Radium proved a help in reducing certain skin cancers and tumors, for if the rays were harmful to ordinary flesh, ... Radioactivity might not only stimulate health but reflect a vitality stirring within all matter, the "Secret of Life.
Author: Spencer R. WEART
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Our thinking is inhabited by images-images of sometimes curious and overwhelming power. The mushroom cloud, weird rays that can transform the flesh, the twilight world following a nuclear war, the white city of the future, the brilliant but mad scientist who plots to destroy the world-all these images and more relate to nuclear energy, but that is not their only common bond. Decades before the first atom bomb exploded, a web of symbols with surprising linkages was fully formed in the public mind. The strange kinship of these symbols can be traced back, not only to medieval symbolism, but still deeper into experiences common to all of us. This is a disturbing book: it shows that much of what we believe about nuclear energy is not based on facts, but on a complex tangle of imagery suffused with emotions and rooted in the distant past. Nuclear Fear is the first work to explore all the symbolism attached to nuclear bombs, and to civilian nuclear energy as well, employing the powerful tools of history as well as findings from psychology, sociology, and even anthropology. The story runs from the turn of the century to the present day, following the scientists and journalists, the filmmakers and novelists, the officials and politicians of many nations who shaped the way people think about nuclear devices. The author, a historian who also holds a Ph.D. in physics, has been able to separate genuine scientific knowledge about nuclear energy and radiation from the luxuriant mythology that obscures them. In revealing the history of nuclear imagery, Weart conveys the hopeful message that once we understand how this imagery has secretly influenced history and our own thinking, we can move on to a clearer view of the choices that confront our civilization. Table of Contents: Preface Part One: Years of Fantasy, 1902-1938 1. Radioactive Hopes White Cities of the Future Missionaries for Science The Meaning of Transmutation 2. Radioactive Fears Scientific Doomsdays The Dangerous Scientist Scientists and Weapons Debating the Scientist's Role 3. Radium: Elixir or Poison? The Elixir of Life Rays of Life Death Rays Radium as Medicine and Poison 4. The Secret, the Master, and the Monster Smashing Atoms The Fearful Master Monsters and Victims Real Scientists The Situation before Fission Part Two: Confronting Reality, 1939-1952 5. Where Earth and Heaven Meet Imaginary Bomb-Reactors Real Reactors and Safety Questions Planned Massacres "The Second Coming" 6. The News from Hiroshima ClichÃ© Experts Hiroshima Itself Security through Control by Scientists? Security through Control over Scientists? 7. National Defenses Civil Defenses Bombs as a Psychological Weapon The Airmen Part Three: New Hopes and Horrors, 1953-1963 8. Atoms for Peace A Positive Alternative Atomic Propaganda Abroad Atomic Propaganda at Home 9. Good and Bad Atoms Magical Atoms Real Reactors The Core of Mistrust Tainted Authorities 10. The New Blasphemy Bombs as a Violation of Nature Radioactive Monsters Blaming Authorities 11. Death Dust Crusaders against Contamination A Few Facts Clean or Filthy Bombs? 12. The Imagination of Survival Visions of the End Survivors as Savages The Victory of the Victim The Great Thermonuclear Strategy Debate The World as Hiroshima 13. The Politics of Survival The Movement Attacking the Warriors Running for Shelter Cuban Catharsis Reasons for Silence Part Four: Suspect Technology, 1956-1986 14. Fail/Safe Unwanted Explosions: Bombs Unwanted Explosions: Reactors Advertising the Maximum Accident 15. Reactor Poisons and Promises Pollution from Reactors The Public Loses Interest The Nuplex versus the China Syndrome 16. The Debate Explodes The Fight against Antimissiles Sounding the Radiation Alarm Reactors: A Surrogate for Bombs? Environmentalists Step In 17. Energy Choices Alternative Energy Sources Real Reactor Risks "It's Political" The Reactor Wars 18. Civilization or Liberation? The Logic of Authority and Its Enemies Nature versus Culture Modes of Expression The Public's Image of Nuclear Power 19. The War Fear Revival: An Unfinished Chapter Part Five The Search for Renewal 20. The Modern Arcanum Despair and Denial Help from Heaven? Objects in the Skies Mushroom and Mandala 21. Artistic Transmutations The Interior Holocaust Rebirth from Despair Toward the Four-Gated City Conclusion A Personal Note Sources and Methodology Notes Index Reviews of this book: Nuclear Fear is a rich, layered journey back through our 'atomic history' to the primal memories of monstrous mutants and mad scientists. It is a deeply serious book but written in an accessible style that reveals the culture in which this fear emerges only to be suppressed and emerge again. --Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe Reviews of this book: A historical portrait of the quintessential modern nightmare...Weart shows in meticulous and fascinating detail how [the] ancient images of alchemy-fire, sexuality, Armageddon, gold, eternity and all the rest-immediately clustered around the new science of atomic physics...There is no question that the image of nuclear power reflects a complex and deeply disturbing portrait of what it means to be human. --Stephan Salisbury, Philadelphia Inquirer Reviews of this book: A detailed, probing study of American hopes, dreams and insecurities in the twentieth-century. Weart has a poet's acumen for sensing human feelings ... Nuclear Fear remains captivating as history...and original as an anthropological study of how nuclear power, like alchemy in medieval times, offers a convenient symbol for deeply-rooted human feelings. --Los Angeles Times Reviews of this book: Weart's tale boldly sweeps from the futuristic White City of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the discovery of radioactivity in 1896 through Hiroshima and Star Wars... (An] admirable call for synthesis of art and science in a true transmutation that takes us beyond nuclear fear. --H. Bruce Franklin, Science