Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima

Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima

by Robert R. Johnson
Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima

Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima

by Robert R. Johnson


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This book presents a compelling account of atomic development over the last century that demonstrates how humans have repeatedly chosen to ignore the associated impacts for the sake of technological, scientific, military, and economic expediency.

In 1945, Albert Einstein said, "The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking … the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind." This statement seems more valid today than ever. Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima presents compelling moments that clearly depict the folly and shortsightedness of our "atomic mindset" and shed light upon current issues of nuclear power, waste disposal, and weapons development.

The book consists of ten nonfiction historical vignettes, including the women radium dial painters of the 1920s, the expulsion of the Bikini Island residents to create a massive "petri dish" for post-World War II bomb and radiation testing, the government-subsidized uranium rush of the 1950s and its effects on Native American communities, and the secret radioactive material development facilities in residential neighborhoods. In addition, the book includes original interviews of prominent historians, writers, and private citizens involved with these poignant stories.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313392795
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 08/03/2012
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Robert R. Johnson is professor of rhetoric, composition, and technical communication in the Humanities Department at Michigan Technological University, Houghton.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

Part 1 Inventing the Atomic Mindset: Dial Painters, Comic Books, and Paradise Lost 1

1 For the Love of Pretty Things: The Radium Girls and "Dying for Science" 3

2 On a Need-to-Know Basis: From "The Bomb" to the Uranium Frenzy to the Living Room 15

3 "Only Answered in the Stars": The Human Testing of the Bikini Islanders 27

Part 2 Using the Atomic Mindset: Native Americans, Guinea Pigs, and Uranium Cottage Industries 49

4 Engagements with Rocks and Land: Uranium, Diné Culture, and the Yellow Monster 53

5 Dangerous Familiars Part 1: Nuclear Science and Its Human Subjects 69

6 Dangerous Familiars Part 2: Three Cases of Human Testing, 1949-2011 83

7 Doing It in the Backyard: Alba Craft, Inc., Part 1 98

Part 3 Confronting the Atomic Mindset: Community Action, the Rhetoric of Nuclear Power, and Fukushima 117

8 What's a Community to Do?: Alba Craft, Inc., Part 2 119

9 Nuclear Green and the End of Power 140

10 Nightmares Revisited: Japan, Tsunamis, the Atom, and Ironies 152

Afterword: Of Romance, Soteigai, Celebrations, and the Mundane 163

Appendix: Living in an Atomic World: Voices from "On the Ground" of the Nuclear Age 167

Making Up Your Own Mindset: Reading Group Discussion Questions and Classroom Resources 197

Bibliography 203

Index 213

What People are Saying About This

Tom Zoellner

"The beauty and the terror of nuclear fission has been an enchantment for men and societies for nearly seventy years. As Robert Johnson reminds us in this excellent book, that fascination has a deadly side that cannot be ignored. Through a series of selected episodes, he looks beyond the seduction of nuclear propaganda and shows us what the morning after looks like."

Bill Geerhart

"In Romancing the Atom, Robert R. Johnson illustrates the long history of the combustible element and the largely rapturous human reaction to it. The atom's tale is revealed through a series of fascinating and richly drawn stories that include some unforgettable and bizarre moments (Liquid Sunshine, anyone?). This fine book is a marvel of in depth research and highly entertaining narrative style."

Jeanette Walls

"Romancing the Atom is a deeply engrossing, cautionary tale of our often dangerous love affair with a power we don't fully understand."

Andrew Leland

"With its stories of Radium Girls painting glowing hands onto the faces of mass-produced clocks, and scientists quaffing radioactive 'liquid sunshine' like it was whiskey, Romancing the Atom is an expertly researched cultural history with all the wonder, paranoia, and color of a 1940s comic book."

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