Some half a million years ago, our ancestors sought the best ways to capture energy and used it for their own purposes. Agriculture emerged 10,000 years or so ago and by domesticating plants and animals, we began to funnel more of the sun's energy to people. By the turn of the Industrial Revolution, people began to mine and burn fossil fuels, long sequestered in the earth's crust. Then, on July 25, 1945, the most concentrated display of energy ever liberated by humans emerged in a remote New Mexico desert. The world's first atomic bomb, our ultimate claim on the gift of Prometheus, had exploded. After World War II, scientists started planning peaceful uses for atomic energy. Once the war ended, newly tapped supplies of raw materials, fossil fuels, and nuclear energy combined with a capitalist arrangement that rewarded inventiveness, propelled Americans into an unprecedented half-century of wealth.
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