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Showing results for tags 'plutonium'.
Plutonium, in addition to being radioactive and fissile, has some rather exotic physical properties that make it... shall we say, exciting, to work with. One of these is that, like uranium, plutonium is pyrophoric. That is, it burns spontaneously on contact with air. The greater the surface area of the plutonium, the faster it burns. This makes the management of the metal shaving from any machining operations critical. In addition, plutonium has six solid allotropes, and they vary wildly in density: Finally, and unusually, plutonium contracts when it freezes. It's rather odd stuff. Well, scientists just announced that they now understand a bit more about why it does this bizarre shit. Here's the paper, I don't claim to have understood anything past the abstract.
The Manhattan Project gets all the glory(it deserves it), but the Soviets quickly developed their own atomic weapons. They had some help through espionage, but I think it might be another piece of McCarthyism to dismiss Soviet atomic scientists. Here is a post on the Nuclear Secrecy Blog on the early program. Good insight, but not the end-all-be-all of information on the subject. A Model of the First Lightning/Joe 1 bomb?