Stories About Chemistry
The ill-starred alchemists of the Middle Ages were tortured as ordained by the Spanish Inquisition and were burned at the stake. Today's "nuclear"' alchemists are quoted with deference and awarded Nobel Prizes.
The former believed in too much and knew not what they did. Their "theory" consisted of invocations, prayers, and blind faith in the magic properties of the mysterious philosopher's stone. The latter believe neither in God nor in the Devil. They believe in the power of the human mind and in the boundless ingenuity of human hands. They recognize strict and sound physical theories consisting of a great deal of physics, a great deal of mathematics, and still more bold assumptions and hypotheses.
The alchemists of our day are trying to break through into the domain of the very heavy elements. But will this not liken them to builders of castles in the air? We have just said that the lifetimes radioactivity assigned to elements with atomic numbers close to 110 were more than rigorous. This is so, and yet not quite so. The great Danish physicist Niels Bohr once spoke of the good of "crazy" ideas. In his opinion only they are capable of revolutionizing current conceptions of the universe.
The creators of the super-heavy elements also have such ideas. Only we daresay these ideas are not much "crazier"' than, say, those of the theory of relativity. They are thoroughly thought out, have a sound physical footing and have been checked by careful calculation.