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So far in this series on the century of science you have discussed everything from the technological to the sociological aspects of science in the 20th century everything from nuclear physics to bio physics astronomy to undergo Knology. But it seems to me that you've left out one very important point. This is been the first century with women in science. WGBH Af-Am in Boston presents a century of science produced under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in go operation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is an exploration of developments in 20th century science and of the implications they present for contemporary American society. Your host Voltar Torre a former editor of Popular Science and now director of radio television programming for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This particular program we hope will call your attention to two new aspects of
science in this century. First the role of women in scientific research. And second the role of industrial laboratories. There are more women in scientific laboratories now than ever before and the growth of big industrial laboratories which engage in both basic and applied research is certainly one of the most remarkable phenomena of our times. Dr. Dorothy M. Simon as a physical chemist who is now a technical assistant to the president of the ethical manufacturing corporation's research and advanced development division. This is a big laboratory I can assure you I've been up and seen it. She has worked in the Oakridge in the Argonne National Laboratories for the National Advisory Committee for not expose. Dr Simon is now investigating new ways of propelling verticals through the space beyond our atmosphere. DR SIMON How did you become interested in chemistry. Well actually I became interested in chemistry at a very early age because when other children asked me what my father did I had to tell him he teaches chemistry.
So I had to know enough about it to tell him what it was. Were you tempted at any time to study something else or did this just go on as a matter of fact I didn't think I would study chemistry till I was in college and then I did and I was interested in it and wanted to make my career. Well have you found that this is a field that you think other women would enjoy. Yes I think that it is particularly for women who have special abilities in the scientific law and I think they will fund chemistry particularly a job which gives them the opportunity to use their creative ability very satisfied. Well most women are more interested in medicine or biology or social work than the sort of thing that you have specialized. We don't come across very many women interested in combustion and thermodynamics. Well actually there aren't as many women percentage wise in engineering as there are in the biological sciences. I think those About 1 for every hundred
and fifty men engineers while in chemistry it's more like one in fifty Khamis who is a woman just earlier distinguished between engineering and science. All this is a difficult question but I can best answer it I think by an example in the combustion field for example. If you study mechanisms of flame propagation you are studying the basic chemistry and physics of flames. And this is a scientific basic problem. Well if you are adept in the use of these flames to a combustion chamber for a ram jet or a turbo jet this is engineering opportunities for women to be as great as they are for a man. There are more opportunities no than there were in the past in this field. But still it takes an unusual. Company to hire a large proportion of women. I think you'll find that the government laboratories like the ATC laboratories or the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics will be a slightly more lenient in the hiring of women in science than most of the industrial laboratories. Do you ever feel lonely in this way. Well at times but of course I always have my husband who's a scientist divorced lady Lady engineers married people in the profession. I was thinking about that the other day. Only later scientists or engineers that I have were married to scientists either in their own field or in some other I know that's certainly true among astronomers and astronomers convention was common and they are both strictly on a par with each other in the technical discussions. But there isn't quite as much of that in engineering rockets and things like that not so much there are two women in the combustion field that I know and one has a mathematician husband and the other is unmarried.
Were there many in class with you ARE THEY STILL practicing science or engineering. Yes actually there were six of us in chemistry at the time I was at the University of Illinois. All of us are married and all are working in some way or other in the field of chemistry or related scientific field. Well no your particular workers are understand it is investigation. New means of propulsion. That's right that's my new interest. Propulsion for space. How did you become started in this. Well for many years I've been interested in combustion which was the process used for RAM jets and turbo jets. Now as we look toward conquering space where there is no oxygen we think of other methods of propulsion. So it was only natural that I should turn my interest from the burning of gasoline and oxygen to other methods of propulsion.
