MIT Science Reporter—”One Part in a Trillion” (Excerpt)

MIT Science Reporter—”One Part in a Trillion” (Excerpt)


[MUSIC PLAYING] FITCH: This man is
recording traces of impurities in a metal. Impurities so infinitesimal
that special research techniques are needed to detect
and analyze them. Scientists have
found that in order to keep pace with developments
in modern technology they must be able to
fingerprint impurities as minute as one part in a trillion. This is our story today
on Science Reporter. PRIEST: You are at the United
States Army Materials Research Agency, an agency responsible
for basic scientific research and materials. O’CONNOR: Here we
have a photograph of a cricket laying on a block
of steel taken with neutrons. Had that been taken with x-rays
with this heavy block of steel just nothing would
have come through. There would be no
interaction of the cricket. But with neutrons, with its
highly specific interaction with the hydrogen and
carbon in the cricket, here we see the neutrons
going through the steel and finding this little,
very light cricket laying on top of it. ANTAL: With the
reactor operating, you can look right
down into our reactor. You can actually see the fuel
elements at the very bottom there. FITCH: Why isn’t it dangerous? ANTAL: Well, in this direction,
in the vertical direction, we use water as a shield we
have almost 22 feet of water between us and the reactor. FITCH: Today we’ve been
visiting the United States Army Materials Research Agency
in Watertown, Massachusetts. Our guests have been Dr. Homer
Priest, Mr. jack O’Connor, and Dr. John Antal. I’m John Fitch, MIT
Science Reporter.

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