What Really Happened the First Time We Split a Heavy Atom in Half

  • Published on Oct 1, 2017
  • This episode was produced in collaboration with and sponsored by Emerson. Click here to learn more about their We Love STEM initiative: bit.ly/2fnBiHO
    When scientists first split the atom, they didn’t realize what they’d done until physicist Lise Meitner figured out they had discovered what we now call nuclear fission.
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Comments • 1 132

  • SciShow
    SciShow  Year ago +256

    Thanks for pointing out that the original title for this episode could also apply to Rutherford! We've updated it to be more specific about the type of atom-splitting that led to Meitner's discovery of nuclear fission.

    • A South Dakotan Ranger
      A South Dakotan Ranger 5 months ago

      What about the "Atom Smasher"?

    • Acme Fixer
      Acme Fixer Year ago

      Pierrick Bramberger
      I remember something about this in Goodyear's biography. He spilled some on the stove? Look it up. Google is your friend.

    • Pierrick Bramberger
      Pierrick Bramberger Year ago

      How can you accidentally vulcanise rubber?

  • Comrade Danny
    Comrade Danny 4 days ago

    A Nobel is purely humanity resting a rank of prestige on a group of people who are just as fallible and biased as we are and were given to people who arguably didn't deserve them, so I think Nobel Prizes should have no bearing on what we think of as legitimate.

    PEPE SS 26 days ago +1

    I came for a lesson in science instead i got a lecture on feminism.

  • Jonathan Pecany
    Jonathan Pecany Month ago +1

    History and science, both my favorite subjects.

  • Michael John
    Michael John Month ago

    What an amazing human being. The definition of civilian. I wish there where more people today that viewed life as this amazing woman and human being. Salute to you Dr Meitner. You will forever be remembered.

  • Glascoe Bowie
    Glascoe Bowie Month ago

    Slitting atoms puts wholes in the atmosphere.

  • Bazooka Llama Productions

    im barry. barry-um goldberg. they named an element after me to commemorate the mightiness of my awesome ninja moves.

  • Tim B
    Tim B 2 months ago

    THANK YOU! I'm high and I was JUST wondering this!

  • Shah Shahroomkhan
    Shah Shahroomkhan 2 months ago

    No good luchor only speak but not vidio

  • The Absolute Madman
    The Absolute Madman 2 months ago +2

    3:35 Woman conceptualized way to tackle problem.
    3:27 Man and woman worked on problem together.
    3:54 Man and woman did calculations together.
    4:13 Man and woman publish their findings together.
    4:05 “WOMAN figured out nuclear fission and was robbed of her chance to shine!”
    That’s feminism for ya, folks.

  • phiddle phart
    phiddle phart 2 months ago +1

    Think of the discoveries & possibilities we have missed out on because of sex discrimination in the past and the present. Doesn't sound very logical.

  • Paul Choi
    Paul Choi 2 months ago +1

    Her research partner got it. Nice.

  • Maddog Jones
    Maddog Jones 2 months ago

    Can you imagine where humanity would be if misogyny and racism didn't keep people from contributing to and furthering scientific discovery? All the brilliant minds denied access to schools and research. We are fortunate that some slipped through the cracks and made their important discoveries.

  • Kevin Benoit
    Kevin Benoit 2 months ago

    The guy didn’t know that men have flammable hair too? Wtf

  • Bill Olsen
    Bill Olsen 3 months ago

    I thought the answer would be "Everyone in their right mind ran away from the University of Chicago Physics Lab screaming & waving their arms wildly."

  • Doom2pro
    Doom2pro 3 months ago

    You have people like this women who just wanted to advance human kind, and then you have people like Trump. Puts things into perspective doesn't it?

  • CraftAero
    CraftAero 3 months ago +1

    "Experiment" does NOT rhyme with "spearmint"... just a pet peeve, carry on.

  • ba kapitan
    ba kapitan 3 months ago

    how many accident in science human yet to find ? it makes me curious even tho i'm bad at math but i still fascinated with this rare discoveries of nature mechanic order

  • NinjaOnANinja
    NinjaOnANinja 3 months ago

    Wait, so a swedish chick invented this tech and seen the danger. So they came to the US with warning about it. Then the US decides, let's make exactly what they feared. Then Japan attacks and the US nukes japan.
    America really needs to break this spell and get into politics man. Simply existing as sheeple has got to stop.

