I have long been morbidly fascinated by nuclear weapons--their history, the science behind them, their impact on geopolitics and military strategy, and what they mean for our collective futures. I was eager to read this book and was very impressed by its breadth and depth.
The introduction contains the best description I've yet found of a nuclear explosion. The author follows the event from the initial nuclear reaction and the physics behind it, to the processes that convert that energy into destructive force and the effects of that force. It will send chills down your spine.
The writing is impeccable, with both style and substance. The author is uncanny in his ability to have both the flair to highlight the drama and awe of what he is describing, but also the ability to communicate complex science in impressively articulate and concise ways.
The book walks a fine line between going into too much detail about topics already well-covered by other books (like the history of the Manhattan Project), while yet also being very comprehensive and mentioning virtually all the relevant details. New ground is also broken, by examining the issues of nuclear terrorism and a very interesting look at the Pakistani nuclear program and how it relates to the issues of proliferation and the problem of rogue states. The book is remarkably short for having so much information, and indeed I found myself wanting more (not because it was incomplete, but because I so enjoyed the book). I'm also very glad to see a truly journalistic, indeed scholarly, analysis of the question of just how difficult building a nuclear device is--a complex question that people seem to oversimplify one way or the other. The author navigates all these issues marvelously, striking a wonderful and measured balance.
The audio is well-performed, although the pace of the narrator seemed a bit hurried at first. The narrator's attempts at foreign accents were difficult to take seriously.
It's always interesting to read books that are equal parts history, science, and current events, all revolving around the theme of some main protagonist that is not a person at all, but a thing. In this case, Uranium looks at Uranium--from its first discovery by human beings, its early non-nuclear uses as a staining element for glass and ceramics, and its eventual rise to prominence thanks to its unique atomic properties and breakthroughs in science and engineering. The author guides us through the science of nuclear physics, the engineering of nuclear weapons, the history and impact of nuclear weapons, and the history, geography and geopolitics of global uranium deposits.
There is a great scope of topics covered within all this. We are given a brief history of the nuclear science, from the first discovery of x-rays and radioactivity, through to the theories of creating a fission-based bomb. Not only do we get an excellent and detailed history of the scientific advancements, and the Manhattan Project with all its personalities and breakthrough is science and engineering, but also of the less-discussed issues of the supply-side of these things. For example, the author takes us to the Belgian Congo, where the presence of rich, quality uranium ore suddenly became a matter of historical importance following the race to build the first atomic bomb during World War 2. Many other previously untold stories are likewise elucidated.
Emphasized all along is the peculiar nature of uranium and its sister elements, as well as the difficulties in extracting, processing, and using it. The author stops to explain the science whenever necessary, doing a good job of making it accessible, while maintaining scientific credibility.
My only critique is the author's strange need to constantly underscore sexual analogies underlying the nuclear process--comparing the uranium gun bomb's design to intercourse, and comparing fission to fertilization. By no means offensive, just odd.
I love Colbert and his humor, but this short little essay was lackluster overall. It's narrated by Stephen himself, which is nice. It's sort of funny in the beginning, and is well-written with a good dose of the wit for which the author is so well-known. None of this makes up for the fact that it gets old less than half way through. At 7 minutes, that's saying a lot. Worth a listen for true fans, but generally not something I'd listen to ever again.
Since technology and computer books seem to be rare in audiobook format, it's hard not to be happy that this title is even available in the first place. Unfortunately, it's not going to be even close to enough to get you to pass the test. Please get yourself some physical study materials, and invest in some classes or at least get some hands-on practice time. However, I do think this title will work well as a part of a larger, more rounded study plan for the test--either as a basic refresher course/overview, or as a study tool to help drill certain things into your head. What this book is bad with is not giving you enough cold, hard facts. An audiobook is the perfect format for flash-card style memorization and practice questions. Imagine driving to work while also taking an A+ practice test. You hear a question, are given the possible answers verbally, and are allowed time to think before the correct answer and a detailed explanation follow. Such a tool would be powerful and useful, but this is not it. This book lacks the details and numbers that test-takers often get stumped on. While not perfect, it is the only tool open to you so far on Audible and it's much better than nothing. I just wish publishers would recognize the power of audiobooks, not just as a translation from written text, but as a medium in and of themselves--especially for test preparation. I hope to see more titles like this on Audible, and perhaps even some original offerings designed specifically for a new generation of students and professionals who study not with pens and pads, but with laptops and digital media players.
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