A Short History of Nuclear Folly

A Short History of Nuclear Folly

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by Rudolph Herzog
     
 

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In the spirit of Dr. Strangelove and The Atomic Café, a blackly sardonic people’s history of atomic blunders and near-misses revealing the hushed-up and forgotten episodes in which the great powers gambled with catastrophe

Rudolph Herzog, the acclaimed author of Dead Funny, presents a devastating account of history&rsquoSee more details below

Overview

In the spirit of Dr. Strangelove and The Atomic Café, a blackly sardonic people’s history of atomic blunders and near-misses revealing the hushed-up and forgotten episodes in which the great powers gambled with catastrophe

Rudolph Herzog, the acclaimed author of Dead Funny, presents a devastating account of history’s most irresponsible uses of nuclear technology. From the rarely-discussed nightmare of “Broken Arrows” (40 nuclear weapons lost during the Cold War) to “Operation Plowshare” (a proposal to use nuclear bombs for large engineering projects, such as a the construction of a second Panama Canal using 300 H-Bombs), Herzog focuses in on long-forgotten nuclear projects that nearly led to disaster.

In an unprecedented people’s history, Herzog digs deep into archives, interviews nuclear scientists, and collects dozens of rare photos. He explores the “accidental” drop of a Nagasaki-type bomb on a train conductor’s home, the implanting of plutonium into patients’ hearts, and the invention of wild tactical nukes, including weapons designed to kill enemy astronauts.

Told in a riveting narrative voice, Herzog—the son of filmmaker Werner Herzog—also draws on childhood memories of the final period of the Cold War in Germany, the country once seen as the nuclear battleground for NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries, and discusses evidence that Nazi scientists knew how to make atomic weaponry . . . and chose not to.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brimming with black humor, Herzog (Dead Funny) explores 40 years of lesser-known disasters and near-misses resulting from the development and propagation of nuclear weapons after WWII and throughout the Cold War. These include the contaminated film location for John Wayne's movie The Conqueror—in which nearly half the cast and crew eventually contracted cancer—and a broken nuclear-powered satellite hurtling towards Earth as scientists rushed to predict its landing site. In Brazil, a radiology clinic moved, abandoning a piece of radioactive equipment later dismantled for scrap metal with dire consequences. There are numerous accounts of civilians being harmed, some intentionally like Kazakh villagers living near a Soviet test site, others out of negligence like the Australian Aboriginal tribe caught in a black cloud of radioactive material after British field tests. British military were no kinder to their own, as commanders used recruits to test different safety materials. Herzog also discusses some unsettling, and thankfully unused, plans for nuclear power like building canals and harbors with hydrogen and atomic bombs or blowing up an entire mountain range to build a highway. Herzog's study is a shocking and vitally important reminder that we live in an unsteady nuclear age. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for A Short History of Nuclear Folly

“The author and son of filmmaker Werner Herzog presents a sardonic, little-known history of misguided, accidental and irresponsible uses of nuclear technology.” 

Los Angeles Times

“Shocking and vitally important.” 

Publishers Weekly

“Unflinching . . . Herzog’s use of the word ‘folly’ is an under­statement.”
—The Village Voice

“It is arguably not possible to imagine human stupidity on a grander scale than what Rudolph Herzog has stockpiled in his new book.”     
—The Brooklyn Rail

“A well-written, if tragic, account of how little nuclear weapons testers knew or were willing to account for.”
—Vice

“Amusing . . . interesting and occasionally eye-popping.”
—Survival
(The Journal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies)

“Herzog’s study is a shocking and vitally important reminder that we live in an unsteady nuclear age.”    
—Publishers Weekly

“Looks at the seriocomic side of the history of nuclear experimentation after WWII . . . Alternately funny and scary but overall mostly scary, the book reminds us just how frightening the Cold War really was.”     
—Booklist

“Darkly funny low points in our nuclear past as well . . . more of-the-moment prognostications of what we can expect from our nuclear neighbors.”
—Toronto Star

“For a book about such a heavy subject, A Short History of Nuclear Folly, keeps it quick and snappy and, dare I say, entertaining.”
—Philadelphia Review of Books

“An eclectic, innovative approach to the bureaucratization of creativity during the Cold War.”
—The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Meticulously researched and thrillingly told—reading this is as informative as it is spine-chillingly entertaining.”
—Die Zeit

“A haunting and well phrased warning.”     
—Focus Online

“Rudolph Herzog’s collection of the most incredible stories reads as a tour through the most polluted places on the globe.”
—Frankfurter Rundschau

Praise for Rudolph Herzog’s Dead Funny: Telling Jokes in Hitler’s Germany

“A concise, compelling book.” —The Independent (UK)

“Herzog, the son of the film-maker Werner Herzog, shares his father’s curious and mordant wit.” —The Financial Times

Dead Funny isn’t just a book of wildly off-limits humor. Rather, it’s a fascinating, heartbreaking look at power dynamics, propaganda, and the human hunger for catharsis.”
—The Atlantic, Best Books of 2012

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612191744
Publisher:
Melville House Publishing
Publication date:
04/30/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
785,319
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

Did you know?

• Edward Teller, the “father of the H-Bomb,” relentlessly promoted a plan to use 300 nukes to build a second Panama Canal.

• Atomic technology ended up in many places where it didn’t belong: Reactors were used to power satellites, some of which crash-landed and triggered nuclear emergencies. A plutonium battery was also installed at the top of the Himalayas . . . and lost.

• There’s a derelict research reactor in the middle of Kinshasa, Congo, which was built by an eccentric Belgian missionary. The reactor is falling apart, and several uranium fuel rods have been stolen.

• John Wayne died of cancer, as did 46 members of the crew of The Conqueror, a notoriously bad B-movie shot in a contaminated canyon near the Nevada nuclear testing range.

• About 40 nuclear weapons were lost during the Cold War, some in populated areas in the U.S. Some almost triggered, others were never retrieved.

• Nazi scientist Gernot Zippe was captured by the Soviets and forced to build the uranium centrifuge, which was used by Iran, Pakistan and North Korea to build bombs.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
”Meticulously researched and thrillingly told—reading this is as informative as it is spine-chillingly entertaining"
Die Zeit

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