  • kaz
    kaz 3 months ago

    All those things named after her prolly made her feel MUCH better...

  • Viktor Jangsell
    Viktor Jangsell 3 months ago

    she got a crater named after her because she helped the us make two craters in japan

  • Harsh Jain
    Harsh Jain 3 months ago +1

    Why do scientists doing real work don't get credited. Like Nicola Tesla

    • Doodle Noodle
      Doodle Noodle 3 months ago

      what are you talking about mr.smartass ?

  • Hopelessand Forlorn
    Hopelessand Forlorn 3 months ago

    In "Radioactive Transformations," a1905 book based upon a lecture he delivered as part of the Silliman lecture series, Ernest Rutherford speculated upon possible future discoveries to be made about changes in atoms caused by radioactive decay. At the time, Rutherford's research was at the leading edge of atomic physics. In the book, he clearly forecasts the possibility of what Meitner was to name nuclear fission, even though his lecture and book were delivered several years before he discovered the atomic nucleus. He speculated upon the possibility of the atom breaking into two parts of roughly equal size, and specifically stated that the breakup of a heavy atom would be evidenced by the presence of two elements, each of roughly half the atomic weight of the progenitor atom. This is exactly what Hahn and Strassmann found in 1938.

    Considering this, I wonder why the scientific world was so surprised--I would say thunderstruck, according to many contemporary accounts--at the discovery of atomic fission. It is not as if Rutherford had never told them to look for it, and even how to recognize it. Not to take anything away from Meitner. And for all the misogynists bitching in the comments about a mere woman being recognized (belatedly, of course) as a great scientist, remember this--the only human to ever receive Noble Prizes in two different disciplines of science is, and remains...Marie Curie. Eat your hearts out.

  • radzewicz
    radzewicz 3 months ago

    Well that's what you GET Nobel prizes for, actual physical discoverys, not theorys. You can qualify for a Nobel prize only if you DISCOVER something, not theorize something, even if your discovery validates a theory, only the discoverer gets the prize not the theorist. This has come up many times, its not just an anti-female thing. Marie Curie got two Nobel prizes for DISCOVERING radium and something else, even though the people who theorized that these elements exist receive nothing. THAT is what you get a Nobel prize for! She did not earn one, neither did Franklin.

  • Troy Nall
    Troy Nall 3 months ago

    Why don't we learn this in elementary or high School? This is the real history that we should be learning.

  • Arshiya Kulchand
    Arshiya Kulchand 3 months ago

    So what about when an organism like ameoba splits it's Nucleous into two while reproducing by binary fission, does that produce energy too?

  • Don't, Jimm
    Don't, Jimm 4 months ago

    We need a movie to tell this story!

  • Peter Yeeter
    Peter Yeeter 4 months ago

    Imagine if you were one of these scientists and then accidentally set off a nuclear explosion lmao.

    WET PAPER 4 months ago

    Splitting electron and proton using quarks

  • Bevan Ficks
    Bevan Ficks 4 months ago

    this woman deserves a movie

  • Zes
    Zes 4 months ago

    no such thing as rare or acknolodx or awarx or not, doen't matter

  • Ieuan Hunt
    Ieuan Hunt 4 months ago

    So a female scientist did not get recognition for her contribution to science because Sweden was neutral during The Second World War. How do you feel now you Axis bastards. Oh hey Ireland I didn't see you there. *cough* anyone an Archer fan *cough*

  • Prabhanshu Wakodikar
    Prabhanshu Wakodikar 5 months ago

    cyanide and happiness brought me here.

  • Allan Richardson
    Allan Richardson 5 months ago

    An interesting bit of trivia about the letter from Einstein’s colleagues starting the Manhattan Project: after receiving the letter, FDR ordered the top military brass to write up the detailed orders for the project and return them for his signature so the work could begin. The orders came back on a Saturday, and FDR, who “never” worked on weekends, went into his office that Saturday (for some unknown reason) and signed the orders, then sent them back; normally he would have dealt with them on Monday. That Saturday was the 6th of December, 1941. Had he waited, it could have taken MONTHS to get to this “routine” paperwork.

