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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review: The Age of Radiance by Craig Nelson

Title: The Age of Radiance
Author: Craig Nelson
Format: ARC
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: March 25, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "From the discovery of X-rays in the 1890s, through the birth of nuclear power in an abandoned Chicago football stadium, to the bomb builders of Los Alamos and the apocalyptic Dr. Strangelove era, Nelson illuminates a pageant of fascinating historical figures: Marie and Pierre Curie, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Franklin Roosevelt, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Truman, Curtis LeMay, John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. He reveals how brilliant Jewish scientists fleeing Hitler transformed America from a nation that created lightbulbs and telephones into one that split atoms; how the most grotesque weapon ever invented could realize Alfred Nobel’s lifelong dream of global peace; and how, in our time, emergency workers and low-level utility employees fought to contain run-amok nuclear reactors while wondering if they would live or die.

Radiance defies our common-sense views of nature, with its staggering amounts of energy flowing from seemingly inert rock and matter pulsing in half-lives that transforms into other states over the course of decades or in the blink of an eye. Radiation is as scary a word as cancer, but it’s the power that keeps our planet warm, as well as the force behind earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, and so organic to all life that even our own human bodies are radioactive. By tracing mankind's complicated relationship with the dangerous energy it discovered and unleashed, Nelson reveals how atomic power and radiation are indivisible from our everyday lives."

My Two Cents:

"The Age of Radiance" is an absolutely fascinating account of the history of nuclear energy from the early to mid-20th century until very recently. It was really amazing to me how much things have changed. You had so many scientists who put their lives on the line to study this new kind of energy that both excited and scared the world at the very same time. I really enjoyed this history. This book goes through the personalities and the events that shaped such an important way of getting energy.

The book is jam-packed with all of the personalities and events involved in the history of nuclear power. I really liked reading about some of those that had a big impact on this research. The book includes sections that are almost akin to a small biography on people such as the Curies, Oppenheimer, Fermi, and many others. I loved reading about their research and their discoveries. Nelson makes the book very accessible to all readers, not just those that have science backgrounds.

The book also goes through a lot of the big events involving atomic energy such as the dropping of the bombs over Japan during World War II, the almost nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. The book also goes through a lot of the good things that have been done with this kind of energy. A lot of Nelson's premise is that nuclear energy is really a two sided coin. As with so many things, this energy isn't bad or good; it can be used both ways. Overall, this is a fascinating history!



  1. This sounds great. I've had my eye on it but have been waiting for a review to make sure that it wasn't to heavy and dry. I think i have to read it. I'm fascinated by the Manhattan project etc.


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