The Dragon's Tail
Americans Face the Atomic Age
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
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In Doris Lessing’s second Canopus book, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, the children born in Zone Three were all considered to have many, even a dozen, parents. This book, like a child in Zone Three, has countless parents and even a few siblings. The greatest debt of gratitude is to Lillian Hoddeson, without whose guidance and criticism...
Introduction: At the Core of the Bomb, Narratives
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Of the thousands of experiments conducted at the Los Alamos lab during the Manhattan Project, one has become emblematic of our encounter with nuclear weapons. It was called “tickling the dragon’s tail,” and it was critical to the successful construction of the first atomic bombs, the one tested at Trinity in New Mexico in July 1945 and the two dropped on...
1. Atomic Familiars on the Radioactive Landscape
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On what appears to be a normal day off the Pacific coast of California, Scott Thomas is relaxing on his boat and enjoying a peaceful day of leisure. His wife has just gone below to grab two beers when he notices a strange fog approaching. He stands up, and for a moment the fog envelops him. The cloud passes, and when his wife returns, she sees that Scott...
2. Fallout Stories
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Nuclear radiation was one of the most potent icons of the atomic age. At first an abstraction associated with the horrors of a nuclear war, during the atmospheric testing era (1945–1963) radiation became a very real part of the lives of Americans, carried into their homes and minds by wind and rain in the form of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapon...
3. Nuclear Approach/Avoidance: Social Scientists and the Bomb
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As the radioactive mushroom clouds from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki began to drift across the Pacific Ocean, concerns about the future of human society were already in the air. On August 10, 1945, radio station WNEW in New York ran a special program titled “The Atomic Bomb—The End or Rebirth of Civilization?” In the...
4. Survival of Self and Nation Under Atomic Attack
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On the night of July 25, 1961, President John Kennedy spoke to the nation about the Berlin crisis, a situation in which the United States and the Soviet Union tiptoed toward nuclear confrontation. “In the event of an attack, the lives of families which are not hit in a nuclear blast and fire can still be saved—if they can be warned to take shelter and if that shelter is...
5. Good Bomb/Bad Bomb
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This comfort level—“it’s only an atomic bomb”—was a feeling that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) encouraged among those who lived near the Nevada Test Site (NTS).² The dark visions that typified narratives of an atomic attack in popular culture stood in stark contrast to images promoted by the federal government to certain groups of...
6. The Atomic Kid: American Children vs. the Bomb
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As the United States embarked on a furious program of weapons testing in response to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union in late 1949, there was one group of model citizens who had a more specific understanding of what to expect from the frequent detonation of atomic bombs in the Nevada desert: the students of the Indian Springs School in...
Conclusion: The Magical and the Mundane
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Nuclear weapons have a unique history: introduced to humanity by Harry Truman, arguably the most powerful person in the world, as a harnessing of the “basic force of the universe” to human will, a force that would end war and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, they threatened futures and haunted nightmares. In a single day they renamed ...
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Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 20 illus.
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War