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 wilderness, slathering themselves with sunscreen-and fearing that the approaching try detonation may well ignite Earth's surroundings in a cataclysmic chain response and remodel our planet right into a burning star.
This is the epic tale of Curie's quest to unencumber the secrets and techniques of the cloth global; of the scientists-Rutherford, Bohr, Einstein, Oppenheimer-who outfitted upon her paintings; of the day the 1st weapon of mass destruction dropped on Hiroshima, bringing either unexpected terror and surprising peace, and of the recent period of world uncertainty that emerged in its wake. With the readability of significant technology writing, the vividness of old 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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Additional info for Before the Fall-Out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima
Marie effectively took charge. Pierre later admitted that, left to his own devices, he would never have embarked on such an enterprise. Day after day the small figure dressed in a baggy, stained linen smock could be seen obsessively filling cauldrons in the courtyard. She processed the pitchblende in batches, pulverizing, crystallizing, precipitating and leaching to purify and extract the precious radium which glowed blue in its glass containers. As she later recalled, 'Sometimes I had to spend a whole day mixing a boiling mass with a heavy iron rod nearly as large as myself.
In 1895, the year that Rontgen discovered X-rays, Rutherford borrowed money for his passage to England, packed up his magnetic detector and set out. Almost immediately on reaching London he skidded on a banana 'A RABBIT FROM THE ANTIPODES' 49 skin and wrenched his knee. It was several days before he could catch a train to Cambridge and limp into the famous Cavendish Laboratory. His scholarship did not specify which university he should go to. It was up to Rutherford to find somewhere he wanted to work and which was willing to accept him.
The Curies wondered whether Rutherford and Soddy were rushing to unjustified conclusions based too narrowly on findings from thorium. They also worried that the transmutation theory threatened the status of their discoveries, radium and polonium, by redefining them as transitional entities rather than new elements. In fact, as the theory developed, the reverse would prove true. The theory would explain where radium and polonium fitted in despite their instability. Uranium slowly but inexorably decays, transmuting through a series of radioactive elements, all present in uranium ores.