Ken Ford’s mission is to help us understand the “great ideas” of quantum physics—ideas such as wave-particle duality, the uncertainty principle, superposition, and conservation. These fundamental concepts provide the structure for 101 Quantum Questions, an authoritative yet engaging book for the general reader in which every question and answer brings out one or more basic features of the mysterious world of the quantum—the physics of the very small.
Nuclear researcher and master teacher, Ford covers everything from quarks, quantum jumps, and what causes stars to shine, to practical applications ranging from lasers and superconductors to light-emitting diodes. Ford’s lively answers are enriched by Paul Hewitt's drawings, numerous photos of physicists, and anecdotes, many from Ford’s own experience. Organized for cover-to-cover reading, 101 Quantum Questions also is great for browsing.
Some books focus on a single subject such as the standard model of particles, or string theory, or fusion energy. This book touches all those topics and more, showing us that disparate natural phenomena, as well as a host of manmade inventions, can be understood in terms of a few key ideas. Yet Ford does not give us simplistic explanations. He assumes a serious reader wanting to gain real understanding of the essentials of quantum physics.
Ken Ford's other books include The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone (Harvard 2004), which Esquire magazine recommended as the best way to gain an understanding of quantum physics. Ford's new book, a sequel to the earlier one, makes the quantum world even more accessible.
In this absorbing account of life with the great atomic scientist Enrico Fermi, Laura Fermi tells the story of their emigration to the United States in the 1930s—part of the widespread movement of scientists from Europe to the New World that was so important to the development of the first atomic bomb. Combining intellectual biography and social history, Laura Fermi traces her husband's career from his childhood, when he taught himself physics, through his rise in the Italian university system concurrent with the rise of fascism, to his receipt of the Nobel Prize, which offered a perfect opportunity to flee the country without arousing official suspicion, and his odyssey to the United States.
WINNER > Best Popular Book on Archaeology --Biblical Archaeology Society
Apocalypse. Judgment Day. The End Time. Armageddon. Students of the Bible know it as the place where the cataclysmic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil will unfold. Many believe that this battle will take place in the very near future. But few know that Armageddon is a real place--one that has seen more fighting and bloodshed than any other spot on earth.
The name Armageddon is a corruption of the Hebrew phrase Har Megiddo, and it means "Mount of Megiddo." More than thirty bloody conflicts have been fought at the ancient site of Megiddo and adjacent areas of the Jezreel Valley during the past four thousand years. Egyptians, Israelites, Greeks, Muslims, Crusaders, Mongols, British, Germans, Arabs, and Israelis have all fought and died here. The names of the warring leaders reverberate throughout history: Thutmose III, Deborah, Gideon, Saul and Jonathan, Jezebel, Saladin, Napoleon, and Allenby, to name but the most famous. Throughout history Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley have been ground zero for battles that determined the very course of civilization. No wonder that the author of Revelation believed Armageddon, the penultimate battle between good and evil, would also take place here! The Battles of Armageddon introduces readers to a rich cast of ancient and modern warriors, while bringing together for the first time the wide range of conflicts that have been fought at Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age.
Eric H. Cline has participated in more than seventeen seasons of excavation and survey in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, and the United States. He is currently a Senior Staff Archaeologist at the ongoing excavations of Megiddo.
Widely regarded as a classic in its field, Constructing Quarks recounts the history of the post-war conceptual development of elementary-particle physics. Inviting a reappraisal of the status of scientific knowledge, Andrew Pickering suggests that scientists are not mere passive observers and reporters of nature. Rather they are social beings as well as active constructors of natural phenomena who engage in both experimental and theoretical practice.
"A prodigious piece of scholarship that I can heartily recommend."—Michael Riordan, New Scientist
"An admirable history. . . . Detailed and so accurate."—Hugh N. Pendleton, Physics Today
Current and Mesons is the most recent publication in the Chicago Lectures in Physics series. The book presents Professor Sakurai's introduction to a new field of elementary particle physics which has become increasingly important in the past few years. It is based on a course given to his advanced graduate students in theoretical high-energy physics at the University of Chicago.
The author begins with a brief review of SU (3). The major topics then treated are the divergence condition and current commutation relations, vector meson universality, PCAC and the Goldberger-Treiman relation, soft pion processes, and asymptotic symmetries and spectral-function sum rules. The book concludes with a discussion of notation and of normalization convention.
