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Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World

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"Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order - whoever could master uranium could master the world." "Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse. Slave labor camps in Africa and Eastern Europe were built around mine shafts and America would knowingly send more than six hundred uranium miners ...

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Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World

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Overview

"Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order - whoever could master uranium could master the world." "Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse. Slave labor camps in Africa and Eastern Europe were built around mine shafts and America would knowingly send more than six hundred uranium miners to their graves in the name of national security." "Fortunes have been made from this yellow dirt; massive energy grids have been run from it. Fear of it panicked the American people into supporting a questionable war with Iraq and its specter threatens to create another conflict in Iran. Now, some are hoping it can help avoid a global warming catastrophe." In Uranium, Tom Zoellner takes readers around the globe in this intriguing look at the mineral that can sustain life or destroy it.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Few elements could warrant the claim of this subtitle, but uranium is indeed "the rock that shaped the world"; in fact, it's the only naturally occurring mineral that has the potential to end all life on our planet. From the climax of World War II to the present day, global power has been seized by those who have mastered the secrets of uranium and nuclear energy. Tom Zoellner's book serves as a biography of the most potent tool on earth. It begins with a minute mystery: the unexplained disappearance of a uranium deposit from an abandoned pit in Africa. Where it goes from there should concern you….
Juliet Eilperin
[Zoellner] lively prose carries the reader through physics and history lessons alike, never failing to remind us what's at stake when it comes to uranium…policymakers and citizens alike need to read Uranium.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In this fine piece of journalism, Zoellnerdoes for uranium what he did for diamonds in The Heartless Stone-he delves into the complex science, politics and history of this radioactive mineral, which presents "the best and worst of mankind: the capacity for scientific progress and political genius; the capacity for nihilism, exploitation, and terror." Because Zoellner covers so much ground, from the discovery of radioactivity, through the development of the atomic bomb, he doesn't go into great depth on any one topic. Nonetheless, he superbly paints vivid pictures of uranium's impact, including forced labor in Soviet mines and lucky prospectors who struck it rich in harsh environments, the spread of uranium smuggling, as well as an explanation of why it was absurd to claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Niger. The only shortcoming is Zoellner's omission of the issue of radioactive wastes generated by nuclear power-a significant problem given the possibility of a growing reliance on nuclear power. (Mar. 9)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Journalist and Men's Health contributing editor Zoellner follows up on his award-winning The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire with an equally intriguing investigation of the history of uranium development. He details the people, places, events, and science behind the pursuit of uranium for the first atomic bomb and the resulting arms races. Learn more about U-235, the Manhattan Project, Israeli scientist Ernst David Bergmann, African town and mine Shinkolobwe, plutonium, American explorer Charlie Steen, and pioneering journalist William L. Laurence. Writing for a general audience, the author weaves tales of espionage, science, and politics. Readers will be engaged by this story of the most powerful source of energy the earth can yield. Uranium is thought to be a friend to terrorists, a possible savior against global warming, and an element that has made millionaires while destroying the lives of millions. Complete with exhaustive notes for academic and general readers, this is recommended for every library.
—Ian D. Gordon

From the Publisher
"[Listeners] will be engaged by this story of the most powerful source of energy the earth can yield." —-Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670020645
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/5/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author


Tom Zoellner is the author of several nonfiction books, including The Heartless Stone and Uranium, winner of the 2011 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award. He is also coauthor of the New York Times bestseller An Ordinary Man.

An AudioFile Earphones Award winner and Audie Award finalist, Patrick Lawlor is also an accomplished stage actor.

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Table of Contents


Uranium
Introduction

1. Scalding Fruit
2. Beginnings
3. The Bargain
4. Apocalypse
5. Two Rushes
6. The Rainbow Serpent
7. Instability
8. Renaissance
Epilogue

Acknowledgments
Notes on Sources
Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reads like a gripping novel

    This is a great story about a very special rock, uranium, which was formed by petrified foliage millions of years ago, and continues to breed a deadly form of energy. Tom Zoellner's factual book reads like a gripping novel. He breathes vigorous life into a saga that could have been a dry political and geological tale. His beautifully crafted story puts uranium into its complex context as a key protagonist on the world stage. Zoellner's reporting ranges from the Congo to Nazi Germany to the war in Iran, with vivid information at every turn. getAbstract found this meticulously researched book exceptionally interesting, and recommends it to anyone interested in discovering how society entered the atomic age and how it is muddling through.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

    Fascinating read about a scary rock.

    Awesome book. Informative without being boring. Basically a history of the world's most explosive rock!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2009

    A lot of Interesting Information About the Worldwide Uranium Mining Industry, and about Uranium from Middle Ages to Present

    I found this book very interesting. It is the first nonfiction mining book that I have read, and the first book on uranium that I have read. What was most surprising was the author's mentionings of the Soviet era East German mining in Schlema, Germany regarding St. Joachimsthal, Radium Palace Hotel (that once offered radium drinking water to humans, and also according to the author still offers radium baths for humans!), and the nearby Wismut mines (according to the author closed in 1990)--one gets the feel of the seriously creepy Soviet oppression in East Germany and some sort of creepy eugenics movement through radium baths, etc. as the author states the area reminds him of the horror film "The Shining."

    I found this book ranged from 3-star to 5-star depending on the areas mentioned. I felt that not everything about uranium was fully covered, and the only photo in the book is on the cover. However, he did mention many of the scientists involved in the uranium age, the hazards to miners, uranium ore, as well as the geopolitical structure and economics, and the get-rich-quick uranium schemes. This was a worthwhile book to read, and perhaps in the future, a follow-up book will uncover even more about the uranium mining age.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2010

    Not Recommended

    This book was horrific. I bought this book expecting to get interesting and pure scientific facts,instead i have a book with a misleading cover that tells a story. Very disapointed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2010

    Tom Does it again, This book is absolutely fascinating.

    This is another amazing book by Tom Zoellner,

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