A tremendously useful soup-to-nuts study of how Britain and the U.S. embraced a frightening atomic age.

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CHURCHILL'S BOMB

HOW THE UNITED STATES OVERTOOK BRITAIN IN THE FIRST NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

A scholarly filling-in of the chronological record shows how Churchill dropped the ball on nuclear weapons leadership in World War II.

Farmelo (The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, 2009) constructs a nicely detailed and balanced record of the British ambivalence toward building an atom bomb in favor of the American effort, since Churchill’s infatuation with H.G. Wells and early acquaintance with scientist Frederick Lindemann in 1921. The author tracks the working friendship between Churchill and Lindemann, the Oxford professor who directed the Clarendon Laboratory (as counterpoint to Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, run by Ernest Rutherford, “the Christopher Columbus of the atomic nucleus”) and largely helped cultivate Churchill’s education in quantum theory, however faulty. While the 1930s-era Cambridge physics department had been instrumental in discovering the neutron and in artificially splitting atomic nuclei, Lindemann also helped entice many refugee scientists from Nazi Germany—e.g., Hungarian Leó Szilárd, who developed the harnessing of nuclear energy, among others. As adviser to Churchill, Lindemann helped guide Churchill’s theories of creating a weapon of mass destruction to counter what he saw early on as a terrifying Nazi menace. Although many refugee scientists were developing feasible theories about the making of an actual bomb, Churchill got distracted with waging the Battle of Britain, and Lindemann’s ideas were often questioned by his scientific colleagues. Meanwhile, other refugees, such as Neils Bohr and Enrico Fermi, discoverers of nuclear fission, had migrated to American universities and were working hard on a weapon. Merging the two efforts would prove prickly and problematic, as delineated step by step by the author.

A tremendously useful soup-to-nuts study of how Britain and the U.S. embraced a frightening atomic age.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-465-02195-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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