A Short History of Nuclear Folly: Mad Scientists, Dithering Nazis, Lost Nukes, and Catastrophic Cover-Ups

Rudolph Herzog. Melville, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61219-173-7
Brimming with black humor, Herzog (Dead Funny) explores 40 years of lesser-known disasters and near-misses resulting from the development and propagation of nuclear weapons after WWII and throughout the Cold War. These include the contaminated film location for John Wayne's movie The Conqueror—in which nearly half the cast and crew eventually contracted cancer—and a broken nuclear-powered satellite hurtling towards Earth as scientists rushed to predict its landing site. In Brazil, a radiology clinic moved, abandoning a piece of radioactive equipment later dismantled for scrap metal with dire consequences. There are numerous accounts of civilians being harmed, some intentionally like Kazakh villagers living near a Soviet test site, others out of negligence like the Australian Aboriginal tribe caught in a black cloud of radioactive material after British field tests. British military were no kinder to their own, as commanders used recruits to test different safety materials. Herzog also discusses some unsettling, and thankfully unused, plans for nuclear power like building canals and harbors with hydrogen and atomic bombs or blowing up an entire mountain range to build a highway. Herzog's study is a shocking and vitally important reminder that we live in an unsteady nuclear age. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/13/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 130 pages - 978-1-61219-174-4
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-61219-330-4
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