In a sense and this is just a matter of keeping up with the times. That's right. That's another way to look at the stars. Why is a company such as you work for interested in means of propulsion and really aren't employed yet. We hope to be forward looking in this field of space and we are quite interested in such things as missiles and satellites. So that it is only another step to propulsion systems for say interplanetary travel and we feel this is one of the more interesting fields of the future. Now we all realize I think that all of the rockets and missiles that have been sent up so far have been based on chemical reactions that is rather traditional forms of. Combustion. As I write I am going to have the possibilities of chemical reactions been exhausted or nearly so. No one might say they are nearly exhausted in the sense that we
cannot increase the performance more than a factor of say 100 percent with conventional molecular chemical reactions but we can hope to increase to specific impulses of four hundred or four hundred and fifty seconds simply by using what we term high energy chemical reactions. There are however other chemical reactions such as the recumbent nation of atoms which produce significantly more energy than the direct oxidation reduction reactions that we know. We use these such as the reaction between hydrogen atoms might increase their performance by a factor of 3 or far. However there are many difficulties in using this sort of reaction. It still is in the early laboratory stages of determining how to control the rate of the reaction.
When I use the phrase a bit of good I think maybe needs a little explaining. And that's the specific impulse. Yes specific impulse is the characteristic that we use to compare fuels or performance of rocket engines and it means the comparison of the thrust that is the force which may be attained per unit. Roy 8 for example purple feel or it may be considered the length of time that one pound of fuel will give the engine certain thrust level so the higher the specific impulse the greater the performance the better the few. What you really want then is something that burns quite fast and puts out a pretty substantial body of gas. That's right and produces a high thrust so that the velocity of the vehicle may equal the high velocities required for example forus
escape from the air. But a chemical reaction such as you've been talking about is one that really requires two materials of an oxygen or an Occident or something of that sort is that right. That's the usual thing for liquid fueled rockets and for Ramjet and turbo jet engines now we do have what are called mano propellants in which one chemical contains both the oxygen and the fuel solid propellant are often of this type. You must have some way of starting a reaction too. Yes you must have a way of starting the reaction with a spar usually or a flame of some other sort. But then the burning is just homogeneous solid from the first thing I'm sure that occurs to everybody in this connection as atomic energy we hear so much about fusion and fission. So is there any possibility of atheism reactions that could be used to it.
Well there certainly is. Fission is a method of producing high energy of course for low weight to fuel your rainy I'm. In this case one method that has often been proposed is to use a working fluid. This is a chemical like hydrogen ammonia or helium which is heated as a gas by the energy released from the nuclear fission process. Usually one considers that that nuclear fission must go through an electrical cycle and that the electrical energy must be used for the heat. Then this heated fluid is expanded through a muscle in just the same way that the combustion gases were in our ordinary rockets to give the force for propulsion. Now this is a method which will probably be comparable to chemical reactions. We could use fusion as you suggested. And although this is is far in the future the possibility of using
fusion gives us a chance to build one of the better propulsion systems. Is this the sort of thing you're working on. What the possibilities of fission and fusion are for example. Yes we are looking at the possibilities of fission fusion heating by any method the use of ionic propulsion all possible physical principles which we can imagine might be used for propulsion. And we are trying to compare the futures of those for propulsion systems about solar energy doesn't that offer possibilities when you really get out where the sun is burning hot. Well just in the same way that nuclear energy could be used to heat a working fluid. So solar energy could be used to heat a working fluid which would then be expanded through the nozzle. But in space although there is a lot of radiant energy from the sun its concentration
is not very great. So that to have anything like the concentration in the heated gas that one is able to produce by chemical reaction it is necessary to use a focusing device such as a parabolic mirror. Now this has to be a large device and this heavy. So to carry it with you on a propulsion rocket of some sort offers a certain number of problems one usually compares a chemical reaction as our present rockets or advanced chemical reactions with methods of heating a working fluid which we have discussed previously in terms of nuclear energy and so on. And third with the use of ionic materials. Now in this sort of propulsion one uses a material from which an electron may easily be freed this week cool on as a shim to give a charged
particle lithium sodium potassium that sort of alkaline metal material will give up an electron very easily. It has a low on ization potential. Then one can vaporize this material and have a vapor made up of charged particles. We know that electrical fields will accelerate those particles them a gas may be expelled from the combustion chamber if you will or the ionization chamber of this new propulsion device which is made up of charged particles moving at very high velocities. Now the momentum of these particles is the product of their weight and their velocity which can be sufficiently high to give a propulsion system with a high specific impulse. However in the case of the propulsion system. We must have a very high potential high electrical field both
for acceleration and for on izing the material. And at this time such a heavy power supply is required that all we can achieve is a low thrust for a long period of time. When you do something as I understand it you in effect get some negative particles which would be electrons and some positive particles which would be the other parts of the atom is that right that's where I learned which part which you used to throw out to obtain a structure. Well actually there are two ways one may use both particles already separate them and use both and then bring them back together again in the exhaust. Or you can use what's called a neutral plasma. This means that you use both the positive and the negative parts simultaneously and use a magnetic field and the principle of The New Science of Magneto hydrodynamics as the basis of a propulsion system.
