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A Final StoryScience, Myth, and Beginnings$
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Nasser Zakariya

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226476124

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226500737.001.0001

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Humanisms, Nuclear Histories, and Nuclear Ages

Humanisms, Nuclear Histories, and Nuclear Ages

(p.211) Chapter Seven Humanisms, Nuclear Histories, and Nuclear Ages
A Final Story

Nasser Zakariya

University of Chicago Press

The provisional structure and authorship of a new collective final story relates to scientific ethical discourses and to the nuclear and cosmological science of Gamow and co-authors, of Edward Teller, Maria Goeppert Mayer and others. A number of scientific social planners and advisors tied political efforts and utopian visions to a “scientific humanism,” pursued only most insistently by Julian Huxley. For Huxley, Shapley, and Jacob Bronowski—and in different measure, Bernal, Haldane, and even Gamow—political action and poetic energy were correlated to a scientific ethos and to a conception of the role of science and scientists in postwar culture, tending together toward the mythologization of science. The privileged place of the scientists, the contours of a new scientific universal history, and the many effects and views of the bomb were part of a tightening cultural configuration, depicting scientists as manipulating mythic powers licensing them to tell mythic stories. The techniques, experiments, and theorizations of both nuclear and conventional arms were the scientific fabric of that new history, patterning it in different ways, establishing it as an empirical project. Received in this context as the theory of the “Big Bang,” Gamow offers a “Big Squeeze” theory of an oscillating universe.

Keywords:   Big Bang, Big Squeeze, UNESCO, scientific humanism, Jacob Bronowski, George Gamow, Ralph Alpher, Robert Herman, Edward Teller, Maria Goeppert Mayer

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