Disneyland 3-14 – Our Friend, The Atom

On Sunday, January 23, 1957, a large American audience gathered around their television sets to watch the weekly episode of Disneyland, a popular show created and hosted by Walt Disney in return for an investment from ABC that he used to build Disneyland. On that evening, the audience was treated to a compressed course in atomic physics and science history titled “Our Friend, The Atom.”

The show’s narrator, Heinz Haber, was a knowledgable, respected nuclear scientist. With the help of the professional storytellers and animators who worked for Walt Disney, he wove a fascinating, informative tale that compared the discovery of atomic energy to the fable from The Arabian Nights titled The Fisherman and the Genie (some translations use the title “The Fisherman and the Demon”).

(Time mark 7:00) Heinz Haber – Strangely enough, our story is like that fable [Fisherman and the Genie] come true through science. We are like the fisherman. For centuries, we have been casting our net into the sea of the great unknown in search of knowledge. An finally, we found a vessel, and like the one in the fable, it contains a genie. A genie hidden in the atoms of this metal, uranium. Let me show you. This is a geiger counter. It shows that the genie is here and present in these atoms.

So this is our story. How the vessel was discovered, how the genie was liberated, how it first threatened to kill and how it was finally harnessed to grant us three wishes

Through the magic of YouTube and a channel titled Disneytv4me it is now possible for anyone with an internet connection and a browser to replay that tale and experience the excitement and hopeful sense of discovery that inspired the families of early 1957. The original show aired at a time when newspapers were full of stories about “The Atomic Age.” The first commercial nuclear plant in the free world had begun operating at Calder Hall in Great Britain, the USS Nautilus was conducting its inspiring and well-publicized voyages under the sea, and the first nuclear power station in the United States was nearing completion.

It was a time when people cited science as a tool for human progress, not as a club with which to beat people into fearing the future and restricting their natural desires for a more bountiful, energy-driven existence for everyone.

Please pour yourself a cold beverage, put some popcorn on the table and gather some friends or family around to watch this important program. Share it widely. Think about how to recover the optimism that infused the US and much of the rest of the world in the 1950s.

Atomic Show #220 – Atoms for California

Wind farm land impact is not limited to turbine foundation

Andrew Benson from Atoms For California contacted me last week to find out if I was interested in having a conversation about the history of nuclear energy in California, with a special focus on the history of the antinuclear movement in that trend-setting state. It sounded like a great idea for an Atomic Show so […]

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Atomic Show #219 – Mike Rosen misused Edward Calabrese’s Earth Day column

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Atomic Show #218 – Ed Calabrese – Researching Dose Response

Dr. Ed Calabrese is a professor of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. For the past twenty years, he has focused his research on understanding the response of a variety of organisms and tissues to a variety of chemicals and radiation as doses vary from extremely low to quite high. He is […]

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Opportunity to use science to establish radiation standards

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Shell Oil and Gas Company’s Perspective on Energy Future

There was a time when the Royal Dutch Shell corporation demonstrated strong interest in nuclear energy. In 1973, it was approached by Gulf Oil Company, the owner of Gulf General Atomics, as a capital partner for an aggressive expansion program. GA had spent the better part of two decades developing an innovative high temperature gas-cooled […]

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Mark Cooper is wrong about SMRs and nuclear energy

Mark Cooper of the Vermont Law School has published another paper in a series critiquing the economics of nuclear energy; this one is titled The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power and the Development of a Low Carbon Electricity Future: Why Small Modular Reactors are Part of the Problem and Not the Solution. It is not […]

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Effective government involvement essential for many innovations

The Breakthrough Institute has published a thought-provoking piece titled Reinventing Libertarianism: Jim Manzi and the New Conservative Case for Innovation It is highly recommended reading. Here is a comment that I left on the piece, focusing on my particular interest area of clean nuclear energy development. Interesting observations. I agree with just about everything other […]

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NS Savannah tours May 18, 2014

Press Release Historic Ship N.S. Savannah Open for Tours May 18, 2014 in Observance of Maritime Day N.S. Savannah Association, Inc. 4/17/2014 The unique, nuclear powered ship N.S. Savannah will be opened for tours at her pier in Baltimore, Md. on Sunday, May 18, 2014 as a part of the annual commemoration of Maritime Day. […]

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Some lessons were learned from TMI. Others were not.

Three Mile Island from the air

On March 28, 1979, a little more than thirty-five years ago, a nuclear reactor located on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a partial core melt. On some levels, the accident that became known as TMI (Three Mile Island) was a wake-up call and an expensive learning opportunity for both the […]

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Nuclear Energy: Past, Present, and Future

Peter Bradford and Rod Adams

On Friday, March 28, 2014, I had the privilege of attending a symposium at Dartmouth College titled Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy. If you are curious and have a free nine hours, you can watch an archived copy of the main event on YouTube. The thing […]

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Atomic Show #214 – Age of Radiance Author Craig Nelson

The Age of Radiance is good read that adds personality and details to a story I know pretty well – the history of the Atomic Age from the discovery of radiation, to the discovery of fission, to the Manhattan Project to apply the newfound power to the task of creating a war-ending super weapon, and […]

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