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Brotherhood of the Bomb:
It would be difficult to identify three American scientists whose work had a greater effect on world politics than Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller. This exhaustive account of how they worked together (and competed against each other) on the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs is more a story of people than science. Author Gregg Herken of the Smithsonian Institution informs us, for instance, of Oppenheimer's "riotous parties" in the 1930s, in which latecomers would see "the top physicists of their generation, drunk and crouched on all fours, playing a version of tiddly-winks on the geometric patterns of Oppenheimer's Navajo rug." Despite a few light touches, Brotherhood of the Bomb is no breezy profile of three great minds. Instead, it is a serious look at invention, rivalry, and betrayal. One of the central episodes involves Oppenheimer's too-cozy relationship with radical-left politics--he carelessly associated with Communists, even though he occupied one of the most sensitive jobs in the U.S. government during the cold war--and Teller's momentous decision to testify against him. This event is one of the most controversial in the annals of American science, and Herken tells it straight, with barely a word of editorial comment. Fans of Richard Rhodes will enjoy this triple biography, as will anybody with an interest in science, politics, and top-secret security clearances. --John J. Miller [via]