The Age of Radiance

The Age of Radiance : The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era

3.87 (279 ratings by Goodreads)
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Radiation is a complex and paradoxical concept: staggering amounts of energy flow from seemingly inert rock and that energy is both useful and dangerous. While nuclear energy affects our everyday lives-from nuclear medicine and food irradiation to microwave technology-its invisible rays trigger biological damage, birth defects, and cellular mayhem. From the end of the nineteenth century through the use of the atomic bomb in World War II to the twenty-first century's confrontation with the dangers of nuclear power, Nelson illuminates a pageant of fascinating historical figures: Enrico Fermi, Marie and Pierre Curie, Albert Einstein, FDR, Robert Oppenheimer, and Ronald Reagan, among others. He reveals many little-known details, including how Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler transformed America from a country that created light bulbs and telephones into one that split atoms; how the most grotesque weapon ever invented could realize Alfred Nobel's lifelong dream of global peace; how emergency workers and low-level utility employees fought to contain a run-amok nuclear reactor, while wondering if they would live or die.Brilliantly fascinating and remarkably accessible, The Age of Radiancetraces mankind's complicated and difficult relationship with the dangerous power it discovered and made part of more

Product details

  • Hardback | 448 pages
  • 162 x 230 x 38mm | 619.99g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 8 pg photo insert
  • 145166043X
  • 9781451660432
  • 942,484

Review quote

"A book that moves at a thrilling pace through the while history of the atomic age... Mr. Nelson wisely dramatizes the insights that led to understanding the nucleus by following the lives of a few physcists, each a leader in the field and each displaying remarkable traits of individuality, creativity and endurance... this ambitious book does achieve is goal, presenting a grand and very readable overview of the nuclear era." Wall Street Journal "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 Rontgen'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 Timesshow more

About Craig Nelson

Craig Nelson is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Rocket Men, as well as several previous books, including The First Heroes, Thomas Paine (winner of the Henry Adams Prize), and Let's Get Lost (shortlisted for W.H. Smith's Book of the Year). His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, National Geographic, The New England Review, Popular Science, Reader's Digest, and a host of other more

Rating details

279 ratings
3.87 out of 5 stars
5 27% (76)
4 41% (114)
3 26% (72)
2 4% (12)
1 2% (5)
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