author: Tom Zoellner
average rating: 3.80
book published: 2009
read at: 2009/06/05
date added: 2009/06/08
shelves: environmentalism, history, non-fiction, politics, science, technology
Excellent wide-ranging history of uranium. Less about the science — and C notes that some of the science is over-simplified — than about its meaning historically, particularly over the last 100 years.
Sort of chronologically organized, but often jumps from the historical moment in question (Manhattan Project, 70s, etc.) to the present day, or loops back to earlier sections. I didn’t get lost very often, though, so I’d consider the technique successful.
Lots of weird anecdotes, which is exactly the sort of thing I like: the word "dollar" originated with the name of the town where uranium was first discovered (discovered probably not being quite the right word, but a useful simplification); 2/3 of the uranium for the first bomb came from a single mine in the Congo; when it was built, the Oak Ridge facility was the largest building on earth; a uranium enrichment facility was almost built in a town called Homer, etc., etc. Plus a rich cast of characters, particularly the nutty miners of the postwar period.
Ends on something of an up note for uranium-based power production, which is surprising to American ears, or at least mine…although after reading Science of Fear I’m maybe a bit less surprised. The science of assessing the hazards of nuclear power is probably a lot more complex than most people think.