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I think a lot of what you call fluff/noise was the author's attempt to show the humanity of scientists who some readers might misidentify as gods on earth. I absolutely agree it can sometimes be tedious but I don't think it was just padding to make the already 900+ page book longer.

I don't think he padded the book, but I otherwise have difficultly explaining why he included those vacation location paragraphs. They didn't humanize Meitner and Frisch, or otherwise add to the story; yeah, they were walking in the snow when they came to the big conclusions (and Meitner's encyclopedic knowledge of the relevant physics facts was truly amazing), but no more than one setting paragraph was needed, and a couple of sentences would done in this place.

It wasn't like e.g. the Cambridge labs where so many critical experiments were done with such simple apparatus ... which got if anything less coverage outside of describing the experiments.

I suppose he found the story he told about the village too neat not to include in the book, but he or his editor should have had a little more restraint, it's pure noise. I shudder at imagining the size of the original manuscript....

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