With this neutral this is going to confuse and bother a few people. When you accelerate your positive or negative particles in the same direction at the same rate with a right that it failed the same day by American Pharoah no less. And it's the same oh right carries through. This would require quite a bit of recognizing that it is not a simple problem at all. But there is the possibility of accelerating the neutral placer because it is a conducting medium. How do you get a high potential that means carrying a big electrical generator or something with you. Yes you may sit in an arc or some material simply by boiling them or you may use them by bombarding them with electrons. Often it has been suggested that the
ionization should take place in an hour. An arc like an arc like well very similar to an arc light at the laboratory. CO we are studying what are called high intensity arcs. Now these are actually arc struck between two carbon electrodes. One is a rod and the other is a disk. Now a tangential stream of water is sprayed around the rod and between the gap in the electrodes part of the water is vaporized. And just as an arc is struck between the two electrodes and this vapor escapes then at high velocity through the disc arc this is a disc with a whole lot of donuts aren't electrode so that the result is a stream of high velocity charged very hot gases. The
temperature is about 15000 degrees centigrade. This is much hotter than the hottest flame that we know. And the velocity can be varied by using a nozzle rather than just just a straight dissin sounds a little bit like playing a hose on the fur books or something of that sort. One's first impulse is rather that if the water from voting out the arc. Well no water that isn't vaporized is actually drained off so that it's only the vaporized water which becomes this very hot plasma jet. But plasma Just what do you mean. The plasma is the gas which has been subjected to the high current in the arc so that the water molecules are broken up into all sorts of atoms and charged particles giving you a mixture off these atoms molecules and charged particles even free electrons with high
kinetic energy. You're in effect going to be throwing away what sounds like a lot of debris all the time to propel yourself is that right. That's right. You're going to be throwing away a lot of charged particles. I'm sorry. Well the next question that occurs to me is how do you carry enough stuff with you. Well in this case you don't have to carry so much if you use say a lithium gas then because the velocities are high the mass doesn't have to be so large because it is the product of mass and velocity which gives the momentum the real purpose for this is that you are interested in means of propulsion out where there is no atmosphere. Yes there are really two types of propulsion systems which are required for most of the missions we talk about in
space. The first of these must give the high acceleration required to escape from the forces the gravity of Earth or the forces on any other heavenly body. Now at the present time the chemical rockets are used for that purpose and one expects that nuclear rockets and possibly fusion systems will give these high accelerations. Now secondly one would like to travel long distances with just a little bit of push. These are. Shall we say the interplanetary propulsion systems and it is here that the heating methods such as ARC heating our solar heating or even the radiation pressure methods might be useful. Also the I am IC method at the present looks more useful in that regime. But there are some possibilities that the ionic method of propulsion might be useful both for takeoff and the weather. These are in the very
distant word. Do you think we should go on these what you refer to as missions. Well of course everyone would like to know whether there are canals. So one thing that it is sure we would like to do is at least with the scientific instruments to observe their Venus and Mars and maybe before that the moon which is much closer I should think this would be rather hard to explain to the other ladies in your neighborhood who I was sure think of all of this is strictly a man's work. Or maybe something of the small boys read about in science fiction rather than something that concerns them. Well it may be difficult to explain to the ladies in the neighborhood but it's very easy to explain to their 10 year olds. Well Dr. Simon said the 10 year olds. Do about this. One of the things we're always interested in is is how one really
goes about preparing for a career and Magneto hydrodynamics or any other such subject. Well I would like to see those who are interested. Starting in mathematics and study as much mathematics and physics as they can possibly learn in high school and even in college because it is the physical principles which one must understand to go ahead in the field of engineering. No it seems to me that the greatest difference in the present rate of progress of engineering is based on this use. New information on principals much sooner than we have used it in the past so it is of great importance that even in high school the people interested in science should study physics and mathematics and chemistry rather than the more applied
types of scientific courses. I think perhaps it was when I was studying geometry that I knew I wanted to be a scientist because solving problems as one learns to do with a logic in geometry seem to me the most interesting and fascinating subject I have ever known. Is your work pretty largely working with numbers and symbols. Oh there's always a lot of mathematics in the advanced stages of any scientific research work. And this is fully as important as the actual gadgetry the actual setup of the arc are such as you described. Actually one might say in some ways it is more important because unless you have a concept a basic logical idea of what is to be learned from an experiment the experiment itself may be useless. Course I don't mean to say that if an experiment contradicts theory that theory is
