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Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power Paperback – October 15, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The world of science education in America would be an altogether different one if its textbooks were as readable as James Mahaffey's latest on nuclear technology. (Charleston Post-Courier, Michael S. Smith II)
ATOMIC AWAKENING provides the most complete history of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy development I have ever read in a single book. (Nuclear Street, review by Randy Brich)
The book aids in the understanding of how atomic science is far from the spawn of a wicked weapons program and how nuclear power will shape the 21st century, in which renewable energy and climate change have become defining concerns. (Nuclear News)
“Starred Review. Mahaffey writes with delightful witty prose. A surprisingly entertaining history of nuclear power.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, Mahaffey offers hope leavened with pragmatism that, while nuclear technology may be experimental forever, it can still be useful and safe.” (Publishers Weekly)
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Top Customer Reviews
Mahaffey, a nuclear engineer as well as physicist, gives an extremely readable, no entertaining, history of nuclear physics. He also explains the science better than any other book I've read on physics. Because he shows the interrelation of theory and practice I finally understand Heisenberg's theory of uncertainty and why the key to a nuclear reactor is to slow down, not speed up, the neutrons. That is, if you cannot know with certainty where the Uranium atoms are you have a better chance of hitting one if the added neutrons spend more time in the target area by going slow!
Mahaffey brings the theory to practice without editorializing by comparing the devil we know with the devil we don't know. His well quoted example that if the first use of gasoline was napalm we would all be driving electric cars is dead on. Mahaffey describes the dangers of a nuclear accident, balances that with the cost of non-nuclear alternatives, then leaves the conclusion to the reader.
Mahaffey writes well. His history has both humor and drama. He gives sober thought to the drawbacks of nuclear power, and admits they are real. But the drawbacks can be countered. On balance, the advantages weigh so heavily against the drawbacks that we should, Mahaffey argues, power our way forward with nuclear power.
First, a couple of minor points. The footnotes are footnotes, at the bottom of the page, rather than endnotes at the back of the book. With Mahaffey's style, that adds immensely to ease of reading. And the tidbits Mahaffey feeds the reader are choice. They add spice and flavor to the main meal.
Just one example: Mahaffey tells how a key Manhattan Project meeting was secretly held in northern California at the Bohemian Grove, out in the redwoods in the middle of nowhere. Mahaffey drops a footnote to give us President Nixon's comment on the Bohemian Grove that was caught on tape: "The Bohemian Grove -- which I attend from time to time -- it is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine, with that San Francisco crowd. I can't shake hands with anybody from San Francisco." Vintage Nixon.
Mahaffey's book has a few weaknesses. Sometimes the humor seems forced. Sometimes the narrative drifts off topic. Sometimes the facts are wrong.Read more ›
I couldn't put it down. All the great scientific names we learned in school are brought to life along with their atomic accomplishments and failures. Maxwell, Planck, J.J. Thompson, Curie, Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr, Fermi, Oppenheimer, and many more, all weaved into a somewhat chronological account that takes us into WWII and the Little Boy and Fat Man Atomic Bombs. Then to Admiral Richover and the Nuclear Submarine and how we got to where we are today in Nuclear Power.
The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters are enlightening fast-paced reads, and by the time you reach them toward the end of the book you have been educated in the fundamental workings of a nuclear reactor (without realizing it), and are able to follow along with the erupting emergency situations within those two reactors.
Mahaffey candidly explains the risks taken and the accidents made by the nuclear industry throughout the book. He doesn't seem to sugar-coat the failures and disasters as they are all valuable learning experiences. He finally dedicates about a page and a half almost at the end of the book to make his claim for Nuclear Power.
I encourage anyone who is interested in history, global warming, science, nuclear energy, nuclear physics, atomic bombs, radiation medicine, radiation poisoning, uranium, plutonium, or space travel to read this book. It is a lively, interesting, and educational read.
I give Mahaffey Five Stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is organized into 3 parts: the history of nuclear energy, the development and use of atomic bombs, and the future of nuclear energy. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kendall R
Bought this book as a gift for my dad since he loves this topic - he seems to enjoy the book. I'll make sure to tell him to write up a review as well :-)Published 6 months ago by Devani Alderson
Read this book, and you'll realize that nuclear power is an inescapably necessary step to save this world from climate change. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great book. The best science works are told in a historical context and this is a stellar example of such. Read morePublished 8 months ago by reader rg
Great History! Nuclear power will be a part of everyone's future - new plants are being built in significant numbers all over the globe, except North America. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Ozknox
James A. Mahaffey may very well have single handedly finally cleared the air on nuclear scence and power to a point never before seen. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Patrick Lee McLaughlin
Having edited Jim Mahaffey's writing on another, unrelated topic (old cars) for years, I expected a great book--and was more than glad to see it. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Frank Barrett