SUPER-New Books - historical interest

A place to keep track of reference material - any particularly useful books, articles, etc. should be listed here.
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Richard Hull
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SUPER-New Books - historical interest

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Jun 28, 2006 2:49 pm

1. Deadly Sunshine, Harvie, 2005

This is the story of the discovery and "deadly legacy" of radium. This book is mostly a terror story of radium and how it was sent far and wide into the public domain. I am obtaining it out of morbid curiousity. As it is new, expect to pay over $30.00 for the paper back.

Review: The book is a superb history of the path of radium production and distribution throughout its history and is especially detailed as regards the British radium industry. For the histroical information alone, this book is a real treasure house of colated data. Its several appendices are also quite informative.

The author is definitely alarmed at radium's "legacy". However this is what sells books; a bit of alarmism and stories of governments and companies gone bad, pushing things on an unsuspecting and innocent public.

Inspite of all of this, the author is far more balanced in his work than most any other wirtter might have been. He acknowledges this in the introduction. In praising many of his technical and scientific friends and mentors who contributed mightily to his work, he notes that almost all suggested he avoid open alarmism and stick to the real story. He seems to be rather true to this goal, though at times we see the juices rise up in anger.

I would heartily recommend this book to all interested in radium and its history of discovery, manufacture and application as well as to those who seek to understand the possibilities of radium still loose in the public domain.

2. Critcal Assembly

This is a princely book of 577 pages and is current. It also commands a princely price of over $160.00. It is considered a BAD book by the weaponeers as it tells far TOO MUCH regarding the details of the Los Alamos work on critical assemblies 1943-45.

It is an extremely detailed TECHNICAL history of the work done on critical assemblies during the 3 Oppenheimer years at LANL.

I'll post the review I received from a friend....


"I just received another recommendation, CRITICAL ASSEMBLY. It's expensive, though I've found new paperback editions for $48."

"The Los Alamos engineers call this a "bad" book, meaning it reveals too much. I've read the Introduction and first few pages of the first chapter and already learned something new. They were making fissile U and fissile Pu in 1944 to build two gun type weapons. They had a microgram quantities of Pu and were testing it well away from everything in Los Alamos so the background count would be as low as possible. They were getting about one count per month which meant that Pu was generating too many spontaneous fission neutrons (5 times more than U-235) to be used in a gun weapon where the critical assembly is fairly slow. That revelation meant the weapon would fizzle and caused a crisis that was the trigger for an all-out implosion effort using every capability the military, industry and academia had available."


My review...........8/7/06

While I have not finished the book, (it's a biggun'), I have dipped into it nicely and find it absolutely fascinating. A whole lot of tech details which I am sure were top secret in 1945 are spilled out here. The people story is also part of the tale though the emphasis is on the tech part of making critical assemblies. I now have the paper back ($46) and the original hardback copy ($165) for my library. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone curious or interested in the early work at Los Alamos.


I am obtaining it to compliment my collection of Los Alamos stuff and also out of technical curiousity.

I will post in this thread, by reply, my reviews after I complete or review the books critically. If others obtain these tomes, I would be interested in their reviews as well.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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