In the early days of the project, security at Chalk River did have its problems, due in large part to committed Communists. In the very early days, a British physicist by the name of Alan Nunn May was found to be sending information to the Soviets and was duly arrested. There was another much more romantic individual by the name of Bruno Pontecorvo who spent several years at the Lab, and stimulated the fantasies of the local belles of Deep River. Aging matrons still salivated, while I was there, when they recalled memories of celibate Bruno playing tennis at the yacht club.
This concludes this summer’s writings by Peter Martel. It’s been a busy summer for me and I had hoped to work on two new songs. I have the lyrics but not much more, but I do have a garden full of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers which have taken a lot of time. So I’ll be back to music on Mondays and Fridays and art on Wednesdays. Leslie
One day, after two new neighbours moved into houses next to ours, my wife informed me that Jerry had dropped in to find out what kind of people our neighbours were. She was a bit baffled by the visit because she had barely gotten beyond the introduction stage with Art Olson on the left and Pierre Perron on the right. They must have passed muster because Art eventually became Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Pierre head of the National Research Council in Ottawa.
At our first residence in Deep River there was a chap directly across the street by the name of Jerry Harrison who was the then head of security at the Lab. He was ex-RCMP. The superintendent’s description of the person who had enquired about me, did not rule out the possibility that Jerry had been the surreptitious visitor in Toronto.
As a nuclear facility, security was one of the top priorities at the Chalk River laboratory. Just before my family left to go to Deep River the superintendent of my apartment building in Toronto informed me that an RCMP officer had made enquiries about my character and activities—a procedure on might expect, given the history of the lab.
Compared to my British comrades I guess I was a bit of a hayseed. I used to hang around with the rank and file at the reactor and many years elapsed before they learned I was “Doctor” Martel. In some respects not being a “Doctor” had its advantages. For instance, if I needed to have a heavy piece of apparatus transferred from the reactor to a repair facility, I just went up to the guys on the floor with a pickup truck and asked them to help me load it. I then stood up in the truck and held it while we passed through various security barriers. This was definitely against union regulations, which if followed, might delay delivery by a day or more. The guys felt quite at ease with a hayseed having as accent like mine, because, I think, they had come to associate and English accent with “overlords”.
Unfortunately, my collaborator on the experiment had been absent for my initial presentation. He arrived the day before my second practice and I hardly had any time to check my lecture. He said I should go ahead with it anyway and so I took the liberty to give the same talk a second time. This time around, Dr. Lewis and Dr. Burrell were not present and the talk was deemed to have been acceptable by most members of my group who I now assumed to have been asleep at my first presentation.
After I was finished, Dr. Lewis said he did’t quite understand the underlying forces at play. As best I could, I explained that at low temperatures the forces between aligned magnetic atoms in a crystal lattice allow the propagation of magnetic energy…..Gil Burrell who was sitting next to Lewis was visibly shaken. After the session he let it be known to my group leader that I must improve my talk and give it again.
Hardy’s lecture was given some ten years after I had given my first talk at Chalk River. My lecture was a practice talk to verify that the invited talk I was to give elsewhere was as flawless as possible. It was common practice to do this when several members of the group were going to a physics meeting. The subject I was to discuss involved the forces between magnetic spins in crystals. I do not recall if Dr. Lewis was present at Hardy’s talk but he certainly was at mine.
People like Hardy had an extensive knowledge of a world beyond nuclear physics. I previous suggested that the name of the new pseudo element “pandemonium” was just a continuation of the various “iums” in the periodic table of the elements. Actually, anyone cognizant of Paradise Lost knows that Pandemonium was the name of satan’s capital city in hell. Maybe Hardy chose this name because he felt he had assumed the role of “devil’s advocate”.
One of the reasons for the demise of nuclear physics may well have been that very few new discoveries were made that were of immediate practical use in the reactor physics program. Instead, what emerged was a severe critique based on ”Pandemonium”. Many people employed on the practical or engineering side held doctorates in nuclear physics that lay outside the scope of AECL at that time. I suspect that many of them were not flexible enough to fit in with the advanced nuclear physics research concepts pioneered by people like Doug Milton, John Hardy, Otto Hausser, David Ward, Gordon Ball and Tom Alexander. They then turned to making money and reactors. Research that had no monetary benefit for the reactor program was deemed useless and opposed by many ex-nuclear physicists. Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.