From nuclear programs in the Middle East to plans for nuclear reactors at home, the element uranium is never far from the headlines. How does uranium deliver the immense power of a nuclear bomb or the slow deadly effect of radiation? In this riveting account, bestselling author of Fermat's Last Theorem, Amir Aczel introduces the history of the mysterious metal and recounts how famous scientists worked to uncover its potential. This is a lively history of the physicists who first isolated the element, learned its properties, and marshalled its explosive power. He also explores what drove so many of last century's geniuses to willingfully collaborate on a project to kill thousands of people? And how did a simple element like uranium show scientists the way to create a deadly bomb that would irrevocably change the course of history and continue to shape global politics.
Preface: The Blinding Light Physics and Uranium On the Trail of the Nucleus The Draw of Radioactivity The Meitner-Hahn Discovery Enrico Fermi The Rome Experiments The Events of 1938 That Christmas The Heisenberg Menace Chain Reaction Copenhagen Truth Building the Bomb Decision to Use the Bomb The Spying Operation The Cold War Uranium's Future
AMIR D. ACZEL is the author of fourteen books, including The Riddle of the Compass, The Mystery of Aleph and the bestseller Fermat's Last Theorem. He has also written for The Times, The Guardian and The Independent and has been interviewed on the BBC. An internationally known writer of mathematics and science, he was descibed by Publishers Weekly as 'one of our best science popularizers'. He lives near Boston, USA.
'A short and readable account of of how nuclear bombs came to be made, deployed and developed by a few wealthy countries.' - The Times 'Book of the Week' 'Aczel writes with colour, lucidity and conviction.' -- The Financial Times 'This story spans the investigations of famous scientists (such as Albert Einstein and Marie Curie), the building of the first nuclear reactor, the Manhattan weapon project, the hair-trigger stand-offs of the cold war and the promise and perils of civilian nuclear energy... (and) covers several new developments of interest to atomic aficionados. Particularly important is the light shed on the American decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. Newly declassified files show unambiguously that America was aware of Japanese attempts to sue for peace before the bombs were dropped, undermining the military reasoning for using the weapons... Mr Aczel's research is thorough and his conclusions interesting. ' - The Economist 'This is the most entertaining, readable and complete account of the story of nuclear fission since Robert Jungk's Brighter than a Thousand Suns, written half a century ago. It's a timely reassessment of the drama behind one of the most controversial of scientific discoveries.' - BBC Focus Magazine 'A fascinating story of discovery, intrigue, clash of egos, spying, and international conflict. Nothing shaped 20th century geopolitics to the same extent as the detonation of the first nuclear bomb. The ramifications are still with us with rogue states and terrorists seeking to acquire nuclear capability. Aczel tells this amazing story in a racy and accessible style - with authority but lightness-of-touch to hold the reader spell-bound.' - David Clark, Author of Newton's Tyranny and The Quest for SS433 'Fascinating ... the history, especially of the second world war, make this a worthwhile book.' - New Scientist 'Aczel provides important new evidence that the US proceeded with their bombing missions fully aware that the Japenese were trying to sue for peace and that the primary aim of the nuclear holocausts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to show the Russians who held the level of power in the world.' Socialist Review