- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: New South Books (June 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1742230881
- ISBN-13: 978-1742230887
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
Physicist and former New Yorker staff writer Bernstein presents a scientifically rigorous (equations and all) but clearly written explanation of the recondite reasons why plutonium is supremely suited for bomb-making material—and little else. From the discovery of uranium in 1789 to the Manhattan Project, Nazi attempts at a nuclear bomb and the post-WWII efforts of the U.S.S.R. to become a nuclear power, Bernstein reviews the element's storied past. Although the discovery of the atom's structure has been covered before, Bernstein spins an accessible, insightful description of how the great scientists Curie, Bohr, Rutherford and Fermi, among others, deconstructed the atom through a combination of individual brilliance, a spirit of collaboration and serendipity. He also brings his acquaintance with several Los Alamos scientists (he interned at the laboratory in 1957) to the less canonical subject of the scientific and engineering problems inherent to building a working nuclear bomb. Here the search for the elusive element comes to center stage in this challenging but rewarding account (after 2005's Secrets of the Old One: Einstein 1905). (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Physicist Bernstein has written books about Einstein, Oppenheimer, and the German nuclear program. Here he tells the complicated story of plutonium, a chemical that appears in minute amounts in nature but which scientists working feverishly during World War II learned to manufacture in quantity. Plutonium's physics and chemistry are exceptionally complex, inspiring Glenn Seaborg, the nuclear chemist who "finally identified" the elusive element in 1941, to observe, "Plutonium is so unusual as to approach the unbelievable." It is also "fiendishly toxic." Bernstein, an intern at Los Alamos in 1957, analyzes plutonium via a mix of science and biography, the former tough going for nonscientists, the latter, in the form of thumbnail portraits of nuclear scientists from Marie Curie to Enrico Fermi and beyond, vivid and affecting. Irony and drama shape Bernstein's accounts of amazing feats of scientific deduction and world-endangering secrets, which give way to a sobering overview of the environmental damage caused by plutonium-producing reactors and the enormous threats embodied in today's global plutonium inventory. Although convoluted, Bernstein's unique history of the diabolical element is invaluable. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Wonderful and fun to read. The author starts a story then tells the reader he is going off on a tangent, tells the side story then tells us he is returning to his main story. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Lynn A. Ellsworth
An authoritative book about the subject. I think Bernstein covers the subject completely and as a real physicist he knows what he is writing about. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ladislav Nemec
Fell short of my expectations. Human impact of the infamously secretive Hanford Project affecting the army of workers who did not know what they were doing, were contaminated and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Frank Watlington
I'm using this book as back-fill for other books I am reading about the people side of the Manhattan Project. Read morePublished 2 months ago by NorthTXguy
For an in-depth review of the history of Plutonium, this is the book for you. It covers the original discovery and goes on to the final use for this man made element. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rick Amazon Customer
Excellent, clearly written with broad and interresting background.Published 3 months ago by Branko Fajdiga
Anyone with enough knowledge of basic physics and chemistry of metal elements will get a lot out of this book. Read morePublished 5 months ago by JackBluegrass
A fantastic explanation on the discovery of plutonium, what it takes to produce it, and why it is so complicated as it does not behave like any other compound. Read morePublished 6 months ago by P. M.