5211 miles. In the distance that runs roughly from London to Karachi, Pakistan, I spent the summer of 2016 driving across the western half of the United States to visit six atomic sites. Each site was integral in the production of the US nuclear arsenal during World War II and the Cold War. While I was in search of local archives, each local atomic museum proved much more captivating. After long, solitary drives through wide open desert and mountains, I came to look forward to the stimulation of poking through their exhibits. At the beginning of the trip, I did not know what to expect from each museum, though I suspected that each would lean heavily on ideas of objectivity in their portrayals of local atomic histories. I did encounter exhibits that made unalloyed claims about objective scientific and historical truths. But, I found so much more at the museums. Three themes leap to the fore on the trip. The museums instill awe by displaying the sublime and grandiose aspects of the bomb. They invoke objectivity by using heroic scientists as exemplars for truth. Finally, they exude opportunity by pointing to possible atomic futures. I argue that the museums rely on affect and desire more than they rely on objectivity to tell the US’ atomic story.
“There is no such thing as an amateur artist as different from a professional artist. There is only good art and bad art,” said the French Painter Paul Cézanne, tipping his hat to his amateur colleagues. Such an attitude might appear to be on the rise in the world of science as well. In recent years, participatory models of science communication are starting to become ever more popular. But, as historian Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent points out, the overt implementation of participatory models by research institutes and technology developers does not necessarily mean that we have moved beyond a view of an impressionable public that is essentially innocent of science. In the same vein, the increased presence of amateurs in the world of science does not mean that a distance between amateurs and professionals is not being maintained. I was eager to get a sense of where we, as a society, stand on scientific amateurs. To that end I went to the place where I came across the modern-day scientific amateur in the first place: Three recent articles from reputable Anglophone print-media sources. In this text, I aim to explore the theme of amateur science as it is brought to us by the media.