D O C . 3 9 Q U A K E R R E L I E F E F F O R T 1 9 5
43. On New Sources of Energy
[Einstein 1920e]
PUBLISHED 25 July 1920
IN: Berliner Tageblatt, 25 July 1920, Morning Edition, p. 4.
The Judgments of the German Scientist
Professor Einstein, the creator of the theory of relativity, tells our g.a.-correspon-
dent the following: “It is a fact that Rutherford has discovered that nitrogen can be
smashed by alpha-particles; in air, irradiated by alpha-rays, small amounts of sec-
ondary rays with a range different from alpha-rays are generated. Rutherford
interpreted some of these particles to have masses even smaller than the particles
of alpha-rays, which consist of helium. It turned out that their mass is equal to that
of hydrogen atoms. From this one could conclude that nitrogen atoms were
smashed while hydrogen atoms, among others, were generated. Recently, Ruther-
ford demonstrated that atoms of atomic weight 3 are also generated. Consequently,
we have here a completely new kind of atom, a new element. As far as is known
now, the energy to achieve the decay is provided by the alpha particles. As to the
energy set free, opinion is still divided. One can by no means exclude the possibility
that quite significant amounts of energy are freed by this process. It seems possible
and is not at all unlikely that new sources of energy with tremendous power can be
found here; but based upon presently known facts, there is no direct support yet for
this idea. It is extremely difficult to make prophecies, but the possibility seems to
be there. If it is at all possible to free the inner-atomic energy, it would likely have
immense significance for the energy resources available to human labor. In the
meantime, however, these processes can only be observed by the most intricate
means. This has to be emphasized, because otherwise people always immediately
get very excited. However, if this trace leads farther, especially if the rays freed by
the alpha particles are able to cause the same effects, then one cannot know whether
such a development cannot move ahead rapidly.”
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