Eighty years ago today, 2 December 1942, is an epochal date in the history of humanity : the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. The very existence of Chicago Pile 1, and the effort in which it was a central part, was a dire secret at the time. The measurements made on CP–1 would provide vital information for the designers of atomic bombs, and the Hanford production reactors for making bomb material. And yet…
Also in this programme, from Let’s Talk About the Atom, Volume 2 :
- “Atomic Power, Today and Tomorrow” (Milton Shaw, Director, Division of Reactor Development and Technology, USAEC) ― Atomic power is becoming more important in our daily lives with each passing year. Mr Shaw tells about the AEC’s efforts to make this new energy source more efficient, reliable, and economical. He talks about our supplies of fuel for the future, “breeder” reactors under development, and atomic power to desalt sea water for irrigation.
- “Atomic Energy at the Smithsonian” (Dr Philip Bishop, Curator in Charge, National Museum of History and Technology) ― A new hall of atomic energy is under construction at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr Bishop and his colleagues have assembled an impressive array of unique artifacts that deal with the history of the atomic age ― among them an atom smasher, a replica of the first nuclear reactor, and the historic cigar box in which the first minute sample of man-made plutonium was stored. The Smithsonian has opened up a new world of atomic energy for the six million people who tour its exhibits each year.
- “What Can the Moon Rocks Tell Us?” (Robert Weeks, Senior Physicist, ORNL) ― Questions about the origin and age of the Moon have puzzled scientists for many years and, at long last, bits of the lunar surface can be studied at first-hand. Samples brought back by Apollo astronauts are now under exhaustive analysis at laboratories across the country. Robert Weeks discusses the scientific search for clues to lunar history and the history of Earth itself.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States Atomic Energy Commission released at least six records : three volumes entitled Let’s Talk About the Atom, one entitled Let’s Talk About Energy, one entitled Atomic Year 25, and one entitled Century of the Atom. The last–named was given away to visitors to the US display at the 1971 Geneva “Atoms for Development” conference. The other five were intended for broadcast on radio stations as public–affairs programming.
I have latterly also found out that the American Nuclear Society picked up, literally where the USAEC left off, with a series of records entitled Energy and the Atom. Not only is the format the same as Let’s Talk About the Atom and Let’s Talk About Energy, three–disc sets with two ten–minute talks per side, but they even use the same narrator, one Ed Ronne. There is also a “single” with several programs ranging from 15 seconds to a whole minute.
I have been making an effort to acquire these records and transcribe them, for the benefit of my listening audience, which is to say you. This takes money, but it also takes time and patience, because such items are thin on the ground.