There's a fairly widespread claim that the energy released by the fission of a single atom of uranium would release enough energy to make a grain of sand visibly jump. Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb mentions it in its narrative of the discovery of fission; this article in The Physics Teacher also mentions that this claim is "often quoted".

I'm not interested in whether the claim is accurate, just where it originally came from. Rhodes attributes it to Otto Frisch without citation; the Physics Teacher article mentions that Gerard DeGroot’s The Bomb: A Life "mistakenly" attributes it to Lise Meitner and Frisch's "first paper on fission". (I'm not sure exactly which publication this is referring to, but looking a bit through their various articles/letters in Nature volume 143, I don't see the grain of sand claim.) Can anyone find the original source of this claim, assuming there is one?

  • $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but you aren't the first to ask the question: aapt.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1119/1.5080566 - B. Cameron Reed has written many good articles on nuclear physics and the Manhattan Project. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 23 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe we need to take the "grain of sand" claim with a grain of salt :-) . $\endgroup$ Nov 23 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ I did find poorly-worded articles which state, correctly, that Meitner calculated the energy produced at fission, and then elide that with the 'grain of sand' claim, which as you say she never wrote or suggested. $\endgroup$ Nov 23 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Jon Custer yes, I came across that article and referenced it in my question. $\endgroup$
    – DylanSp
    Nov 23 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DylanSp my point is that the article you referenced does not attribute it to Meitner. It's just a poorly-constructed sentence. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 at 12:39

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