POPE'S REFERENCE IN 1943
A remarkably prophetic reference to what is now known as- the atomic bomb was made as long ago as February 21, 1943, by Pope Pius XII. in his inaugural address to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. He spoke of the importance of controlling and restricting the course of the processes then being experimentally applied, lest "a dangerous catastrophe" should follow. The detailed processes of the investigation of the atom were truly surprising, said the Pope in his address, "not only because they open to our eyes the knowledge of a world hitherto unknown, whose richness, multiplicity and regularity seem in some way to compete with the sublime greatness of the firmament, but also for the unpredictably tremendous effects that the same knowledge can imply. On this point, we cannot fail to mention a wonderful phenomenon about which the Nestor of the theoretical Physics, Max Planck, member of this academy, has written in a recent article. . . . For long years, the singular transformations of the atom have occupied only investigators of pure science. Certainly the power of energy developed thereby was often surprising, but, since the atoms are extremely small, it was not thought seriously that they could become important for practical life. Energy "Hardly Imaginable" "To-day, however, this question has assumed an unexpected aspect, through the results of artificial radioactivity. It has been established, in fact, that in the disintegration that an atom of uranium undergoes, if it is 'bombarded' by a neutron, two or three neutrons are freed, each of which proceeds alone and can meet and shatter another atom of uranium. In this way the effects are multiplied, and it can happen that the continually increasing clash of neutrons with atoms of uranium will increase in a short time the number of neutrons that have been freed, and the mass of energy, in proportion, which develop from them, and so on to an enormous degree, hardly imaginable. It has been found that from a special experiment that, in such circumstances, a cubic meter of powdered uranium oxide can develop,* in less than one-hundredth of a second, sufficient energy to lift a weight of 1,000,000,000 tons a height of 27 kilometres —in short, an amount of energy that could supply for many years the output of all the electric generating plants of the world.
Possible Catastrophe "Planck concludes his article with the observation that, although it is not possible yet to make such a tremendous process technically profitable, nevertheless it opens the way to serious possibilities, so that the thought of the construction of an uranium machine may not be considered a mere Utopia. Above all, it would be important not to allow such a process to develop along the lines of an explosion, but to control and restrict its course with suitable and carefully-applied chemical means. Otherwise a dangerous catastrophe could follow, not only in the actual place of the experiment, but also for our whole planet."
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ATOM EXPERIMENTS, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 192, 15 August 1945
ATOM EXPERIMENTS Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 192, 15 August 1945
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