Professor Sakurai's work deals with topics on which much of current discussion on the theory of elementary particles is focused. The material is designed for the advanced student who is seriously interested in doing original work, and as such provides a much needed introduction to the present literature in the field.
Eco-nationalism examines the spectacular rise of the anti-nuclear power movement in the former Soviet Union during the early perestroika period, its unexpected successes in the late 1980s, and its substantial decline after 1991. Jane I. Dawson argues that anti-nuclear activism, one of the most dynamic social forces to emerge during these years, was primarily a surrogate for an ever-present nationalism and a means of demanding greater local self-determination under the Soviet system. Rather than representing strongly held environmental and anti-nuclear convictions, this activism was a political effort that reflected widely held anti-Soviet sentiments and a resentment against Moscow’s domination of the region—an effort that largely disappeared with the dissolution of the USSR. Dawson combines a theoretical framework based on models of social movements with extensive field research to compare the ways in which nationalism, regionalism, and other political demands were incorporated into anti-nuclear movements in Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Armenia, Tatarstan, and Crimea. These comparative case studies form the core of the book and trace differences among the various regional movements to the distinctive national identities of groups involved. Reflecting the new opportunities for research that have become available since the late 1980s, these studies draw upon Dawson’s extended on-site observation of local movements through 1995 and her unique access to movement activists and their personal archives. Analyzing and documenting a development with sobering and potentially devastating implications for nuclear power safety in the former USSR and beyond, Eco-nationalism’s examination of social activism in late and postcommunist societies will interest readers concerned with the politics of global environmentalism and the process of democratization in the post-Soviet world.
Enrico Fermi, Physicist
Emilio Segrè University of Chicago Press, 1972 Library of Congress QC16.F46S4 | Dewey Decimal 539.70924
Student, collaborator and lifelong friend of Enrico Fermi, Emilio Segrè presents a rich, well-rounded portrait of the scientist, his methods, intellectual history, and achievements. Explaining in nontechnical terms the scientific problems Fermi faced or solved, Enrico Fermi, Physicist contains illuminating material concerning Fermi's youth in Italy and the development of his scientific style.
Emilio Segre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1959.
Edited by James W. Cronin University of Chicago Press, 2004 Library of Congress QC16.F46F49 2004 | Dewey Decimal 539.7092
Nobel laureate and scientific luminary Enrico Fermi (1901-54) was a pioneering nuclear physicist whose contributions to the field were numerous, profound, and lasting. Best known for his involvement with the Manhattan Project and his work at Los Alamos that led to the first self-sustained nuclear reaction and ultimately to the production of electric power and plutonium for atomic weapons, Fermi's legacy continues to color the character of the sciences at the University of Chicago. During his tenure as professor of physics at the Institute for Nuclear Studies, Fermi attracted an extraordinary scientific faculty and many talented students—ten Nobel Prizes were awarded to faculty or students under his tutelage.
Born out of a symposium held to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Fermi's birth, Fermi Remembered combines essays and newly commissioned reminiscences with private material from Fermi's research notebooks, correspondence, speech outlines, and teaching to document the profound and enduring significance of Fermi's life and labors. The volume also features extensives archival material—including correspondence between Fermi and biophysicist Leo Szilard and a letter from Harry Truman—with new introductions that provide context for both the history of physics and the academic tradition at the University of Chicago.
Edited by James W. Cronin, a University of Chicago physicist and Nobel laureate himself, Fermi Remembered is a tender tribute to one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century.
Geoffrey F. Chew
James W. Cronin
George W. Farwell
Jerome I. Friedman
Richard L. Garwin
Marvin L. Goldberger
Tsung Dao Lee
Marshall N. Rosenbluth
Chen Ning Yang
Long before scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, American embryologist and aspiring cancer researcher Robert Briggs successfully developed the technique of nuclear transplantation using frogs in 1952. Although the history of cloning is often associated with contemporary ethical controversies, Forgotten Clones revisits the influential work of scientists like Briggs, Thomas King, and Marie DiBerardino, before the possibility of human cloning and its ethical implications first registered as a concern in public consciousness, and when many thought the very idea of cloning was experimentally impossible. By focusing instead on new laboratory techniques and practices and their place in Anglo-American science and society in the mid-twentieth century, Nathan Crowe demonstrates how embryos constructed in the lab were only later reconstructed as ethical problems in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of what was then referred to as the Biological Revolution. His book illuminates the importance of the early history of cloning for the biosciences and their institutional, disciplinary, and intellectual contexts, as well as providing new insights into the changing cultural perceptions of the biological sciences after Second World War.
