Peaceful atoms

Achievements in studying atom structure have opened up new, practi­cally unlimited possibilities to humanity for further mastering nature's forces. The discovery of atomic energy provides as profound effect for the benefit of civilization as the discovery of fire and electricity.

After having recovered from the shock of unimaginable horror of the explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima people asked scientists how soon they would be able to apply the immense power of fissioned nucleus to peaceful purposes. Many problems had to be solved: the main one was that of "braking" the released neutrons efficiently so that the chaim reaction could be controlled.

The "classical'' solution to this problem is conducting the heat generated by the fission process out of the reactor, making it boil water and forcing the resulting steam to drive turbines which, in their turn, drive electric generators. It is a way which works well aithouyh it is still rather expensive.

It is to be noted that the first power station fed by atomic fuels which was also the world's first atomic power station started working in Obninsk, near Moscow, in 1954. Its capacity was 5,000 kilowatts. Thirty years later in the Soviet Union there were already 13 atomic power stations with the total capacity of over 21 million kilowatts.

At the same time with large atomic stations smaller mobile electricity producing units have been created based on the discovery of radioactive sources - isotopes. Mobile nuclear installations may be carried by rail and then by transporters to the out-of-the-way regions even in areas having no roads. Such a station according to estimates can operate without being recharged for two years.

Today scientists are looking for new more efficient nuclear processes of producing energy. But it was only lately that the physicists understood that the process of producing tremendous energy by stars, including our Sun, was the very process they were looking for. Now we know that this thermonuclear process is called fusion and it takes place at fantasti­cally high temperatures. It can be done only by imitating on the Earth the process that makes the Sun shine.

There are many difficult problems to overcome before thermonuclear power stations based on this process can become a reality, but the prob­lem of fuel supply is the least of them: the oceans of the Earth are practically an inexhaustible source of deuterium which plays the decisive part in the fusion process and its extraction from sea water is neither complicated nor expensive.

In short, peaceful uses of atomic energy are vast - but we must stop using it on weapons of mass annihilation.

10. TODAY'S ASTONISHING COMPUTERS

Not long ago computers were not very reliable and comparatively slow in operation. Since then, several generations of complex electronic computing equipment have been developed, each being significantly better than the one before it. Almost every day a new use is found for these astonishing devices to help man.

We know a computer to be a complex electronic device that can store and process vast quantities of information. Following instructions, computing equipment will perform calculations such as addition, subtrac­tion, multiplication and division, and provide the answers to a large vari­ety of problems in a tiny fraction of time.

A computer is known to be the "heart" of an electronic data processing system, other parts of equipment being auxiliary.

There are two main types of computing equipment - digital and analogue. They work differently and yield different results. The digital computer is performing a much broader range of functions than the analogue one.

The analogue computer, as its name, implies, produces analogues or parallels of the process to be described or the problem to be solved. Both the digital and the analogue computers must be "programmed". This means they must be set up in such a way that they can produce a result from the information fed into them, and the information itself must be organized so that it can be handled by the machines. These de­vices working by electronic impulses perform at fantastic speed and with great precision.

An initial prototype of what is often called the Global Information In­frastructure is known to be named the Internet. The Internet has revolution­ized the computers and communications world. The invention of telegraph, telephone, radio and computers set the stage for this unprecedented integra­tion of capabilities and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographical location.

The history of the Internet is complex and involves many aspects - technological, organizational and community. Its influence reaches not only to computers communications but throughout the society, as one of the most popular Internet services nowadays is e-mail. Each new generation of computers opens up a new possibility for basic and applied research.