A rather long, tedious, technical narrative of atomic physics from 1905 with Rutherford's "discovery" of the atom through the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. A lot of theoretical and experimental physics diatribes cloud the central story of the "pure science" pursuit of knowledge about the nature of matter and the exigent demands of World War 2 to develop weapons more powerful than your enemy's. As WW2 evolves from soldier vs. soldier combat to mass bombing of cities/civilians, the A-bomb becomes increasingly palatable as a weapon to end WW2, especially as Japanese resistance becomes suicidal. The more enlightening aspect of this book is the debate within the scientific and political communities about the impact of the atomic bomb would have AFTER WW2. The USA's might in WW2 had rested on its enormous industrial capacity. However, when the A-bomb, eventually, was in the hands of other nations (giving them an equal "might") then all nations were capable of mutual destruction. So the dilemma faced in the 1940s was (a) should the USA be the first/leader in A-bomb development - risking an arms race versus "world peace" through intimidation, or (b) try hide the secrets of atomic energy so no other nation would develop the A-bomb - hoping the "the dragon" would sleep.
Recommended from a Clive James essay.
This book is essential for an understanding of the development of modern physics. It provides the drama of both the scientific discoveries and the people around the world who made them possible. Overlaying everything is the looming cataclysm of World War II and the promise of a Cold War to come. I highly recommend this book to anyone with even passing interest in Science and History.
One of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. The author does an amazing job of explaining technical matters in a way that the layman can understand. The timely tangents provide wonderful and needed context to the story.
I read it every chance I had, at least a half hour a day. I still had to renew it once to get through it. I kept going off on tangents Google Earth took me to Los Alamos and Richland and Oakridge.
Very comprehensive book detailing from discovery of atom and fission to making of the atomic bomb. If you want to read about the Manhattan Project then this is the book to read.
A fascinating, even gripping, account. I love this book and the passion the author brings to telling the experiences of these men and women.
One of my all-time favourite histories. A fascinating mix of science, politics and personalities. Truly a masterpiece.
By far, one of the most important reads for anyone interested in physics and how profoundly it has shaped our world. I enjoyed every page of this epic and it was well worth the time spent. Reads like a factual novel of the tail end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.
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