The current Washington climate has decreased Jason’s influence, but this portrait of the group will prompt hopes that it can...




Finkbeiner (Science Writing/Johns Hopkins) investigates an elite scientific advisory group that has shaped U.S. defense policy.

The author first heard of Jason at a dinner honoring one of the group’s members, who dodged her question about it. She eventually learned that Jason (the name refers both to the group and to its individual members) began around 1960. The Manhattan Project convinced the government that a panel of top physicists could provide insight; the scientists, motivated by patriotism and the ethical problems of nuclear warfare, shared a belief that physicists working from first principles can solve anything. Given the caliber of the panel—11 of the roughly 100 Jasons have won a Nobel Prize—that assumption may be justified. Jason’s independence is its greatest strength; its members have university jobs and are chosen not for their ideological slant but for eminence in their fields. (Many now come from disciplines other than physics.) Consequently, Jason often bluntly tells its Defense Department clients that the generals’ pet ideas won’t work. (Those pet ideas have, over the years, included the use of tactical nukes in Vietnam.) On the other hand, Jason was instrumental in developing today’s “electronic battlefield,” on which tiny sensors detect enemy movements and trigger air strikes. Adaptive telescope optics, a significant advance in astronomy, arose from a Jason study on missile detection. Finkbeiner (After the Loss of a Child, 1996, etc.) interviewed several Jasons, some identified by name, and gives a history of the group. Her picture of its close-knit culture and brilliant track record, often in the face of opposition both within and outside the government, makes for compelling reading.

The current Washington climate has decreased Jason’s influence, but this portrait of the group will prompt hopes that it can find a way to reassert itself.

Pub Date: April 10, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03489-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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