Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Friend the Atom (Book, 1956)

Walt Disney Productions published a book in 1956 titled, Our Friend the Atom. A television episode of Disneyland aired in 1957 under the same name and can be found on the DVD set Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond.

In the book, the promise of the atom is illustrated quite literally as a genie, ready to grant humanity wishes. The final section of the book focuses on these wishes with that special blend of sincerity and hope the 1950s is best known for.

The wishes are shown below along with some of the accompanying illustrations. To read the prologue of the book you can check out "the other blog."

The coal and oil resources of our planet are dwindling, yet we need more and more power. The atomic Genie offers us an almost endless source of energy. For the growth of our civilization, therefore, our first wish shall be for: POWER!

Mankind has long suffered from hunger and disease. The atomic Genie offers us a source of beneficial rays. These are magic tools of research which can, above all, help us to produce more food for the world and to promote the health of mankind. Our second wish, therefore, shall be for: FOOD AND HEALTH!

There is left to us the third and last wish. It is an important one that demands wisdom. If the last wish is unwise, then - as some of the legends tell - all the wishes granted before may be lost.

See also:
Atomic Power Plant of the Future (1939)
Closer Than We Think! Polar Oil Wells (1960)
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)
The Future World of Energy (1984)


Mark Plus said...

This book sounds like an Onion parody now, but a lot of people back in the 1950's expressed similar hopes for nuclear power. The science fiction writer H. Beam Piper even assumed that we would restart our calendars from the year (1942) physicist Enrico Fermi built the first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago. That would make our year 2008 equivalent to 66 AE (Atomic Era).

Monte Davis said...

A-and let's not forget the coolest scientific metaphor ever filmed: the room full of mousetraps and ping-pong balls used to depict a chain reaction.

Swinebread said...

Oh Yeah, I saw this film...

Cory Gross said...

One of the interesting contrasts that came out to me while watching the Tomorrowland DVD was the irony between the 1950's view of the future and their representation of the Middle Ages and Victorian periods.

In the Man in Space trilogy, the former is portrayed as a dark and backwards time of fear and superstition while the latter is portrayed as a quaint and wacky period of foolish ideas. Yet they're so serious about their idea of space flight and atomic power that, 60 years later, look equally naieve, foolish and sometimes frightening.

Anonymous said...

Good point Cory -- but what does that say about how a future generation will view our view of the 1950s... and our view of ourselves?

Anonymous said...

Just as people in the 50's mythologized atomic power, ascribing it magical attributes, so we today ascribe magical attributes to computers and software, predicting miracles that our new technology will make possible, and which are, as always, "right around the corner". We're no wiser than our grandparents, and our grandchildren will look on our idiotic naievete with the same amusement.

Anonymous said...

I remember Our Friend, The Atom. I recently picked up a copy at a used bookstore, and if nothing else, it is a good introduction to chemistry and atomic physics.

If you've ever read another children's book, My Friend, Flicka, you'd know what a problem friends can be.

Anonymous said...

Just as silly as their view of the atom looked, our current fears of global warming will probably appear. I think that it will probably ring true on all fronts: fear and superstition, a wacky period of foolish ideas.

I still want my flying car.

Ira Wagman said...

"Our Friend the Atom" has recently reappeared in the form of an album cover for "Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts" by the band Velocity Girl. Here's a link:

Anonymous said...

the room full of mousetraps and ping-pong balls used to depict a chain reaction.