Nuclear energy is contributing to the long-term solution to stave off climate change. However, current nuclear fission technology accesses only about 1-3% of the nuclear energy content of natural uranium, which is inefficient, and also creates a radioactive waste disposal problem.
Nuclear astrophysics is the study of how all naturally occurring elements formed and evolved into our present universe via nuclear processes, beginning with the Big Bang and continuing today in astrophysical objects such as stars, x-ray bursters, and supernovae. Emerging from traditional studies in astrophysics and particle research, this cross-disciplinary field touches upon astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and particle physics.
In An Introduction to Nuclear Astrophysics, author Richard Boyd includes basic nomenclature and information so that students from astronomy or physics can quickly orient themselves in the material. Subsequent chapters describe earthbound and space born instruments operating in service to nuclear astrophysics worldwide; background topics such as nuclear and neutrino physics, scattering formalism, and thermonuclear reaction rates; and information on galactic chemical evolution, solar nucleosynthesis, s- and r-processes, and gamma-ray bursts. Each chapter includes problem sets against which students may test their knowledge before moving ahead, and the author has included copious references intended to guide students to further study.
An Introduction to Nuclear Astrophysics is an essential textbook for undergraduate and graduate students in astronomy and astrophysics. It is also an invaluable overview of the subject for researchers in nuclear astrophysics and related fields.
Edited by Jonathan L. Rosner and Bruce D. Winstein University of Chicago Press, 2001 Library of Congress QC793.5.M42K36 2001 | Dewey Decimal 539.72162
In 1947, the first of what have come to be known as "strange particles" were detected. As the number and variety of these particles proliferated, physicists began to try to make sense of them. Some seemed to have masses about 900 times that of the electron, and existed in both charged and neutral varieties. These particles are now called kaons (or K mesons), and they have become the subject of some of the most exciting research in particle physics. Kaon Physics at the Turn of the Millennium presents cutting-edge papers by leading theorists and experimentalists that synthesize the current state of the field and suggest promising new directions for the future study of kaons.
Topics covered include the history of kaon physics, direct CP violation in kaon decays, time reversal violation, CPT studies, theoretical aspects of kaon physics, rare kaon decays, hyperon physics, charm: CP violation and mixing, the physics of B mesons, and future opportunities for kaon physics in the twenty-first century.
Harold C. Urey (1893–1981), whose discoveries lie at the foundation of modern science, was one of the most famous American scientists of the twentieth century. Born in rural Indiana, his evolution from small-town farm boy to scientific celebrity made him a symbol and spokesman for American scientific authority. Because he rose to fame alongside the prestige of American science, the story of his life reflects broader changes in the social and intellectual landscape of twentieth-century America. In this, the first ever biography of the chemist, Matthew Shindell shines new light on Urey’s struggles and achievements in a thoughtful exploration of the science, politics, and society of the Cold War era.
From Urey’s orthodox religious upbringing to his death in 1981, Shindell follows the scientist through nearly a century of American history: his discovery of deuterium and heavy water earned him the Nobel Prize in 1934, his work on the Manhattan Project helped usher in the atomic age, he initiated a generation of American scientists into the world of quantum physics and chemistry, and he took on the origin of the Moon in NASA’s lunar exploration program. Despite his success, however, Urey had difficulty navigating the nuclear age. In later years he lived in the shadow of the bomb he helped create, plagued by the uncertainties unleashed by the rise of American science and unable to reconcile the consequences of scientific progress with the morality of religion.
Tracing Urey’s life through two world wars and the Cold War not only conveys the complex historical relationship between science and religion in the twentieth century, but it also illustrates how these complexities spilled over into the early days of space science. More than a life story, this book immerses readers in the trials and triumphs of an extraordinary man and his extraordinary times.
Brookhaven National Laboratory was the first major national laboratory built for basic civilian research. From Nobel Prize-winning work in atomic physics to addressing community concerns over radiation leaks, the history of Brookhaven parallels the changing fortunes of "big science" in the United States. Robert P. Crease brings to life the people, the instruments, the science, and the politics of Brookhaven's first quarter-century.