  • HANDYMANNY lopez
    HANDYMANNY lopez 5 months ago

    Either you play stupid for the sake of white people ,or you are just stupid,the penicillin fungi was used by native American as an anti biotic way before Europeans knew about it...... just admit it please

  • furrtakuXD
    furrtakuXD 5 months ago

    unsatisfingly, there are as of yet no craters in Japan named after her :p

  • Mathew Tran
    Mathew Tran 5 months ago

    Keep the “female” issue out of the video its so unnecessary

  • bigman man
    bigman man 5 months ago

    I like to hear about people who should have gotten credit but never did

  • Pirate's Piggy
    Pirate's Piggy 5 months ago

    I sawed this atom in half and sealed only using flex tape.

  • Ebenezer eliphaz Barbarossa

    She was only assistant of Otto hahn.don't spread false story

  • Tina McLaughlin
    Tina McLaughlin 6 months ago

    That is a smart girl, but I guess it was better to win at an evil idea, than evil ruling and killing over all of us.

  • fred sanford
    fred sanford 6 months ago

    I'm glad someone finally gave Lise some credit

  • Kiteh Kawasaki
    Kiteh Kawasaki 6 months ago

    And the human race was doomed. Prizes !! Winning !! /s

  • youcrany
    youcrany 6 months ago

    Best episode of scishow of all time. Course of history would be infinitely different if this discovery didn’t happen.

  • Pinball Pals
    Pinball Pals 6 months ago

    I came here to learn about atom splitting. I had to leave around 2 minutes in because I didn’t come here for a lesson on how sexist scientists are

  • John Marston
    John Marston 6 months ago

    It was Marie Curie >:(

  • Fergustine Feart
    Fergustine Feart 6 months ago

    Women are hilarious.

  • Tony Bates
    Tony Bates 6 months ago

    A woman scientist......."witch"! Heretic!

  • Retro Jeegee
    Retro Jeegee 6 months ago

    “How come we’ve got this product that’s about half the weight of the original?”
    “Hmmmm! Dunno!”
    Super intelligent, no common sense.

  • J Jones
    J Jones 6 months ago


  • Edwin Poon
    Edwin Poon 6 months ago

    It would be true that Hahn discovered nuclear fission, and Meitner explained nuclear fission. The Nobel was for discovery.

  • Ari Pogue
    Ari Pogue 7 months ago

    Thank you for this

  • Maverick Disco
    Maverick Disco 7 months ago

    She is buried in Bramley a small village in Hampshire UK. I heard that she was buried there recently and went to look for the grave. The grave is very understated, a real shame. The setting is very peaceful though.

  • Andre Abreu
    Andre Abreu 7 months ago

    Very cool

  • MeRuAm
    MeRuAm 7 months ago

    Warning: feminist bias. Meitner was not so prominent in discovery of nuclear fission as this video claims. If anything it was her nephew Otto Frisch who made significant contribution. Meitner was just a lab technician for Planck.

  • Pearls and Swine
    Pearls and Swine 7 months ago

    God, it's so cringy to watch this sexually repulsive geek lusting over a woman that would never give him the time of day. I get it, she was pretty and smart, and evil cis males didn't give her credit for her contributions.

  • iRacing Rookie
    iRacing Rookie 7 months ago

    A few years ago i argued with an American about this and tried to tell him America wouldn't have known crap about nuclear fission if it wasn't for the Germans.. Thanks for proving me right :)

  • chiatzu1337
    chiatzu1337 7 months ago

    press F for respect

  • Artistry Entertainment Agency

    Fantastic episode!

  • Where's my Dragonator?
    Where's my Dragonator? 7 months ago

    Seems like it's just reaching hard to get a female recognized. From what I gather from the video and the comments, all she really did was explain/name what happened. The ones that actually discovered how to do it was still the dudes. You don't really give much credit to your friend that gave you suggestions on your homework, now do you? All she really did was twiddle her thumbs in Sweden. The other 2 did all the hard work, but everyone is such a feminist that they'd rather downplay legitimate hard work. There wasn't internet at the time, snail mail isn't gonna contribute much to the actual work.