AUTHORBernstein, Jeremy
TITLEPlutonium: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element
PUBLISHERJoseph Henry Press
CITYWashington, D.C.

The author of this book, a physicist and science writer, provides an interesting history of the man-made element plutonium beginning with the discovery of its naturally occurring parent element, uranium. The succinct history includes the events that led to the discoveries of radioactivity, nuclear structure, and the fission of uranium. It then proceeds to the synthesis of plutonium and other transuranic elements and the revelation in 1938 that plutonium can undergo fission when bombarded with neutrons. That phenomenon became known to physicists in the United States and Germany in 1942. The scene then switches to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where plutonium is refined and shaped into the material for the first implosion fission weapons. The chapter preceding the final one focuses on the unique chemical and physical properties of plutonium that make it difficult to handle. The book concludes with comments on the stockpiles of plutonium that exist worldwide and plutonium's potential dangers to mankind.

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