In the section where Feynman is at Los Alamos, the scientists working on the atomic bomb suddenly realized that the large-scale Oak Ridge, Tennessee plant will have too much uranium-235 in too high of a concentration at certain times in the process itself and the warehousing of the intermediates (enough U235 in one place and you get a criticality event). It falls to Feynman to go and tell Oak Ridge that they have a problem. But how to get that point across?:
...The next day there was going to be a big meeting. I forgot to say that before I left Los Alamos, Oppenheimer said to me, "Now, the following people are technically able* down there at Oak Ridge: Mr. Julian Webb, Mr. So-and-so, and so on." I want you to make sure that these people are at the meeting, that you tell them how the thing can be made safe, so that they really understand."
I said, "What if they're not at the meeting? What am I supposed to do?"
He said, "Then you should say: Los Alamos cannot accept the responsibility for the safety of the Oak Ridge plant unless _________!"...
...When I arrived, sure enough, the big shots in the company and the technical people that I wanted were there, and the generals and everyone who was interested in this very serious problem. That was good because the plant would have blown up if nobody had paid attneion to this problem.
There was a Lieutenant Zumwalt who took care of me. He told me that the colonel said that I shouldn't tell them how the neutrons work and all the details because we want to keep things separate, so just tell them what to do to keep it safe.
I said, "In my opinion it is impossible for them to obey a bunch of rules unless they understand how it works. It's my opinion that it's only going to work if I tell them, and Los Alamos cannot accept the responsibility for the safety of the Oak Ridge plant unless they are fully informed as to how it works!"Thankfully for Oak Ridge, they listened to Feynman. I don't often think to myself that "washing one's hands publicly" of a matter is an effective means of communicating chemical safety issues to the plant. But I sometimes wonder what would happen if I did so...
*What a compliment for Oppenheimer to call you technically able!