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Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World | [Tom Zoellner]

Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World

Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order---whoever could master uranium could master the world. Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse.
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Publisher's Summary

Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order---whoever could master uranium could master the world. Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse.

Slave labor camps in Africa and Eastern Europe were built around mine shafts, and America would knowingly send more than 600 uranium miners to their graves in the name of national security. Fortunes have been made from this yellow dirt; massive energy grids have been run from it. Fear of it panicked the American people into supporting a questionable war with Iraq, and its specter threatens to create another conflict in Iran. Now, some are hoping it can help avoid a global warming catastrophe.

In Uranium, Tom Zoellner takes readers around the globe in this intriguing look at the mineral that can sustain life or destroy it.

©2008 Tom Zoellner; (P)2009 Tantor Media, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A rich journalistic account." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (300 )
5 star
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4.2 (112 )
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4.0 (105 )
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Alex ROCKVILLE, MD, USA 05-03-09
    Alex ROCKVILLE, MD, USA 05-03-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating History"

    Great research makes this book hum! While some people might think the details are too much, I found it make the history that much better. You feel like you are there!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rizwan Vienna, VA, United States 06-17-13
    Rizwan Vienna, VA, United States 06-17-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Loved it!"

    The book was very informative and was excellent listening when driving in the car. It was well narrated which played a big part in it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lance Maryland, United States 04-15-10
    Lance Maryland, United States 04-15-10 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great historical overview of uranium"

    The narrator was not nearly as bad as so many are saying.

    This wasn't a technical or political book. More of a historical overview. Some technical and political points but that is part of any good history.

    Awesome read imho.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leo Norwich, NY, USA 03-15-10
    Leo Norwich, NY, USA 03-15-10 Member Since 2009
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    "A Rock that Changed the World"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Rancho Mirage, CA, United States 03-14-10
    Mary Rancho Mirage, CA, United States 03-14-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Good History but the Narrator is ludicrous"

    This is a decent book and worth it even though it meanders a bit. The narration is it's worst aspect. For some reason, the narrator tries to do any and all quotes in lame accents and drawls. His poor accents detract from the story all all run together. If he just used a normal voice, he would have been fine...in an audio book, the narrator really matters...that said I would probably get the book instead.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Damian San Antonio, TX, USA 01-07-10
    Damian San Antonio, TX, USA 01-07-10
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    "Read terribly"

    I really wanted to hear about Uranium but i couldnt stand listening to the Narrator speak. It was a lecture, without any emotion or inflection.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Normal, IL, United States 10-12-09
    David Normal, IL, United States 10-12-09 Member Since 2003
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    "Fascinating Element"

    For a "biography" about an element - this was a very good book. Its pace was consistent and covered numerous aspect of its history. Given uranium's impact on society, more people should understand its history and what it really is...

    Patrick Lawlor did a great job of reading/performing.

    I was surprised it did not cover more about the its first use in WWII but this has probably been covered by other authors many times over.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Williamson Arlikngton, VA 07-19-09
    K. Williamson Arlikngton, VA 07-19-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Amazing, Fast Paced..Well Done.."

    One of my best books of all time. Historic, Accurate, and keep you on the edge. I also bought a copy for my parents.. Very good audo, excellent voice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael NAPERVILLE, IL, United States 07-14-09
    Michael NAPERVILLE, IL, United States 07-14-09 Member Since 2005
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    "We go boom?"

    This is basically the biography of Uranium. The history of how it was discovered and evolved to what it is today was a great listen, especially considering the time we're in with everyone trying to get the bomb.

    This powerful quote from the book's introduction sums it all up, " From dust to dust, the Earth came seeded with the means of it's own destruction--a geological original sin."

    The news is always talking about if terrorists ever got nuclear weapons how easy it would be to use them. After reading this book, I have become more fearful at the ease in which this could happen. If someone is determined to get uranium, I don't doubt that they will. There is little accounting of stuff by world governments and even some the inventory they know they are supposed to have goes missing.

    It was scary to read about some boys finding some in a field (nobody knows how the ore they found got there) and hitting it with a hammer because it made nice sparks. Yikes! I never knew how precariously we are balanced on the nuclear precipice and now, unfortunately, have to believe it is only a matter of time until some nuclear terrorism occurs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Southlake, TX, USA 07-08-09
    Scott Southlake, TX, USA 07-08-09
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    "Review"

    I learned a lot from the book, but it seemed to me that after he finished with WWII, the story lost momentum and focus. Maybe that is just the nature of the history, but as a result a highly engrossing story was diffused and as a listener I noticed my enthusiasm diminished. I would recommend the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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