Adventures Inside the Atom: The Nuclear Dream in Comic Book Form

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A 1948 comic book shows the hopes that industrial giants had for nuclear power at a time when the atomic bomb overshadowed the civilian possibilities of the atom.

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In the late 1940s, the atom was in need of some good PR. After the United States used atomic weapons to end Japan's resistance, an entire half century of brilliant research in nuclear physics suddenly seemed merely a handmaiden to the war that would destroy humanity. A group of prominent scientists published a book called One World or None, and it seemed as if the "none" was a real possibility, thanks to the power of the atom.

energy_bug_1.pngSo, in 1948, General Electric and the rest of the nuclear establishment went to work on convincing people that the atom was friendlier than Hiroshima would suggest. They released what we would call propaganda now promoting nuclear energy as the way of the future. Though nuclear power didn't take off until the mid-1960s, the comic books and television programs of the years preceding its commercialization laid the ground work for the nuclear age.

Here, we have a fine example of GE's work. It's called Adventures Inside the Atom, and it tells the story of Johnny, a young boy, who learns all about the history and promise of atomic energy.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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