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Download Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex Audiobook

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From a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Los Angeles Times contributor, the untold story of how science went “big,” built the bombs that helped win World War II, and became dependent on government and industry—and the forgotten genius who started it all, Ernest Lawrence.

Since the 1930s, the scale of scientific endeavors has grown exponentially. Machines have become larger, ambitions bolder. The first particle accelerator cost less than one hundred dollars and could be held in its creator’s palm, while its descendant, the Large Hadron Collider, cost ten billion dollars and is seventeen miles in circumference. Scientists have invented nuclear weapons, put a man on the moon, and examined nature at the subatomic scale—all through Big Science, the industrial-scale research paid for by governments and corporations that have driven the great scientific projects of our time.

The birth of Big Science can be traced to Berkeley, California, nearly nine decades ago, when a resourceful young scientist with a talent for physics and an even greater talent for promotion pondered his new invention and declared, “I’m going to be famous!” Ernest Orlando Lawrence’s cyclotron would revolutionize nuclear physics, but that was only the beginning of its impact. It would change our understanding of the basic building blocks of nature. It would help win World War II. Its influence would be felt in academia and international politics. It was the beginning of Big Science.

This is the incredible story of how one invention changed the world and of the man principally responsible for it all. Michael Hiltzik tells the riveting full story here for the first time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Michael Hiltzik tells an epic story, one with arenas of tragedy as well as triumph, and he tells it well.”

    Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian

  • “When the young Berkeley physics professor Ernest Lawrence first envisioned what he called a ‘proton merry-go-round,’ he recognized its potential to revolutionize science. Hiltzik here tells the fascinating story of how this exceptional scientist won support for his epoch-making research tool and then assembled and managed an unprecedented team of experts who used that tool to penetrate subatomic mysteries.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “A fascinating biography of a physicist who transformed how science is done.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “[Hiltizk’s] portrait of [Ernest] Lawrence, who gave birth to the modern research lab through sheer force of will, is powerful.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015 for Nonfiction
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About the Author

Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for twenty years. In that time he has served as a financial and political writer, an investigative reporter, and a foreign correspondent in Africa and Russia. He currently serves as the Times business columnist. His other books include Colossus, The Plot Against Social Security, Dealers of Lightning, and A Death in Kenya. He received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry. Among his other awards for excellence in reporting are the 2004 Gerald Loeb Award for outstanding business commentary and the Silver Gavel from the American Bar Association for outstanding legal reporting. A graduate of Colgate University, he received a master of science degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in 1974. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.