LU grad writes on uranium, guests on Daily Show

Carolyn Schultz

Jon Stewart welcomed Tom Zoellner to “The Daily Show” Thursday, April 2. Zoellner talked about his new book “Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World.” After being on the show, Zoellner said, “It was a wonderful experience. I am grateful for it.”
“Uranium” explores the role of earth’s strongest element in the nuclear programs of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, America and Germany under Hitler.
“”Uranium” is a riveting journey to the heart of this eerie mineral, taking us from slave camps in Africa, to desert mesas, war councils, smugglers’ routes, doomsday cults, jungle mines and secret enrichment plants over five continents in a narrative that is equal parts history, investigative journalism and nonfiction thriller,” says Zoellner’s Web site.
Stewart comically related Zoellner’s book to current global issues, drawing on uranium’s nuclear capabilities and its use in cancer treatments. Stewart described this as a “yin and yang relationship.” Stewart commented on America’s rush to utilize the mineral for destruction and killing and only a delayed, and still significantly lesser use for cancer treatments.
“What is wrong with us?” asked Stewart.
When asked “why rocks?” Zoellner expressed interest in uncovering the hidden story behind diamonds and uranium. For diamonds it’s “the hidden story involved in the mining and polishing and the marketing and the selling of what is nothing more than a piece of carbon … and inherently worthless substance that is none the less a $53 billion economy internationally.”
On uranium, Zoellner said it’s “the hidden story about this mineral which, unlike diamonds, has a tremendously powerful thing going on inside of it which has done so much to shape the world we live in.”
Previously, Zoellner explored the world of diamonds, from mining to smuggling, in his book “The Heartless Stone,” and also wrote “Homemade Biography,” a guide to collecting, recording and preserving oral history.
Zoellner also contributed to the New York Times bestseller “An Ordinary Man,” co-authored with Paul Rusesabagina, which tells the story of Rusesabagina’s experiences during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Those experiences provided the inspiration behind the film “Hotel Rwanda.”
Zoellner is originally from Arizona. He received his undergraduate degree in history and English from Lawrence in 1991. After Lawrence, he worked briefly herding sheep in the Colorado Mountains. He was also a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and a contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine.
Looking back on his time at Lawrence, Zoellner wishes he had majored in geology based on the direction his books have taken him. He is most proud of his time as editor in chief of The Lawrentian his senior year.
“When you go to Lawrence University, you have this really amazing opportunity to run free with your imagination; the liberal arts gives you a lot of freedom to pursue what makes you passionate, and I think that’s one of the highest goals in life,” said Zoellner.
He continued, “That’s why LU was a wonderful place to go to school, because there weren’t walls around the disciplines; there is a refreshing lack of concern about how the education translates into a career.” Looking back, Zoellner found that every minute he spent worrying about life after graduation was a wasted minute.
Zoellner is currently finishing his master’s degree at Dartmouth College and exploring topics for a new book. ‘I might move on from rocks,” he said.