Nuclear Tourism

The only stop on our tour that didn’t directly involve physics research was at the University of Chicago. Today, a statue and plaques sit above the exact spot where Enrico Fermi initiated the first controlled nuclear reaction in 1942 by pushing chunks of uranium into a pile of graphite – essentially the same process used by the Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge (which you can read about in the Old Headers section or in our upcoming post about the Lab).

While the plaques speak of the “tremendous scientific potential” tapped for the first time by Fermi’s experiment, Henry Moore’s sculpture more somberly combines the forms of a mushroom cloud and a human skull. By the mid 1960s, when the sculpture was commissioned, the terrible power of nuclear reactions had apparently become all too clear.

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One response to “Nuclear Tourism

  1. nick! Wow-that’s so interesting…I was in that class on japan and the atom bomb last semester, so we were reading a lot about fermi’s work, but I didn’t know there was a landmark there – and that sculpture is really amazing. It’s pretty interesting they decided on that sculpture in particular, definitely raising some heavy questions about the ‘power of science’. Hope y’all are otherwise having a lot of fun – your trip sounds great, look forward to reading more posts!

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