Tag:

crossroads

November 14, 2006 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘Civilisation versus the giant, winged lizards – Changing climates, changing minds’, Altitude, no. 7, 2006.

 

‘Modern man is a forest butcher’, warned the pioneering science journalist Hugh McKay in 1923. ‘He is also an oil-spendthrift and a coal waster’, McKay continued, ‘recklessly spending his capital of fuel… with never a thought of the tomorrow when he will stand shivering and motionless in the middle of a coal-less, oil-less, treeless, steel-less planet’.1 Read MoreCivilisation versus the giant, winged lizards

  1. McKay, Hugh Cleland. ‘Mankind’s Last Stand’. Smith’s Weekly 15 September 1923: 29. []
March 1, 2005 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘Frontiers of the future: science and progress in 20th-century Australia’, in Deborah Bird Rose and Richard Davis (editors), Dislocating the frontier: essaying the mystique of the outback, ANU E-Press, Canberra, 2006, pp. 121-142.

 

The glow of his campfire framed a simple tableau of pioneer life. Across this ‘untenanted land’, Edwin Brady mused, ‘little companies’, such as his own, sat by their ‘solitary fires’. ‘They smoked pipes and talked, or watched the coals reflectively’. Around them, the ‘shadowy outlines’ of the bush merged into the dark northern night, and ‘the whispers’ of this ‘unknown’ land gathered about. It seemed to Brady that this camp, this night, represented the ‘actual life’ of the Northern Territory as he had known it. But the future weighed heavily upon that quiet, nostalgic scene. The moment would soon fade, Brady reflected, as the ‘cinematograph of Time’ rolled on. It was 1912, and something new was coming.1 Read MoreFrontiers of the future

  1. Edwin James Brady, Australia Unlimited, p. 570. []
July 1, 1996 /

The clouds of radioactive fallout are descending and humanity is doomed to extinction. In Nevil Shute’s book, On the Beach, the inhabitants of Melbourne await their end – the final victims of a 37 day nuclear war that has destroyed the northern hemisphere. John Osborne, played by Fred Astaire in the film version, decides to die in the embrace of the one he loves. So donning his crash helmet and goggles, he pops his suicide pills while sitting behind the wheel of the Ferrari that has recently won him the Australian Grand Prix: ‘The car had won him the race that was the climax of his life. Why trouble to go further?’ For John, as for all, it was the end of the road.

With the onset of the Atomic Age, Australia set out optimistically along the yellow-brick road to peace and prosperity, but 50 years later, the Emerald City seems as far away as ever. Australia’s involvement with nuclear energy has been largely limited to the provision of raw materials – uranium to power other countries’ reactors, and test sites for Britain’s bomb program. To understand Australia’s nuclear history you need to focus not on the journey’s end, but on the journey itself. How was the road mapped? Where were the markers? And who was doing the driving? Read MoreOn the beach: Australia’s nuclear history

July 26, 1992 /
Tim Sherratt, paper presented at AAHPSSS annual conference, 1992

 

In the Riverview Observatory, Father O’Connell readied his seismographs – seven of them. The possibility of breakdown had to be considered, and now, with the coal miners out – a blackout at the wrong moment … So the clockwork instruments were oiled and tested, set up alongside their electric successors. Springs taut, whirring, they waited. No anomaly would escape the methodical priest.

But when the time came, when the Bomb was exploded, nary a flicker was registered on the caefully prepared charts. The shockwave from Bikini never arrived. No vibration was detected in Sydney. Yet it was there, that subtle tremor. A ripple moved across the earth, shifting the ground beneath our feet. A ripple formed as some massive bulk shifted, flexed, deep, deep down. Read MorePhyllis in atomic wonderland