Nevada’s Atomic Testing Site hosted nuclear atmospheric tests from the late 1940s to the early 1960s and doubled as both an outdoor laboratory and a film studio. Here, worlds meant to resemble small American towns in every detail were built and obliterated by nuclear explosions, giving rise to thousands of nuclear test films. Cinema transforms explosions into aesthetic experiences, turns the chaos of fallout into comprehensible narratives, and trains viewers to survive or endure the culture of nuclearism. Cinema naturalizes this regime that leaves a stratigraphic signature in the planet’s geological record, a signal so pronounced that geologists propose that the Anthropocene began in 1945 with the first atomic test. The chapter concludes with consideration of “Project Plowshare,” a proposed program to use atomic bombs for “geological engineering.” Operation Plowshare targets the earth’s “unfriendly terrain” to make it useful and welcoming to human development and global commerce.
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