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The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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"Rich with powerful images ... fraught with drama ... and moments of great pathos ... a thrilling, intense, and disturbing account of the scientific and sociopolitical history of the atomic era, from the discovery of X-rays to the tragic meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011." (Christian Science Monitor)
“A page-turning history... Historian Craig Nelson tells the tale with exceptional panache… an example of top-notch storytelling… Nelson’s version is one of the best, an ideal balance of detail, character, conflict and information…He’s always able to find the image or observation that makes a scene or situation blossom in a reader’s mind’s eye. And much of what he finds is surprising.” (Salon)
“A fascinating, information-rich new work… Filled with drama, vivid anecdotes, and breathtaking scientific breakthroughs, this book is an engrossing, comprehensive history of the atomic age.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“Nelson 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.… 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.” (Publisher’s Weekly (starred review))
"This is the kind of book that doesn’t just inform you but leaves you feeling smarter." (Dallas Morning News)
"A highly readable history of humanity’s embrace of nuclear energy and radiation." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
“This is no impersonal “march of science” story. The author also shows how the development of nuclear physics was deeply influenced by contemporary politics and the interplay of the personalities involved. An engaging history that raises provocative questions about the future of nuclear science.” (Kirkus (starred review))
“A sweeping panorama of the nuclear age, from Wilhelm Röntgen’s discovery of X-rays to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, paying particular attention to the colorful scientists whose brilliance and diligence unlocked the secrets of the atom.… Nelson tells their stories vividly, with a journalist’s eye for symmetry and irony; the science itself is, at times, less central to his narrative than the fusion-reactions of interacting scientists and government officials.” (Booklist)
"Nelson's vivid reconstructions...shine. They make this book fun to read and sometimes hard to put down.'" (On the Seawall)
"A comprehensive and fascinating look at the invention of atomic energy. It is the sort of book struck through with facts, quotes, and stories that you never even knew happened. Nelson is as dexterous writing about Cold War-era Realpolitik as he is writing about complicated science in a way that the proletariat can get an idea of what’s going on; and he’s funny to boot. The pleasure of reading this book comes from the many, many insights and facts that are brought to light through Nelson’s smart voice." (Flavorwire)
"Nelson is especially good with a 'you are there' approach in describing Curie’s work and her late-night visits to the backyard lab with husband Pierre to look at the glow from her experiments stored in jars. He uses a similar tack in describing efforts by Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard and others to start a chain reaction at an old squash court at the University of Chicago, work that gave rise to the Los Alamos lab and the construction of the first working atomic bombs." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
“Wow! Craig Nelson’s The Age of Radiance is like the best of John McPhee mixed with the page-turning glory of a science-fiction thriller. A magnificent storyteller, Nelson takes even the most atomized of details and spins a dazzling history of the Atomic Age. This book gives you x-ray glasses: After reading it you literally can’t walk down the street without seeing everything in our world anew.” (Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers and In Harm’s Way)
“As he did with the space program in Rocket Men, in The Age of Radiance Craig Nelson has brought an era and an ethos to life. At the same time, he’s performed an even more difficult task: he’s made both the scientific and political complexities of the atomic era comprehensible and transparent.” (Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call)
"A dramatic history, full of missteps and accidental discoveries, manipulations and malfeasance, outsized personalities and egos, and inadvertent deaths born of ignorance as well as human error...A readable and fresh romp through a familiar history.” (Los Angeles Times)
Top Customer Reviews
Here is a partial list of corrections: In a discussion of a memo from Vannevar Bush to President Roosevelt (p. 146), FDR is quoted as writing “Time is very much of the essence,” whereas the actual wording is “I think the whole thing should be pushed not only in regard to development, but also with due regard to time. This is very much of the essence.” Page 147 implies that a group of scientists chose General Groves to lead the Project, an assertion I have never come across in my own research. Los Alamos had 6000 residents, but only about 2500 employees (150). No credible source ever refers to Einstein having consulted at Los Alamos (153); his forte was not nuclear physics and Groves would have considered him too great a security risk. Construction on the K-25 diffusion plant did not begun until 1943, and was not finished until well into 1945 (161). A discussion at the bottom of p. 161 confusingly mixes the discovery of plutonium and uranium separation techniques in the same paragraph. A description of the S-50 liquid-diffusion plant reverses the order of heated and cooled pipes (163).Read more ›
Had I noticed the author was the same one who gave us the memorably atrocious "Rocket Men," I would never have checked it out. But I didn't realize that until I started to read it. Since I had the book in hand then, so to speak, I figured I'd start into it anyway. I thought that perhaps Mr. Nelson did a better job explaining nuclear technology than he did Project Apollo.
Unfortunately, he didn't. By the time I read Chapter 1--FIVE pages--my mind was reeling from his bizarre phraseology, botched descriptions of technical concepts and absurd uses of terminology that, to me, indicate he is as ignorant about nuclear matters as he is about spaceflight. I skimmed ahead and read a few sections about topics with which I am reasonably familiar, such as the implosion technique. He gets those wrong, too--not totally, perhaps, but enough to reveal that he does not really know much about the subject he's trying to write about.
"The Age of Radiance" is similar to "Rocket Men" in that Mr. Nelson relies VERY heavily on extensive quotes from other published sources. That's not necessarily bad in itself. But he clearly lacks the relevant knowledge to tie such quotes together or to place the events they describe in the proper historical context. At best, "The Age of Radiance" is a disconnected series of oral history interviews without a technically and historically accurate unifying narrative. I continue to wonder why authors such as Mr.Read more ›
Ever since the submarine Nautilus first went to sea in 1955, our Navy has had stellar performance from its nuclear propulsion plants in submarines, aircraft carriers, and cruisers. Started by Admiral Rickover, a tradition of excellence in construction and training has led to reliability and safety. Design innovations such as reactors that will last as long as half the 50-year lifetime of a nuclear aircraft carrier, without refueling, are taken for granted. Nelson barely mentioned naval reactors at all, yet they account for the majority of reactors our country has ever built.
In attempting to weigh the scales of the good (mainly only citing medical uses) against the bad (waste, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island) he leaves out a success story that would help his two-faces of the "atomic era" balance better. It may be that Nelson ignored this because he may think it is just the Navy, and not of general interest. That would be a mistake, because excellence is excellence. With outstanding results in all of the naval reactors, the conclusion is clear that nuclear power can work well. Even Tom Friedman noted this performance excellence in one of his columns this week, written after a trip on a nuclear submarine. Strange that Nelson pretty much ignored this positive aspect of nuclear energy application.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I don't know what is a greater accomplishment... All the accomplishments discussed in the book or Nelson packaging those accomplishments into an incredibly well researched,... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Chris Hopkins
The author spends an entire book describing the discovery and utilization of nuclear power, and the terrible disasters and deaths it has caused from Curie to Chernobyl and... Read morePublished 8 months ago by RVO
So full of technical errors it could never have been vetted by a REAL scientist. TERRIBLE!!!
Craig Nelson has really written three books. The first one on the history of nuclear physics from 1890 – 1960 and physicists involved is terrific. Read morePublished 11 months ago by David Shulman
Although the historical stories are very detailed, I did not get the impression that this was ever an unbiased book. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jason M.
A true epic journey through the scary time of my life. The drills under our desks in elementary school now have reason... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Mike Weems
Epic. Comprehensive and not without humor. Wonderfully researched and a joy to read. You don't have to be a radiologist or physicist to read this book. Read morePublished 16 months ago by luciamia
Displays excellent knowlege of the science and history. Makes important points from an educated basis.Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer