14 June 2010

Not only possible, but inevitable

When we think of the atomic bomb we often lay the blame on or are in awe of the United States and their scientific ingenuity. People often forget that the government of three countries and scientists from many different countries were part of the team that made the atomic bomb possible.

Canada participated because of its rare uranium deposits and also played host to many British scientists that took their research to Canada because of the bombing of Britain. British scientists were also after the atomic bomb and in 1940 had set up the MAUD committee to examine the critical amount of uranium needed for the bomb. The United States, Britain, and Canada cooperated in making the atomic bomb in record time as they were in a race against the Nazis.

James Chadwick is not a name that most people associate with the atomic bomb. He came to prominence in 1935 when he won the Noble Prize for physics for his 1932 discovery of the neutron. If you remember back to junior high school science class you'll remember that atoms are made of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Until 1932 people didn't yet know about the neutron. Thirteen years before the atom was split to unleash it's terrible force, most scientists knew less about the atom than today's twelve to fifteen year olds.

As a member of the MAUD committee James Chadwick was privy to many of the uranium studies. In December 1940 after seeing the results of some of the research he concluded that, 
"a nuclear bomb was not only possible, it was inevitable. I had to then take sleeping pills. It was the only remedy." 

Less than five years later the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki bore witness to Chadwick's terrible prediction.

This prediction reminded me of another one that I saw during my stem cell research. 

"Neuroscientists around the world agree that repairing the damaged spinal cord is not a question of if, but a question of when ."

After reading about how Chadwick's prediction came true after only fifty seven months, I rushed to see when the part about repairing damaged spinal cords was said. I can't be sure, but the earliest known record of this statement is from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation which advocates for more research into stem cells and spinal cord injury. Sadly it was made forty eight months ago. 

From my reading I don't believe that we are now nine months away from being able to say that, "today the world bears witness to the awesome force of stem cell treatments."

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