The Shadow of the Bomb: a study of degree-level nuclear physics textbooks

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The author presents a textual analysis of 57 nuclear physics textbooks for senior-level physics degree students. The work investigates how the textbooks relate to an aspect that is relevant and important but almost wholly avoided, namely nuclear weapons. Most of the books do, however, contain expositions of other applications, notably nuclear power reactors. These expositions are often enthusiastic and occasionally extravagant. When the existing apocalyptic arsenals are borne in mind, the textbooks' asymmetry is seen to be problematic. The publication dates of the textbooks range from 1950 to 2010, yet for the question addressed in this study remarkably little has changed. This study emphasises the culture in which we all live, rather than individual specialists. The author concludes that a response to our nuclear situation, based on a rational programme for long-term survival, rather than on psychological defences, has to come from all. Experts do have special responsibilities but the author maintains that it is unrealistic to expect specialist groups, such as those involved in producing textbooks, to act independently of the wider culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-166
Number of pages15
JournalPower and Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • nuclear physics
  • nuclear education
  • nuclear weapons
  • textual analysis
  • textbooks
  • inattention

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