A love-hate relationship

Radiation seems to tap into some of our deepest ‘race memories’, such as the Eden myth (forbidden knowledge and being cast from paradise), the small boy playing with fire, ‘the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, as well as some more positive ones such as the alchemist’s dream, mankind’s triumphing over nature and taking dominion over the earth.13 Further, writers such as H.G. Wells were postulating ‘atomic bombs’ some decades before fission was discovered.

Never before in the history of warfare had there been a continuing explosive; indeed, up to the middle of the twentieth century the only explosives known were combustibles whose explosiveness was due entirely to their instantaneousness; and these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them. Those used by the Allies were lumps of pure Carolinum, painted on the outside with unoxidised cydonator inducive enclosed hermetically in a case of membranium. A little celluloid stud between the handles by which the bomb was lifted was arranged so as to be easily torn off and admit air to the inducive, which at once became active and set up radioactivity in the outer layer of the Carolinum sphere. This liberated fresh inducive and so in a few minutes the whole bomb was a blazing continual explosion.

The catastrophe of the atomic bombs which shook men out of cities and businesses and economic relations shook them also out of their old established habits of thought, and out of the lightly held beliefs and prejudices that came down to them from the past. To borrow a word from the old-fashioned chemists, men were made nascent; they were released from old ties; for good or evil they were ready for new associations. In the map of nearly every country of the world three or four or more red circles, a score of miles in diameter, mark the position of the dying atomic bombs and the death areas that men have been forced to abandon around them. Within these areas perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of masterpieces and a vast accumulation of human achievement, whose charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that only future generations may hope to examine.14

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