Archive for December 2nd, 2008

02
Dec
08

And for Dessert

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Banana bread and pumpkin pie.

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A slice of pumpkin pie and a glass of port.

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02
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-2-2008: Chain Reaction

December 2, 1942

Fermi produces the first nuclear chain reaction

On this day, Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, directs and controls the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory beneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushering in the nuclear age. Upon successful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: “The Italian navigator has landed in the new world.”

Following on England’s Sir James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron and the Curies’ production of artificial radioactivity, Fermi, a full-time professor of physics at the University of Florence, focused his work on producing radioactivity by manipulating the speed of neutrons derived from radioactive beryllium. Further similar experimentation with other elements, including uranium 92, produced new radioactive substances; Fermi’s colleagues believed he had created a new “transuranic” element with an atomic number of 93, the result of uranium 92 capturing a neuron while under bombardment, thus increasing its atomic weight. Fermi remained skeptical about his discovery, despite the enthusiasm of his fellow physicists. He became a believer in 1938, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for “his identification of new radioactive elements.” Although travel was restricted for men whose work was deemed vital to national security, Fermi was given permission to leave Italy and go to Sweden to receive his prize. He and his wife, Laura, who was Jewish, never returned; both feared and despised Mussolini’s fascist regime.

Fermi immigrated to New York City–Columbia University, specifically, where he recreated many of his experiments with Niels Bohr, the Danish-born physicist, who suggested the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction. Fermi and others saw the possible military applications of such an explosive power, and quickly composed a letter warning President Roosevelt of the perils of a German atomic bomb. The letter was signed and delivered to the president by Albert Einstein on October 11, 1939. The Manhattan Project, the American program to create its own atomic bomb, was the result.

It fell to Fermi to produce the first nuclear chain reaction, without which such a bomb was impossible. He created a jury-rigged laboratory with the necessary equipment, which he called an “atomic pile,” in a squash court in the basement of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. With colleagues and other physicists looking on, Fermi produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction and the “new world” of nuclear power was born.

“Fermi produces the first nuclear chain reaction.” 2008. The History Channel website. 2 Dec 2008, 11:25 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6398.

On This Day

1804 – Napoleon was crowned emperor of France at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

1823 – U.S. President James Monroe outlined his doctrine opposing European expansion in the Western Hemisphere.

1859 – John Brown, a militant abolitionist, was hanged for his raid on Harper’s Ferry the previous October.

1901 – Gillette patented the first disposable razor.

1917 – During World War I, hostilities were suspended on the eastern front.

1927 – The Ford Motor Company unveiled the Model A automobile. It was the successor to the Model T.

1954 – The U.S. Senate voted to condemn Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy for what it called “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” The censure was related to McCarthy’s controversial investigation of suspected communists in the U.S. government, military and civilian society.

1961 – Cuban leader Fidel Castro declared in a nationally broadcast speech that he was a Marxist-Leninist and that he was going to lead Cuba to communism.

1982 – Doctors at the University of Utah implanted a permanent artificial heart in the chest of retired dentist Barney Clark. He lived 112 days with the device. The operation was the first of its kind.

1995 – NASA launched a U.S.-European observatory on a $1 billion dollar mission intended to study the sun.

2001 – Enron Corp. filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The filing came five days after Dynegy walked away from a $8.4 billion buyout. It was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

December 2, 1962

Senator Mansfield pronounces American aid to South Vietnam wasted

Following a trip to Vietnam at President John F. Kennedy’s request, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Montana) becomes the first U.S. official to refuse to make an optimistic public comment on the progress of the war. Originally a supporter of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, Mansfield changed his opinion of the situation after his visit. He claimed that the $2 billion the United States had poured into Vietnam during the previous seven years had accomplished nothing. He placed blame squarely on the Diem regime for its failure to share power and win support from the South Vietnamese people. He suggested that Americans, despite being motivated by a sincere desire to stop the spread of communism, had simply taken the place formerly occupied by the French colonial power in the minds of many Vietnamese. Mansfield’s change of opinion surprised and irritated President Kennedy.

“Senator Mansfield pronounces American aid to South Vietnam wasted.” 2008. The History Channel website. 2 Dec 2008, 11:24 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1527.




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