Today to celebrate Father’s Day in the U.S., I thought how can I link this occasion with my series on mitigating nuclear hazards? What came to mind is one of many books I just borrowed from the library titled The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age. I’ve not read it yet but will let you know what I learn. Here are the notes from the Amazon book page (see update below):
“Enrico Fermi is unquestionably among the greats of the world's physicists, the most famous Italian scientist since Galileo. Called the Pope by his peers, he was regarded as infallible in his instincts and research. His discoveries changed our world; they led to weapons of mass destruction and conversely to life-saving medical interventions.
This unassuming man struggled with issues relevant today, such as the threat of nuclear annihilation and the relationship of science to politics. Fleeing Fascism and anti-Semitism, Fermi became a leading figure in America's most secret project: building the atomic bomb. The last physicist who mastered all branches of the discipline, Fermi was a rare mixture of theorist and experimentalist. His rich legacy encompasses key advances in fields as diverse as comic rays, nuclear technology, and early computers.
In their revealing book, The Pope of Physics, Gino Segré and Bettina Hoerlin bring this scientific visionary to life. An examination of the human dramas that touched Fermi’s life as well as a thrilling history of scientific innovation in the twentieth century, this is the comprehensive biography that Fermi deserves.”
Have a Safe and Happy Father’s Day where ever you are!
Updated June 24, 2019:
I read and can recommend the interesting book about events leading to the Italian immigrant Enrico Fermi and many other scientists discovering atomic energy and subsequent Manhattan Project that ended WWII and proceeded to the Cold War. The biggest takeaway to me, beyond the interesting scientific discoveries, are the values of freedom that America and our allies fought against fascism and imperialism. Many scientists of Jewish decent or marriage escaped to America as Hitler rose to power in 1932. How different the world would be had Hitler developed atomic weapons? Fermi conducted the first nuclear self-sustaining chain reaction experiment (called Critical Pile-1) that directly created nuclear power and atomic weapons. However, he and other scientists strongly argued against themonuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs called the “Super”) developed in 1950’s by Edward Teller at Los Alamos. As cited by the Atomic Heritage Foundation, Fermi wrote:
"A decision on the proposal that an all-out effort be undertaken for the development of the "Super" cannot in our opinion be separated from considerations of broad national policy...necessarily such a weapon goes far beyond any military objective and enters the range of very great natural catastrophes. By its very nature it cannot be confined to a military objective but becomes a weapon which in practical effect is almost one of genocide..."
More to come in future blogs to share experience about nuclear energy and weapons.