Fermi ,The Bomb, and what if

From: John Clark (jonkc@worldnet.att.net)
Date: Fri Aug 11 2000 - 21:50:19 MDT

scerir <scerir@libero.it> Wrote:

> (W.Churchill refused a Bohr's proposal, about the construction of the A-bomb
>in GB, because Bohr was so ... obscure)

It's fun to plat the what if game, one of my favorites also involves the history
of the A bomb. In 1939 Hahn and Strassman bombarded uranium with neutrons
and produced barium, this proved that the uranium was undergoing fission, and
much more important, it proved that an Atomic Bomb was not only possible but
practical, all you needed was money and engineering. By 1939 Hitler was only
expecting a short war, making a bomb would take a long time, too long he thought
to make a difference so he didn't make much effort toward developing it.

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.

   John K Clark jonkc@att.net

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