Thursday, November 19, 2009

Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939 -1949

Product Description
Rich in personality, action, confrontation and deception, "Atomic" is the first fully realized popular account of the race between Nazi Germany, Britain, America and the Soviet Union to build atomic weapons. These were weapons that ended the Second World War and framed the early Cold War between the superpowers. 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 monumental book that spans ten historic years, from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939 to 'Joe-1', the first Soviet atomic bomb test in August 1949. It includes dramatic episodes such as the sabotage of the Vemork heavy water plant by Norwegian commandos and the infamous meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, the subject of Michael Frayn's stage play Copenhagen. Baggott also tells of how Allied scientists were directly involved in the hunt for their German counterparts in war-torn Europe following D-Day; and, brings to light the reactions of captured German scientists on hearing of the Allied success at Hiroshima. 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? To what extent did the Soviet atomic programme rely on intelligence gathered by spies such as Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs? Did the Allies really plot to assassinate a key member of the German bomb programme? Did the physicists knowingly inspire the arms race? The book answers these and many other questions. Atomic is an epic story of science and technology at the very limits of human understanding; a tale barely believable as fiction, which just happens to be historical fact.

About the Author
Jim Baggott was born in Southampton, England, in 1957. He graduated in chemistry in 1978 and completed his doctorate at Oxford three years later. He has been studying and writing about the history of physics for nearly 20 years and has won awards for his scientific research and his science writing. His previous books have been widely acclaimed and include A Beginner's Guide to Reality (Penguin, 2005): ' - like having an informal, intimate conversation with an informed-and informative-thinker' and Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy and the Meaning of Quantum Theory (OUP, 2004): ' - does for quantum theory what Hawking's A Brief History of Time did for astronomy and cosmology'.