(September 30, 2020) Although academic professors are sometimes brilliant, they can be stupidly wrong. This is particularly so when they think alike and censor contrary opinions, as is common on today’s college campus. According to Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb, theoretical physicists from that era had IQs that clustered around 170, yet they persistently missed a fundamental scientific breakthrough until someone outside the mainstream revealed the truth.
During the 1930s physicists were discovering atomic structure by bombarding samples of a variety of elements with neutrons. They used neutrons because the particle has no electric charge and can therefore penetrate into the positively charged nucleus of a target sample. Much of the effort focused on injecting neutrons into heavy elements such as Uranium to try and create new elements not existing in nature. That would eventually be accomplished for such elements as Plutonium, which is a key component for atomic and hydrogen bombs as well as nuclear power plants.
Since 1930s-era experimentalists were expecting such bombardments to create heavier elements they sometimes got results they could not understand. Late in 1938, for example, two German scientists were shooting neutrons into Radium to see what new elements they could produce. To their surprise they did not create any new elements but concluded that they had created another isotope (version) of Radium. They were puzzled that the new isotope behaved chemically almost exactly like Barium, which is not a heavier element but a much lighter one.
One of the scientists wrote his aunt who was a German physicist refugee in Sweden. She was underemployed and bored. Since she was detached and idled enough to think originally, she replied to her nephew’s letter by suggesting that the neutrons had split the Radium atom instead of transmuting it into a heavier element. The so-called new Radium isotope behaved chemically like Barium because it was Barium. The Eureka moment prompted fresh experimentation with Uranium that suggested nuclear fission could be harnessed to create atomic bombs.
In order to enable President Franklin Roosevelt to appreciate the discovery, two American experimenters met with Albert Einstein at his Long Island summer cottage in order to persuade him to write a letter to the President. Einstein was aware of the riddle concerning neutron bombardment’s failure to sometimes yield heavier elements. Like nearly all physicists, he failed to consider that neutrons might split the targeted atoms. When his visitors explained fission, Einstein admitted, “I never thought of that!” With their aid Einstein composed and sent a letter to Roosevelt that inaugurated America’s nuclear age—but that’s another story, and a good one.
America’s Civil War and Reconstitution-era historians are heading down the same fruitless path as her nuclear scientists were during the 1930s. They are obsessed with increasingly contrived or phony so-called research to confirm their prejudiced expectations justifying condemnation of Confederates and most white Southerners. It leaves them blind to virtues that should be cherished. Worse, the academy vigorously censors minority opinions, notwithstanding that free speech should be one of an American’s most cherished constitutional rights.
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The Republican Party could have stopped the spread of slavery peacefully by endorsing Popular Sovereignty during the 1860 presidential election. After Kansas used it to reject slavery in an 1858 local-option vote, nearly everyone realized that the doctrine would quarantine slavery in the South. If Popular Sovereignty could not make a slave state out of Kansas, it could not do it in any of the remaining 1860 Federal territories. Republicans rejected the doctrine simply to survive as an independent Party because both of Lincoln’s chief opposing presidential candidates supported it. Beyond what Poplar Sovereignty would have gained, the Republican Party’s blanket ban on slavery in the territories added nothing except to inflame the sectional passions that led to civil war. Even academic historians such as James Oakes conclude that if slavery had been peacefully restricted to the South, it would eventually have died. There was no need for Civil War but for the Republican Party’s self-preservation instinct.
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