Choose Your Own Adventure

Public Events
Thursday, May 23, 2019
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Do you ever look back at key moments in history and think, “I would’ve made a better choice”? We’ll test that assumption using a real-world scenario where Cold War tensions meet the Wild West.

It’s an age of new frontiers, where some people are trying to make a fortune. Newspapers are reporting that anyone with a few supplies, some hard work, and a stick of dynamite can strike it rich. Rumor has it that out West even the cowboys are hanging up their spurs for a chance to cash in on this valuable metal hiding in the ground.

Welcome to the uranium prospecting boom of the 1950s.

Not long after atomic bombs were deployed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union began to heat up. Uranium, an important ingredient in the nuclear-fission process, was in high demand. Enter the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the only legal purchaser of uranium mined in the United States. In 1948 the commission announced it would purchase uranium from private mining companies, and what ensued put a whole new spin on the term citizen science.

But what if the cowboys, amateur prospectors, and members of the AEC had made different choices?

Join us for an after-hours gaming adventure where you’ll get to step into someone else’s shoes, and—using your wits, luck, and all the best information available to you at that moment in history—see where your choices land you!

Afterward toast to your success (or failure), and take a peek at the real 1950s board game inspired by this moment in history.

This program is presented in celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table.

About the Speaker

Research fellow Roger Turner studies the uses of science in managing the environment and—much to his surprise—recently helped make a video game about scientific instruments. Since earning his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, he has taught at Penn, Dickinson College, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the American Meteorological Society, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. When not exploring archives, he likes to birdwatch along Conodoguinet Creek.


Image: Vanadium Corporation of America uranium mill at Durango, Colorado,
in Vancoram Review, December 1949. Science History Institute.