Countdown: The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons
For fans of Oppenheimer, a riveting investigation into the modern nuclear weapons landscape.
Nuclear weapons are, today, as important as they were during the Cold War, and some experts say we could be as close to a nuclear catastrophe now as we were at the height of that conflict. Despite that, conversations about these bombs generally often happen in past tense.
In Countdown, science journalist Sarah Scoles uncovers a different atomic reality: the nuclear age’s present.
Drawing from years of on-the-ground reporting at the nation's nuclear weapons labs, Scoles interrogates the idea that having nuclear weapons keeps us safe, deterring attacks and preventing radioactive warfare. She deftly assesses the existing nuclear apparatus in the United States, taking readers beyond the news headlines and policy-speak to reveal the state of nuclear-weapons technology, as well as how people currently working within the U.S. nuclear weapons complex have come to think about these bombs and the idea that someone, someday, might use them.
Through a sharp, surprising, and undoubtedly urgent narrative, Scoles brings us out of the Cold War and into the twenty-first century, opening readers' eyes to the true nature of nuclear weapons and their caretakers while also giving us the context necessary to understand the consequences of their existence, for worse and for better, for now and for the future.
Praise for Countdown: The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons
“Countdown is an amazingly thoughtful piece of reporting about all the practical issues of living with nuclear weapons. Sarah Scoles writes vividly about Los Alamos and the people who work day to day in the weapon labs.”
—Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and coauthor of American Prometheus
"In the 21st century, most of us tend to comfortably forget that clock has never stopped ticking on human development of nuclear weapons since their deadly war-time beginning. Sarah Scole's Countdown is an indispensable guide to a little seen history and a wonderfully human introduction to the often unheralded scientists who work to keep us safe - so that we can comfortably forget."
—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the 20th Century
“In this astute assessment of the current situation regarding nuclear weapons, Scoles offers a must-read overview of America’s nuclear arsenal... Everything you ever wanted to know about the current nuclear-weapon landscape.”
—Kirkus, starred review
“Scoles capably addresses the tension between these camps, providing nuanced portraits of nuclear scientists that find most ‘are neither hawks nor total doves’…Scoles’s measured final analysis occupies a similar middle ground, suggesting that upgrading America’s nuclear weapons probably does discourage other countries from using theirs, even as doing so threatens to “foment a never-ending arms race.” Readers on both sides of the debate will find much to ponder.”