Teaching About Nature's Nuclear Reactors

by J. Marvin Herndon

Naturally occurring nuclear reactors existed in uranium deposits on Earth long before Enrico Fermi built the first man-made nuclear reactor beneath Staggs Field in 1942. In the story of their discovery, there are important lessons to be learned about scientific inquiry and scientific discovery. Now, there is evidence to suggest that the Earthís magnetic field and Jupiterís atmospheric turbulence are driven by planetary-scale nuclear reactors. The subject of planetocentric nuclear fission reactors can be a jumping off point for stimulating classroom discussions about the nature and implications of planetary energy sources and about the geomagnetic field. But more importantly, the subject can help to bring into focus the importance of discussing, debating, and challenging current thinking in a variety of areas. (for full article, click here)