Mr Willis’s Second-Best Pupil

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Frank Close is a particle physicist who during a distinguished career developed a sideline in writing accessible popular books about the subatomic world long before anyone outside the halls of academe had heard of Carlo Rovelli. After retiring from his day job, he wrote fascinating biographical studies of the ‘atom spies’ who provided the Soviet […]

How I Learned to Stop Worrying

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Anxiety about a big accident at a nuclear power plant is surely one of the great fears of our age. The world had its first big scare in 1979 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in the USA, when a cooling system malfunction caused part of the core of Unit 2 to melt, destroying the reactor. No one was harmed, but the concerns the incident raised and the worldwide publicity it received led to record box office takings for The China Syndrome, a film about a nuclear

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Dropping the Screwdriver

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I can vividly remember, as an undergraduate in the late 1990s, my introduction to the history of nuclear geopolitics. While working my way through a pile of texts on the Cuban Missile Crisis, I began compiling a list of the misunderstandings and mistakes that could have led to accidental nuclear conflagration had things turned out differently. […]

Science for Sale

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Anew book from Philip Ball is always an eagerly anticipated event, but this one exceeds expectations. This is partly because his writing reaches ever higher standards, but also because the passage of time now makes it possible to take a dispassionate view of his subject matter: the behaviour of scientists in Hitler’s Germany. Were they […]

Don’t Mention the Tube Alloys

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When Churchill returned to the Admiralty in September 1939 he set up an experiment in the basement code-named ‘White Rabbit Number Six’. The aim was to construct a model of a giant machine that would cut a deep groove in the earth, along which soldiers could safely advance towards the enemy in the battles expected […]

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