Science: Frail Lawrencium

During their wartime race to build the world's first Abomb, U.S. scientists urgently needed one vital component: a chemical element that was fissionable (explosive) but not so radioactive that it would disintegrate before the big bang was touched off. The bomb builders found what they wanted at the University of California's famed Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, where Drs. Glenn Seaborg and Edwin McMillan had put together some synthetic plutonium, element 94. Until then, plutonium was no more than a lab curiosity, but it proved to be properly fissionable, and it was so slightly...

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