Jeffrey LewisAtomic Schwag

Friends know that I love shopping for used books. A few of my friends share my obsession, notably physicist Götz Neuneck (and, yes, that is a heavy metal umlaut).

By far, my greatest used book pick up was a 1962 copy of Glasstone and Dolan, Effects of Nuclear Weapons complete with nuclear weapons effect computer (above).

I think I paid fifty cents for mine; a copy (with computer) will run you $200 bucks or more online.


  1. John Field (History)

    Lucky bastard…
    I didn’t get the damn computer with mine!

  2. Lakshmi Krishnan (History)

    Do you have the companion volume titled “Nuclear Explosins and their Effects” published in India around the same time?

  3. Haninah

    So, North Korea’s missile test appears to be fo’ real this time? If US surveillance images show the TD2 being fueled up (according to the NYT), does that mean that the images show, well, the TD2? And if so, is the gas being pumped by Bigfoot and the missile being dragged into place by the Loch Ness Monster? We know you have a real job now, but in this time of crisis we need your input! You must help us, Jeffi-wan – you’re our only hope!

  4. Alex (History)

    Though it’s not nearly as cool as the real thing (much less with the effects computer), a scanned version of the 1977 edition is available online either as a single PDF or broken up by chapters. The 1957 edition is also available.

    1977 as a single PDF:
    1977 divided by chapter:
    1957 as a single PDF:

  5. David Isenberg (History)

    Hey, it’s Sam Dolan’s book. I still have my hard copy version, complete with computer.

  6. Steven Dolley (History)

    I have one of these somewhere in archives; one of my most prized pieces of Cold War memorabilia. That’s the same little wheel computer that Dr. Strangelove himself is spinning near the end of the movie to calculate how many Americans could survive the impending nuclear holocaust by holing up in mineshafts.

  7. Stephen Young (History)

    Just because I am a pendantic twit, I am compelled to point out, re: your title here, that this is not “schwag.”

    Schwag is either free stuff you get, (e.g., PR crap from companies like free beer bottle holders emblazened w/ logos) or, apparently, according to the Urban Dictionary, bad mary jane. (News to me, and I used to think I was cool.)

    I believe a more appropriate title here would be “relic” or “curio.” Or perhaps, given your predilections, “keepsake.”

    That is, unless I’m missing the joke, which is entirely possible.

  8. Stephen Young (History)


    Pedantic, not pendantic.


  9. EEK (History)

    Could call it Kool Nuke Stuff, er Atomic A-coutrements…..

  10. Anonymous (History)

    People might be able to find fairly cheap copies of Glasstone & Dolan with a weapon effects computer on eBay. I did some months back.

  11. Jay Pulli (History)

    I still have my hardcover version, with calculator, purchased new from the US Government bookstore in Boston in 1977, for < $5.

  12. Peter (History)

    Mine is somewhere in storage as well. I got mine during a crazy period of survivalist craziness (back when I lived near KC, and about 11 miles from the nearest missile silo that I knew about).

  13. Haninah

    For the benefit of the young’uns among us, would someone please explain what this book is and why it’s so cool? I’ve only encountered it in the context of e.g. calculating the usefulness (or lack thereof) of nukes for taking out hardened bunkers. Seemed a bit obscure to become a camp craze.

  14. Steven Dolley (History)

    I think the primary “camp” appeal is the appearance of the nuke-war casualty computer wheel in Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Sort of an iconic symbol of the dark cloud of nuclear holocaust that hung over the early 1960s after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Strangelove hit theaters third week of November 1963, with JFK’s assassination requiring a last-minute dialogue change. Looking through his B-52 survival kit, Major Kong originally commented, “Geez, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in DALLAS with all this stuff!” which of course was changed to “weekend in Vegas” after that horrible weekend in Dallas. There, that’s too much information!

  15. Alex (History)

    The Glasstone/Dolan book was also, as the AEC’s official nuke-effects handbook, the standard book about nuclear weapons information throughout the Cold War. In the 1950s it was assigned as a textbook to physics graduate students at UC Berkeley, according to Dave Kaiser. The computer is a nice touch, too—it is meant to be something you can whip out in “the field” when you need to calculate exactly how far away from that mushroom cloud on the horizon you need to be, if I recall.

    My own “nuclear camp” collection includes an early edition of the Smyth Report, a first edition of the Oppenheimer Security Hearing transcripts, and the 1950s LP of Count Basie’s “Basie”, one of the first (if not the first) music albums to use a nuclear test photograph for its cover. My fiancé is also a nuclear geek, and among the various presents I’ve gotten her over the years includes a nice old Civil Defense geiger counter and a the 1954 “Educator’s Choice Board Game of the Year” Uranium Rush (her dissertation work features a lot on the history of uranium mining in the U.S. Southwest).