Breaking of an atomic chain under stress is a collective many-particle tunneling phenomenon. We study classical dynamics in imaginary time by using conformal mapping technique, and derive an analytic formula for the probability of breaking. The result covers a broad temperature interval and interpolates between two regimes: tunneling and thermal activation. Also, we consider the breaking induced by an ultrasonic wave propagating in the chain, and propose to observe it in an STM experiment. PACS numbers: 05.30.-d, 61.16.Di, 11.17.+y Typeset using REVTEX 1 Introduction. Among various examples of quantum decay in condensed matter  of special interest are those where the tunneling system is strongly coupled to a macroscopic system. Several such systems were studied, including metastable current states of Josephson junctions , transport in tunnel junctions , quantum diffusion and properties of two-level systems coupled to thermal bath . Our purpose here is to discuss yet another syste
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