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From PeriodicTable to the Atomic Bomb 精选

已有 9567 次阅读 2015-8-27 21:57 |系统分类:海外观察

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I just watched a multi-hour documentary on the US Public Broadcast  System entitled “The Mysteryof Matter” which is a fascinating story of the history of science starting fromthe Mendeleev’s first thoughts about the Periodic Table (PT) to the discoveryof the eighth column of the PT, the importance of the Atomic Number, the work of Rutherford and Bohr,  to the contribution  of Seaborg and the invention of new elements of the table, including the Plutonium which made efficient productionof the Bomb possible. Along the story telling, the name of Henry Moseley came up which most people including myself never heard of in  connection with the invention of the PT. However, it turns out  that Moseley is one of the chief architect of the Table who unfortunately  died very young in Turkey during WWIin the service of the English army. This tragic event made people realize the importance of not wasting scientific  talent in senseless killing and combat. You can say that I was a direct  beneficiary of the tragic death of Moseley. In 1958, the US still has the draft for which young persons older than 16 are randomly chosen to serve  in the US Army for a period no less than 4 years. I was chosen and told to  report for selective service and a physical examination. At that time,  I have just returned to Ph.D study at Harvard and the USSR Sputnik was circling the earth. The US draft board wisely decided that I should instead be deferred for service in the Army and better  concentrate on S&T to advance the US space effort.  Although at that time there was no hot war going on, service in  the Army would have delayed my S&T career by several years when I was probably most productive. Thus once again I was a lucky guy indebted to Moseley’s sacrifice.

Postscript: Here is a joke connected with the Cold War and the periodic table. The US Department defense during the Cold War wishes to classify the Periodic Table as top secret scientific knowledge until they were told that the PT was invented by a Russian scientist.

Note added 8/30/2015:

Actually, I was not exempt from service but merelydeferred. However, as time went on, I became too old to serve on physical basisas foot solder. Also by the time Vietnam war came, the draft was totallysuspended and the U.S. Switched to an all volunteer service in 1973. Fordetails, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_States. Military service is considered an honorable duty for US citizens. One of theinformal qualification for the U.S. Presidency is service in military. PresidentBush  was criticized  for using family influences to get a safe andcushy desk job inside the country when he served. The current candidate Trumpwas criticized for dodging the service using a technical disability argument toavoid the service.

 






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