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Critical Masses: Exposés of a Catholic Nuclear Physicist

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We're excited to welcome back Davis author, and nuclear and atomic physicist, Thomas A. Cahill for a presentation of his autobiography, Critical Masses: Exposés of a Catholic Nuclear Physicist on Friday, April 6th at 7:30 pm.

Dozens of key scientific findings with far-reaching implications for public health came from the inquisitive mind of Thomas A. Cahill who, as a youngster in the 1940s, lived with his family in the forested New England countryside in a creaky 1790-vintage farmhouse that had unreliable electrical service. He took square dancing lessons, was a ham radio operator, became an accomplished horseman, and helped tend to the family’s livestock. All the while as a teenager he attended Catholic school and became an altar boy. That spiritual upbringing has guided him throughout his career in academic science. With deliberation, he has managed to reconcile the tenets of his enduring Catholic faith with his physics discipline, despite starkly contrasting sacred and scientific views about the origin of life and the nature of the universe.This reconciliation forms the basis for Cahill’s autobiography, Critical Masses: Exposés of a Catholic Nuclear Physicist.

In the book, Cahill also reveals the previously undisclosed truth about what happened — and didn’t happen — at the World Trade Center disaster. He was pivotal in numerous environmental victories, capped by his work to secure $750 million in health care funding for first responders at the collapsed World Trade Center.

Two American presidents (and others) tried to shut down research by Cahill, who took pride in challenging bias and ignorance. Written with humor and spiced with previously untold stories, Critical Masses documents how he managed to simultaneously hold a “Q Clearance” at Los Alamos for “special nuclear materials” (the stuff that goes bang in critical mass for a nuclear chain reaction) while erroneously listed as an Arab nuclear physicist in a Middle Eastern inventory. Government officials in India mistook him for a CIA operative, while back at his nuclear lab in California he came into possession of a pair of radioactive Levi 501s that a student had worn while visiting Kiev four days after the Chernobyl disaster.


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