Much of the story of the atom focuses on the well-known course of development of newer, bigger, stronger bombs, and of the birthing problems and maturation of civilian nuclear power plants. That’s all well and good, and worth chronicling.
But there is another story, less known but often more interesting and more amusing. It is also a cautionary account of the perils of government hubris, public hysteria, and planning gone wild. Misguided policy, misunderstood history, misapplied engineering, mistaken economics. This book is the tale of some of the things that went wrong, often terribly and expensively wrong from the very first conception through the failed implementation. It is a tale of technological hubris and stubborn belief in the ability of big science and big engineering and big government money to solve any technical problem.
This account is particularly timely. Understanding the Solyndra fiasco, the folly of ethanol fuels, and the current controversies over the role of the federal government as a venture capitalist can benefit from a look to the past and the U.S. experience with atomic energy. It's a humbling lesson.
The tale of trying to tame the atom involves not only technology and government policy, but a rich stew of players and personalities, from high-level politicians and partisans to hard-scrabble prospectors trying to find radioactive gold in a vast desert. Meet cocksure scientists such as Edward Teller, ebullient boomers such as Charlie Steen, bureaucratic infighters such as Herbert York, lyrical dreamers such as Freeman Dyson.
About Kennedy Maize
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Published March 11, 2012
by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.