Rich in personality, action, confrontation and deception, "Atomic" is the first fully realized popular account of the race between Nazi Germany, Britain, America and the Soviet Union to build atomic weapons. These were weapons that ended the Second World War and framed the early Cold War between the superpowers. The book draws on declassified material such as MI6's Farm Hall transcripts, coded Soviet messages cracked by American cryptographers in the Venona project and interpretations by Russian scholars of documents from the Soviet archives. Jim Baggott weaves these threads into a monumental book that spans ten historic years, from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939 to 'Joe-1', the first Soviet atomic bomb test in August 1949. It includes dramatic episodes such as the sabotage of the Vemork heavy water plant by Norwegian commandos and the infamous meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, the subject of Michael Frayn's stage play Copenhagen. Baggott also tells of how Allied scientists were directly involved in the hunt for their German counterparts in war-torn Europe following D-Day; and, brings to light the reactions of captured German scientists on hearing of the Allied success at Hiroshima. Why did physicists persist in developing the atomic bomb, despite the devastation that it could bring? Why, despite having a clear head start, did Hitler's physicists fail? To what extent did the Soviet atomic programme rely on intelligence gathered by spies such as Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs? Did the Allies really plot to assassinate a key member of the German bomb programme? Did the physicists knowingly inspire the arms race? The book answers these and many other questions. Atomic is an epic story of science and technology at the very limits of human understanding; a tale barely believable as fiction, which just happens to be historical fact.
Jim Baggott was born in Southampton, England. After graduating in chemistry and completing a doctorate at Oxford, he worked as a postgraduate research fellow at Oxford and at Stanford University in California.
He returned to England to take up a lectureship in chemistry at the University of Reading. After five years of academic life, he decided on a complete change of career direction and worked in the oil industry for 11 years before setting up his own independent business and training consultancy.
Jim maintains a broad interest in science, philosophy and history, and writes on these subjects in what spare time he can find. He was awarded the Marlow Medal by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1989 in recognition of his contributions to scientific research. He was awarded a Glaxo Science Writer's prize in 1992. He has written numerous popular science articles published in UK newspapers and New Scientist magazine and has contributed to several radio programmes in the UK and America. He made his television debut in an episode of Morgan Freeman's 'Through the Wormhole' science series, which aired on the Science Channel on 17 July 2013.
'Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the 'God Particle' - tells the story of the development of the standard model of particle physics and the role played by the Higgs field in the origin of mass. New Scientist remarked: '... his detailed explanation of how the Higgs mechanism gives particles mass is extremely elegant.' The book was published just five weeks after the announcement of the discovery of something that looks very much like the Higgs boson, at CERN on 4 July 2012. Popular Science said: '... the remarkable trick that Baggott and [the publisher] have pulled off is that the rush doesn't show. This is an excellent book throughout.' Professor Steven Weinberg, who won the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on unifying electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force, provides a foreword.
Jim's most recent book, titled Farewell to Reality: How Fairy-tale Physics Betrays the Search for Scientific Truth, promises to be rather controversial. It provides a timely and much needed antidote to the seemingly endless stream of metaphysics (or fairy-tale physics) that is promoted in the popular literature as science. Fairy-tale physics is a collection of theoretical constructions for which there is as yet no observational or experimental evidence. Such constructions include super-symmetric particles, superstrings, 'hidden' dimensions, the multiverse, the-universe-as-information, the holographic principle and the anthropic cosmological principle. The book was published in the UK by Constable & Robinson in May 2013. It is now available from Pegasus Books in the US.