Friday, January 23, 2015

WWII Columbia filters natural penicillin AND natural uranium

It is easy to see how Columbia University's two wartime Manhattan Projects differed : after all one saved countless thousands of lives while the other one caused countless thousands of deaths.

But it never hurts to consider how much they had in common - together - set against other parts of the Allied wartime nuclear and antibiotics effort.
Because, in truth, most of the top Allied physicists focused all their pride on the Washington State based efforts to artificially synthesize Plutonium to make endless amounts of nuclear bombs and nuclear energy.

They found this far more exciting than Columbia's painful war-long efforts to filter out tiny amounts of natural U-235 from its more plentiful kissing cousin natural U-238.

Similarly, the Allies' top chemists found the thought of artificially synthesized penicillin far more exciting than they did thinking about ways to aid the painful efforts to separate tiny amounts of pure natural penicillin from all other metabolites thrown up by the penicillium fungus.

(Though I must remind readers that while U-235 won't go BOOM if it remains mixed with U-238, natural penicillin - like the Vitamin C in oranges - works equally well pure or if still mixed with the rest of the penicillium juice.)

Both the natural uranium bomb and natural penicillin needle ended up being the classic understudy Plan Bs, the ones that came in at the last minute to save the Allied bacon when the synthesists failed to deliver as promised ...

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