The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era

Craig Nelson, Author
Craig Nelson. Scribner, $29.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4516-6043-2
Reviewed on: 12/16/2013
Release date: 03/25/2014
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-4516-6045-6
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-1-4516-6044-9
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The atomic age arrived with a bang in 1945, terrifying the world with the threat of nuclear holocaust while offering the possibility of a cheap source of energy. Yet neither scenario followed and the era petered out with the century’s end, as the digital age was ushered in. Nelson (Rocket Men) writes a wonderfully detailed, anecdote-filled account of atomic energy, from Wilhelm Roentgen’s 1895 discovery of radiation to the ongoing hangover of the Fukushima disaster. Roentgen’s fateful discovery opens this account and is followed in turn by four more geniuses—Pierre and Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard—as well as the colleagues who helped them tease out details of a hitherto unknown but spectacular source of energy. Hardly anyone believed in its practicality until Hitler expelled the cream of Europe’s physicists and claimed that those remaining were working on an atomic bomb. America embarked on an immense project to beat the Nazis at their own game before becoming entangled with Soviet nuclear program in the bizarre, abysmally wasteful Cold War. Other authors have covered the myriad ways this invisible power impacts our lives, but Nelson brilliantly weaves a plethora of material into one noteworthy volume. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky. (Mar.)
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