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Science Fiction Collector, v. 3, issue 5, September-October 1937

Page 14

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Let us look at the facts and see just what you can do by converting matter Into energy.
The equation for the amount of energy in matter is: E = mc^{2}, in which E is the energy, expressed in appropriate units, m is the mass of the matter, expressed in units of the same system as the energy, and c is the speed of light, also expressed in the same system.
Since the speed of light is 30,000,000,000 centimeters per second, c is 9 x 10^{20} , or 900,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 900 quintillion. Therefore the disintegration of
one gram of matter would result in the release of nine hundred qulntillion ergs of energy.
However, an erg is such a small unit of energy — lifting a nickel a distance of one inch requires twelve and a half ergs — that the Joule is used for convenience. One joule
equals ten million ergs, which makes the 9 x 10^{30} ergs equal to 9 x 10^{13} or 90,000,000,000,000 or ninety trillion Joules.
The Joule is an unfamiliar unit to most people, but it is easy to transform it to more familiar units, as one Joule acting each second -- or one Joule per second -- equals a watt. So the disintegration of one gram of matter each second gives us ninety trillion watts, or ninety billion kilowatts. If this rate is kept up for one hour, we have ninety billion kilowatt hours, which results from the burning of 3600 grams of matter.
Looking at it from another point of view, one kilowatt hour equals 3.6 x 10^{7}, or 25,000,000 kilowatt hours, resulting from the disintegration of one gram of matter.
306,000,000,000 kilowatt hours were generated in the U.S. in 1936. To generate this by material energy would require 4200 grams of matter, or 9.25 pounds. Although this may disappoint a few people who had the idea that a few grains of sand or a few drops of water could supply power indefinitely to the world, there certainly is a big difference between this amount, and the tremendous quantities of coal and oil which are used to generate but a part of our power. One gram of matter disintegrated every two hours would supply the entire United States with energy.
Turning our units into heat we find that since one kilogram calorie equals 6.881163 kilowatt hours, 25,800,000 kilowatt hours equals 31,500,880,000 or twenty one billion, five hundred million kilogram calories, which is the result of the disintegration of one gram of matter. From the combustion of one gram of nitroglycerin is obtained 1.9 kilogram calories. Hydrogen, the most powerful combustible know, gives 34.5 kilogram calories per gram. One gram of matter contains the same amount of heat as 12,000 tons of nitroglycerin. Disintegrating a nickel with the same speed as the combustion of nitroglycerin would give the result of the explosion of 62,500 tons of nitroglycerin. If a bullet were to be made containing a speck of matter to be disintegrated upon contact, and this speck weighed 1/500 milligram, which is about the smallest amount which can be weighed upon a good assay scale, the explosion of this speck would have the same effect as the explosion of fifty pounds of nitroglycerin, only more concentrated. Richard Seaton certainly had luck!
The heat energy contained in one nickel could boil a cube of water over 180 feet on a side, or the size of a fifteen-story building. Or it would melt a steel space ship weighing about seven hundred thousand tons, or a hundred space ships, weigh seven thousand tons each, providing of course, that everything was 100% efficient. If the space ship was polished, bringing the efficiency down below five or ten percent, the nickel would still melt sev- weight. [sic]

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