for nothing but nuclear weapon production, continues to holds us hostage with the threat of nuclear terrorism. This historical record of the growth of chemistry and its effect on history is suitable for public and academic libraries.
—Rita Hoots
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309102964
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2007
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 1.03 (d)

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