always you ought to know but I mean the experiment must be planned so that you will learn a true fact and you will not simply learn something odd about the environment. Another thing I think that people here a great deal about is the worries of the scientists about where to go armaments. The security problem and all that. Is there any thing difficult or that is discouraging about your work. Because a large part of it will be a little less. I don't know that I would say it is discouraging because I think it is very necessary that the United States should be in a strong position in this field. I have four on the atomic bomb on jet aircraft and now on missiles as each has become important. I feel that I am doing what I can for my country in this field. Do you feel that scientists and engineers should be more active in
the setting. What we might call a political and social problems are not. I think that they are required that this is now part of their duty to take a greater interest in the major questions of the day which are certainly influenced by science and engineering and I think it is our duty to teach those who are to make the decisions politically as much as we can of the background of science so that they will understand there are no great secrets no deep mysteries that no matter what country you are in you may discover the same basic scientific principles which are universal. The thing that I think bothers a good many people as is the fact that political leaders of any country apparently gets such contradictory advice from various scientists and engineers all of whom are people with the most intentions. As far as we know great competence.
What is a layman going to do. He is confronted with conflicting advice from different camps of scientists. This is a very difficult situation and I think that scientists must be very sure that they place the broadest picture that they can before lame and so it is the duty of scientists not only to understand their scientific questions but they must understand the political ones so that we can begin to give a more unified front to laymen. I think there is no a lack of understanding of the significance of the scientific answers in the political field that as scientists become more skilled in understanding political questions and as they realize that their role is slightly different. We will have a more unified and uniform answer to these questions.
Perhaps a young person it was to be honest lives a good bit of the humanities political science and economics and literature and that sort of thing as well as mathematics and physics. I agree that that is very much so and that all people who are now in college studying science should take every advantage to hear of the political scientists and the men in the humanities who come to their colleges and universities to speak and should realize that these problems are as difficult to solve and require as much or more intelligence than an raffling fusion for example. I say well thank you very much Dr. 7 for talking to us. You have been listening to women science and rockets with Dr. Dorothy Simon a physical chemist expert in propellant and a technical assistant to the president of the EV Gold Corporation at that firm's research and advanced development division. This
has been a part of century of science a recorded exploration of developments in science and their import for the 20th century American. This series is prepared by WGBH Af-Am in Boston for the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. Your host Volta Torre a former editor of Popular Science now director of radio television programming for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Director for the series Lillian embassy you know producer Jack the Summerfield Bill Cavanaugh speaking next week J.W. Forrester builder of the world's fastest electronic memory and professor of industrial management at MIT will discuss a new phenomenon of our age the paperwork revolution. Two weeks from today Watson Davis director of science service sets the background leading to this century of science. And three weeks from today the series will conclude with Walter C. Michaels is topic education for a century of science a century of science is produced under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and
distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Century of Science
Women, science and rockets
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Dorothy Simon, propellents expert, technical assistant to the president, AVCO.
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Discussions of aspects of science affecting modern America. This series is hosted by Volta Torrey, the director of radio and television programming at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the former editor of Popular Science.
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Director: Ambrosino, Lillian
Guest: Simon, Dorothy
Host: Torrey, Volta, 1905-
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-9-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:55
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Chicago: “Century of Science; Women, science and rockets,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
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