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The Dark Miracle and Micropatronage

This article was was written by Alex Steffen in May 2006. We're republishing it here as part of our month-long editorial retrospective.


Ally Josh Ellis wanted to do some writing about the Trinity nuclear test site and its meaning today. So, this being the 21st Century, and Josh being a freelancer attuned to his times, he passed the PayPal hat, raised a little money and went off to research and write an excellent essay, Dark Miracle: Trinity, the Manhattan Project and the Birth of the Atomic Age:

I still don't have the answer to my question -- why -- but maybe I understand a little bit more than I did. ...
Maybe they did it because they were afraid -- afraid of Hitler, afraid of losing the war. And maybe they did it because the science was so exciting, and the opportunity to be surrounded by so many fine minds in a place where there was nothing to do but talk about the science.
Ultimately, I think, they did it because it could be done, which is why anyone really ever does anything important. In that impulse are the seeds of both humanity's potential for survival and our potential for destruction.
And they lived with it, all of them, the knowledge of what they'd brought into the world.

It's a fine piece of work, and we highly recommend it. It's also a sign of things to come, as writers, photographers, and documentarians of all shapes will increasingly deliver their work to audiences which are willing to support the creation of that work, whether or not magazines, publishers, art galleries or studios get the worth and importance of doing that work.

This ability of creative people to connect with "long tail" audiences may prove vital in helping to make the transitions which face us over the next couple decades. We need a lot more innovation, after all. Almost all innovation, whether technological or cultural, springs from the concerns of what are initially a very small group of people (at least relatively speaking). Reporting key bits of information, delivering fresh and useful perspectives and connecting people with shared concerns is a vital part of the process -- and a job for which independent journalists and artists are particularly well suited. Indeed, increasingly, these circuit riders and explorers are serving an absolutely critical role, delivering news to people who need it, long before the rest of us have caught on that it's important. Micropatronage, therefore, is a good thing, and Josh is ahead of his time.

So, please, go read Dark Miracle, and if you like the piece, show your support for worldchanging journalism and drop a buck in his tip jar.

Micropatronage and Josh Ellis' Trinity Project is a part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on Oct. 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.

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If, somehow, you haven't read it already, and you're interested at all in the "why" of the Bomb, you absolutely must read Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer Prize winning "The Making of the Atomic Bomb". I think it's probably the best book I've ever read.

Posted by: Zane Selvans on 6 Sep 08



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