Jim Baggott’s compelling examination of the atom stretches from 1939 and the discovery of nuclear fission to 1949, the first Soviet nuclear bomb test. While discussing military tactics, intrigue, and the international arms race, the audiobook centers on the physics and physicists who built the bomb; Baggott poses the question, "how did these otherworldly eggheads find themselves center stage in such a drama of heroic endeavor, sabotage, espionage, counterespionage, assassination, and terrible destruction that it now seems barely credible as fiction." With a matter-of-fact, journalistic, delivery Mark Ashby performs this accessible account that you don’t have to be a quantum physicist to enjoy.
An epic story of science and technology at the very limits of human understanding: the monumental race to build the first atomic weapons.
Rich in personality, action, confrontation, and deception, The First War of Physics is the first fully realized popular account of the race to build humankind's most destructive weapon. The book draws on declassified material, such as MI6's Farm Hall transcripts, coded Soviet messages cracked by American cryptographers in the Venona project, and interpretations by Russian scholars of documents from the Soviet archives.
Jim Baggott weaves these threads into a dramatic narrative that spans 10 historic years, from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939 to the aftermath of "Joe-1", August 1949's first Soviet atomic bomb test. Why did physicists persist in developing the atomic bomb, despite the devastation that it could bring? Why, despite having a clear head start, did Hitler's physicists fail? Could the Soviets have developed the bomb without spies like Klaus Fuchs or Donald Maclean? Did the allies really plot to assassinate a key member of the German bomb program? Did the physicists knowingly inspire the arms race? The First War of Physics is a grand and frightening story of scientific ambition, intrigue, and genius: a tale barely believable as fiction, which just happens to be historical fact.
©2010 Jim Baggott (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Hi. I am a 60 yo Nuclear Engineer who is a patent examiner. I am married and have 3 teen aged children. I am a history fan.
This book really shines a bright light on a history that was previously unavailable. Baggot has provided a very concise history of the scientific discoveries that set the stage for the Manhattan Project, and documents American, British German and Russian efforts to harness nuclear power. My background as a nuclear engineer allowed me to easily follow the technical discussion, which might be difficult for the general reader.
The main thrust of the book is to try and understand why the great nuclear arms race started, and to discuss the role of the scientists in this. Baggot has done a good job of presenting the issues and personalities of the participants. He gives a good detailed presentations of why German scientists, despite a significant head start on understanding nuclear fission, were not able to make an atomic bomb, and how the Soviet Union successfully infiltrated the Manhattan Project, getting valuable information that allowed them to avoid technical pit falls.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, and Mark Ashby gave an excellent narration. I gave the story 4 stars largely because, as I sighted above, the technical discussion may be difficult for the general reader.
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