Thursday, July 25, 2013

Total Atomic Defense

I've been on a bit of a civil defense kick lately (you'll see why in a few weeks if all goes well), and as part of that I ran across an odd little book called Total Atomic Defense from 1952, by one Sylvian G. Kendall.   Kendall was a former Army colonel who served in the US expedition to Siberia after World War I, itself a rather odd and regrettably forgotten (at least in the US) episode in history.   His only previous writing experience seems to have been an account of the expedition published in 1945.   TAD is part of a subgenre of works I like to call "atomic exhortations", about What Should We Do About the Bomb.   However, unlike most exhortations published around this time, Kendall doesn't have much use for the UN, world government, or disarmament treaties, which were the other exhorters' preferred solutions.   No, Kendall takes a very different view: his book is about how to survive the Bomb, not about how to get rid of it.   His preferred solution, though, isn't bomb shelters, which he sees as a classic example of refighting the last war.   Kendall was an advocate of dispersal.

Figure 1: Total Atomic Defense Cover
(Public Domain)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Moonwalk Day

Forty-four years ago today, at 10:56 PM EST, humans first touched the surface of another world.

Never forget that.   Amidst all the headlines of war and depression and chaos, never forget that we can do great and mighty things.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Philosopher's Bomb, Part 1

Magnificent Men and their Atomic Machines

The Philosopher's Bomb: Discovering New Elements with Nuclear Explosions

Part I

With special thanks to Dr. Steve A. Becker and Dr. David W. Dorn

At seven o'clock in the morning, on November 1st, 1952, a man pushed a button on a control console on the USS Estes. Fourteen minutes and 59.4 seconds later, a series of detonators fired on the island of Eniwetok. The explosives compressed a hollow sphere of uranium-plutonium alloy to a fraction of its former size; at the same moment, a burst of neutrons from the initiator in the sphere's center split a handful of atoms. Those fissioning atoms released more neutrons, which split more atoms, releasing more neutrons, building in a fraction of an instant to apocalyptic force.

The superheated plasma began to push out from the boiling heart of the primary – but the X-rays leapt ahead of it, bouncing down the bomb casing to a refrigerated canister of cryogenic deuterium-tritium wrapped in polyethylene. The X-rays evaporated the plastic, the vapor pushing like rocket exhaust, compressing the D-T around a thin rod of uranium, which began to fission itself, releasing still more energy – and the fusion reaction ignited as deuterium + tritium became helium-4 + neutron, a torrent of heat and light that shattered the morning calm with the force of 10.4 million tons of TNT. This was IVY MIKE, the United States' first test of a hydrogen bomb, a weapon tapping nuclear fusion – the same process that powers the stars.[Rh]

Figure 1: IVY MIKE Cloud[CTBTO]
(US Government)

The Philosopher's Bomb, Citations

Citations for The Philosopher's Bomb (Part 1, Part 2):

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Abo School

Figure 1: The Abo School Today[CLUI]
(Used Under Creative Commons License)

Can you make out what that sign says?