"[A] very readable, well illustrated and sometimes even racy, recounting of Brookhaven's history, politics and personalities."—Denys Wilkinson, Physics World
In Megawatts and Megatons, world-renowned physicists Richard L. Garwin and Georges Charpak offer an accessible, eminently well-informed primer on two of the most important issues of our time: nuclear weapons and nuclear power. They begin by explaining clearly and concisely how nuclear fission and fusion work in both warheads and reactors, and how they can impact human health. Making a strong and eloquent argument in favor of arms control, Garwin and Charpak outline specific strategies for achieving this goal worldwide. But they also demonstrate how nuclear power can provide an assured, economically feasible, and environmentally responsible source of energy—in a way that avoids the hazards of weapons proliferation. Numerous figures enliven the text, including cartoons by Sempé.
When Consumers Power’s plan to build a nuclear power plant in Midland, Michigan, was announced in 1967, it promised to free Michigan residents from expensive, dirty, coal-fired electricity and to keep Dow Chemical operating in the state. But before the plan could be completed, the facility was called an engineering nightmare, a financial disaster, a construction boondoggle, a political headache, and a regulatory muddle. Most locals had welcomed nuclear power eagerly. Why, after almost twenty years and billions of dollars, did this promise of a high-tech, coal-free, prosperous future fail? And what lessons does its failure offer today as Americans try to develop a clean energy economy based on renewable power? To answer these questions, energy consultant and author LeRoy Smith carefully traces the design and construction decisions made by Consumers Power, including its choice of reactor and its hiring of the Bechtel Corporation to manage the project. He also details the rapidly changing regulatory requirements and growing public concern about the environmental risks of nuclear power generation. An examination of both the challenges and importance of renewable energy, this book will be of value to anyone interested in grappling with the complexities of our ongoing efforts to eliminate fossil fuels in favor of clean renewable energy.
Jeremy Bernstein Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress TP159.C4B47 2014 | Dewey Decimal 623.45119
Iran’s nuclear program has generated intense controversy ever since the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in 2003 that Iran was secretly pursuing enrichment activities. Although Iranian officials insist the program is peaceful, many in the international community are skeptical of Iran’s stated aims—and some allege there is no greater nuclear-weapons proliferation danger in the world today.
Nuclear Iran guides readers through the intricate maze of science and secrecy that lies at the heart of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Writing for the general reader, Jeremy Bernstein brings his knowledge as a physicist to bear on the issues, offering elucidations of the scientific principles and technical hurdles involved in creating nuclear reactors and bombs. His explanations range from the physics of fission to methods of isotope separation to the technologies required for weaponizing fissile uranium and plutonium. Iran’s construction of centrifuges capable of producing weapons-grade uranium has received much media attention, and Bernstein explains how these complex devices work. He intersperses many elements of the human story into his discussions of technology, such as the fact that centrifuges were first invented by German war prisoners working in the Soviet Union.
Nuclear Iran turns a spotlight on the controversial underground uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz and heavy water reactor in Arak, and profiles key figures in the ongoing international trade in weapons technology, including the Pakistani physicist A. Q. Khan. This succinct book is timely reading for anyone who wishes to understand the science behind the international crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.
This volume presents, with some amplification, the notes on the lectures on nuclear physics given by Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago in 1949.
"The compilers of this publication may be warmly congratulated. . . . The scope of this course is amazing: within 240 pages it ranges from the general properties of atomic nuclei and nuclear forces to mesons and cosmic rays, and includes an account of fission and elementary pile theory. . . . The course addresses itself to experimenters rather than to specialists in nuclear theory, although the latter will also greatly profit from its study on account of the sound emphasis laid everywhere on the experimental approach to problems. . . . There is a copious supply of problems."—Proceedings of the Physical Society
"Only a relatively few students are privileged to attend Professor Fermi's brilliant lectures at the University of Chicago; it is therefore a distinct contribution to the followers of nuclear science that his lecture material has been systematically organized in a publication and made available to a much wider audience."—Nucelonics
Janet Wood The Institution of Engineering and Technology, 2007 Library of Congress TK9202.W64 2007
This title is the first of four 'new-look' books in the Power and Energy series that are aimed at industry professionals rather than academics. Nuclear Power explains in detail how nuclear power works, its costs, its benefits as part of the electricity supply system, and also examines its record.
In this comprehensive introduction to nuclear physics, related national and international policy issues from Dr. Pete Pella, Gettysburg College nuclear physicist, educators will find a definitive textbook on the peaceful and military uses of nuclear energy. Pella traces both the scientific evolution and political history of nuclear power and arms, bringing us to current events including nuclear plant development, status of treaties, U.S.-Russia disarmament efforts, and policing of rogue nations. Must reading for the world’s citizens concerned about these vital issues.
