Science: Attack on the Atom

Last week Columbia University showed off its prize catch of the season: visiting Nobelman Enrico Fermi of Rome, who will conduct advanced courses in theoretical physics this winter. Before a room full of eager chemists at Manhattan's Hotel Pennsylvania, bright-eyed, bubbling Professor Fermi made clear and simple sense of his prize-winning specialty: disintegration of atoms. He told the chemists how he releases enormous quantities of energy through neutron bombardment, how, like a modern alchemist, he transforms one element into another.

Neutron bombardment is so simple, said Professor Fermi, that "even theoretical physicists" (notorious for their aversion to laboratories) can do it. First...

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