Science: The Philosophers' Stone

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At the least, it will save that amount of effort for nations that have not yet gotten that far with the atom. Another example is "cross sections." the term that nuclear physicists use to describe how strongly an element absorbs neutrons of different energies. Cross sections are difficult to measure, and there are thousands of them. The U.S. has been lavish with cross-section figures and curves. Russia's Vavilov has confided that they will help his country enormously in its peaceful atom work.

Atomic Fair. Besides its main function as an exchange post of information, the Geneva Conference is an impressive "atomic fair"—the first that the world has seen. Many of the great, marble-crusted spaces in the Palace of Nations are crowded with the exhibits of the participating governments. They range from tiny instruments to large-scale models of reactors, all the weird and wonderful trappings of the atomic age. Most are eerily silent, with no whining of gears or throb of engines; atomic energy is a quiet business, and radioactivity is, of course, both invisible and silent.

The French erected a scale model of their "Atomic City" at Marcoule. Britain exhibited models of two heavy-water reactors and photographs of its Calder Hall power reactor, which is nearing completion. The Russians showed a model of their own rather small (5,000 kw.) power reactor which is in operation, and an exhibit dealing with uranium geology, biology and medicine.

The U.S. exhibit, attended by spotlessly uniformed "men in white" from Oak Ridge, covers the nonmilitary atom in every aspect—&"fuel elements," the tricky shapes of uranium that are the hearts of reactors, models that can be worked by pushbuttons, tubes of rare earths and strange metals glittering on the walls.

Main feature of the U.S. exhibit and hit of the show is the "swimming-pool reactor," a working research reactor set up on the lawn outside the palace. It is housed in a building that looks like a large, windowless Swiss chalet. Inside, from a black ceiling, beams of light slant down. On a red linoleum platform stands the reactor, a pool of crystal-clear water, faintly blue and 21 ft. deep, with control rods reaching into it. At the bottom, enveloped in blue luminescence, are the reacting uranium plates. Visitors can look down with perfect safety, and sense the atom's power.

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