In 1974 India joined the elite roster of nuclear world powers when it exploded its first nuclear bomb. But the technological progress that facilitated that feat was set in motion many decades before, as India sought both independence from the British and respect from the larger world. Over the course of the twentieth century, India metamorphosed from a marginal place to a serious hub of technological and scientific innovation. It is this tale of transformation that Robert S. Anderson recounts in Nucleus and Nation.
Tracing the long institutional and individual preparations for India’s first nuclear test and its consequences, Anderson begins with the careers of India’s renowned scientists—Meghnad Saha, Shanti Bhatnagar, Homi Bhabha, and their patron Jawaharlal Nehru—in the first half of the twentieth century before focusing on the evolution of the large and complex scientific community—especially Vikram Sarabhi—in the later part of the era. By contextualizing Indian debates over nuclear power within the larger conversation about modernization and industrialization, Anderson hones in on the thorny issue of the integration of science into the framework and self-reliant ideals of Indian nationalism. In this way, Nucleus and Nation is more than a history of nuclear science and engineering and the Indian Atomic Energy Commission; it is a unique perspective on the history of Indian nationhood and the politics of its scientific community.
Almost weightless and able to pass through the densest materials with ease, neutrinos seem to defy the laws of nature. But these mysterious particles may hold the key to our deepest questions about the universe, says physicist Heinrich Päs. In The Perfect Wave, Päs serves as our fluent, deeply knowledgeable guide to a particle world that tests the boundaries of space, time, and human knowledge.
The existence of the neutrino was first proposed in 1930, but decades passed before one was detected. Päs animates the philosophical and scientific developments that led to and have followed from this seminal discovery, ranging from familiar topics of relativity and quantum mechanics to more speculative theories about dark energy and supersymmetry. Many cutting-edge topics in neutrino research--conjectures about the origin of matter, extra-dimensional spacetime, and the possibility of time travel--remain unproven. But Päs describes the ambitious projects under way that may confirm them, including accelerator experiments at CERN and Fermilab, huge subterranean telescopes designed to detect high-energy neutrino radiation, and the Planck space observatory scheduled to investigate the role of neutrinos in cosmic evolution.
As Päs's history of the neutrino illustrates, what is now established fact often sounded wildly implausible and unnatural when first proposed. The radical side of physics is both an exciting and an essential part of scientific progress, and The Perfect Wave renders it accessible to the interested reader.
The first full history of US nuclear secrecy, from its origins in the late 1930s to our post–Cold War present.
The American atomic bomb was born in secrecy. From the moment scientists first conceived of its possibility to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and beyond, there were efforts to control the spread of nuclear information and the newly discovered scientific facts that made such powerful weapons possible. The totalizing scientific secrecy that the atomic bomb appeared to demand was new, unusual, and very nearly unprecedented. It was foreign to American science and American democracy—and potentially incompatible with both. From the beginning, this secrecy was controversial, and it was always contested. The atomic bomb was not merely the application of science to war, but the result of decades of investment in scientific education, infrastructure, and global collaboration. If secrecy became the norm, how would science survive?
Drawing on troves of declassified files, including records released by the government for the first time through the author’s efforts, Restricted Data traces the complex evolution of the US nuclear secrecy regime from the first whisper of the atomic bomb through the mounting tensions of the Cold War and into the early twenty-first century. A compelling history of powerful ideas at war, it tells a story that feels distinctly American: rich, sprawling, and built on the conflict between high-minded idealism and ugly, fearful power.
The Rise of Nuclear Fear
Spencer R. Weart Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress QC773.W44 2012 | Dewey Decimal 621.48
After a tsunami destroyed the cooling system at Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, triggering a meltdown, protesters around the world challenged the use of nuclear power. Germany announced it would close its plants by 2022. Although the ills of fossil fuels are better understood than ever, the threat of climate change has never aroused the same visceral dread or swift action. Spencer Weart dissects this paradox, demonstrating that a powerful web of images surrounding nuclear energy holds us captive, allowing fear, rather than facts, to drive our thinking and public policy.
