R: Fermi ,The Bomb, and what if

From: scerir (scerir@libero.it)
Date: Sat Aug 12 2000 - 08:44:18 MDT

John Clark wrote:
However in fascist Italy in 1934 Enrico Fermi performed almost the exact
same experiment that Hahn and Strassman did in 1939, and although he
must have produced fission, for some reason he did not detect it. This was
very uncharacteristic of Fermi, not only was he a superb theoretician he was
probably the best experimental physicist of his age, the man made very
few mistakes. Years later Fermi said he was very glad he did make a mistake
this time, if the Axis powers had started to make a bomb in 1934 the world
would be in a new dark age today. Fermi also had personal reasons for doing
less than his best, his wife was Jewish.

Exactly. Noddack (1934) first suggested the uranium fission.
Hahn and Meittner, Joliot, etc. found nothing. Edoardo Amaldi and
Emilio Segré (and also Enrico Fermi) performed their experiments in Rome,
during 1934 and 1936, with neutrons. Segré said they did not understand
those results because that search (trans-uranium elements)
was extremely chaotic (the s.c. multi-radioactivity).
Also Abelson (1938) at Berkeley did not realize that one of his X-rays
showed clearly the fission. Then Hahn and Strassman during the same year....

Bohr was very interested in that field. In Los Alamos Bohr said
he had a meeting (in London) with W. Churchill about the possibility of
making the A-bomb in G.B. But his speech was obscure ... and Churchill
was in a great hurry.

Fermi (Segrč and many many others) worked in Los Alamos
hoping to throw their bomb exactly on Hitler's head, in Berlin.

[info by E. Segrč, circa 1980]

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