After scientists at the end of the 19th century began exploring the composition of matter, it didn't take them long to realize the enormous energy contained within atoms—as summed up in Albert Einstein's equation E = mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). Early on, scientists speculated that the release of such energy could result in the most powerful explosions ever created. They also predicted that, if controlled, the released energy could be used to power vehicles or make electricity. In 1904, for example, British chemist Frederick Soddy declared that a ship could make a round-trip voyage from England to Australia fueled by the energy in a pint of uranium. As nuclear energy production continues to be controversial and to appear regularly ...

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