Building on his classic, Nuclear Fear, Weart follows nuclear imagery from its origins in the symbolism of medieval alchemy to its appearance in film and fiction. Long before nuclear fission was discovered, fantasies of the destroyed planet, the transforming ray, and the white city of the future took root in the popular imagination. At the turn of the twentieth century when limited facts about radioactivity became known, they produced a blurred picture upon which scientists and the public projected their hopes and fears. These fears were magnified during the Cold War, when mushroom clouds no longer needed to be imagined; they appeared on the evening news. Weart examines nuclear anxiety in sources as diverse as Alain Resnais's film Hiroshima Mon Amour, Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, and the television show The Simpsons.
Recognizing how much we remain in thrall to these setpieces of the imagination, Weart hopes, will help us resist manipulation from both sides of the nuclear debate.
After World War II, most scientists in Germany maintained that they had been apolitical or actively resisted the Nazi regime, but the true story is much more complicated. In Serving the Reich, Philip Ball takes a fresh look at that controversial history, contrasting the career of Peter Debye, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, with those of two other leading physicists in Germany during the Third Reich: Max Planck, the elder statesman of physics after whom Germany’s premier scientific society is now named, and Werner Heisenberg, who succeeded Debye as director of the institute when it became focused on the development of nuclear power and weapons.
Mixing history, science, and biography, Ball’s gripping exploration of the lives of scientists under Nazism offers a powerful portrait of moral choice and personal responsibility, as scientists navigated “the grey zone between complicity and resistance.” Ball’s account of the different choices these three men and their colleagues made shows how there can be no clear-cut answers or judgement of their conduct. Yet, despite these ambiguities, Ball makes it undeniable that the German scientific establishment as a whole mounted no serious resistance to the Nazis, and in many ways acted as a willing instrument of the state.
Serving the Reich considers what this problematic history can tell us about the relationship of science and politics today. Ultimately, Ball argues, a determination to present science as an abstract inquiry into nature that is “above politics” can leave science and scientists dangerously compromised and vulnerable to political manipulation.
The Story of Spin
Sin-itiro Tomonaga University of Chicago Press, 1998 Library of Congress QC793.3.S6T6513 1997 | Dewey Decimal 539.725
All atomic particles have a particular "spin," analogous to the earth's rotation on its axis. The quantum mechanical reality underlying spin is complex and still poorly understood. Sin-itiro Tomonaga's The Story of Spin remains the most complete and accessible treatment of spin, and is now available in English translation. Tomonaga tells the tale of the pioneers of physics and their difficult journey toward an understanding of the nature of spin and its relationship to statistics. His clear unfolding of the tale of spin is invaluable to students of physics, chemistry, and astronomy, and his description of the historical development of spin will interest historians and philosophers of science.
"This piece of the history of physics will provide excellent and exciting reading. . . . It also provides the personal touch of an expert in the field that is so often lacking in the physics literature. I recommend it very highly."—Fritz Rohrlich, Physics Today
Sin-itiro Tomonaga was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965.
Thin Safety Margin charts the history of SEFOR, a twenty-megawatt reactor that operated for three years in the rural Ozark Mountains of Arkansas as part of an internationally sponsored program designed to demonstrate the Doppler effect in plutonium-oxide-fueled fast reactors. Authors Jerry Havens and Collis Geren draw upon this history to assess the accidental explosion risk inherent in using fast reactors to reduce the energy industry’s carbon dioxide emissions.
If a sufficiently powerful fast-neutron explosion were to cause the containment of a reactor such as SEFOR’s to fail, the reactor’s radiotoxic plutonium fuel could vaporize and escape into the surrounding environment, resulting in a miles-wide swath of destruction. The demonstration that the Doppler effect could prevent limited runaway reactivity in the event of an accident or natural disaster proved a critical development in producing safe nuclear technology. But while SEFOR was hailed as a breakthrough in nuclear safety, Havens and Geren’s examination of the project, including the partial SCRAM that occurred in late 1970, confirms experts’ concerns regarding the limits of the Doppler effect and presents a compelling argument for caution in adopting fast reactors like SEFOR to reduce carbon emissions.
“In an age in which the inexhaustible power of scientific technology makes all things possible, it remains to be seen where we will draw the line, where we will be able to say, here are possibilities that wisdom suggest we avoid.”
First published to great acclaim in 1988, Langdon Winner’s groundbreaking exploration of the political, social, and philosophical implications of technology is timelier than ever. He demonstrates that choices about the kinds of technical systems we build and use are actually choices about who we want to be and what kind of world we want to create—technical decisions are political decisions, and they involve profound choices about power, liberty, order, and justice. A seminal text in the history and philosophy of science, this new edition includes a new chapter, preface, and postscript by the author.