Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something to do with a nuke

Nuclear weapons aren't just for war. Edward Teller supported the idea of using H-bombs to make harbors and managed to begin the process for Project Chariot, which was to create an artificial harbor in Alaska using a small number of H-bombs. Locals were none too pleased and no one knew why we needed an artificial harbor in Alaska anyway, so the plan was shelved. More interesting is the plan to use nuclear weapons as propulsion system as in Project Orion. That project was designed to create a ship capable of taking humans to Saturn.

The clip below shows science writer George Dyson discussing what he knows of the project, based on his research. He presents a number of fascinating documents and presents many of the challenges involved including the almost certainly lethal levels of radiation to which the crew would be exposed. His final note, where he presents the good and bad news about destroying an asteroid coming to Earth, is both amusing and disturbing.

As if nukes weren't enough to worry about, now we are told that automated killer robots are a threat to society. Time to apply for robot insurance.


kwandongbrian said...

I first learned of the Orion Project from Niven and Pournelle's book Footfall: one of my favourites.
In reading the book, I had a feeling that the Orion ship was a sort of kamikaze - no one onboard would survive the radiation. I don't think the book made that clear, it was just a general dread of nuclear weapons that everyone but the authors seem to share.

Who knows, Niven has stated that the elder Dyson assisted him in some of the physics for his books so maybe he had a hand in this one.

Tripp said...

You know I was thinking of that book myself. Didn't they attach the bombs to the Missouri or some other battleship? That is how I recall it as well.

That was a great book. The world of scifi needs more giant alien invasion novels.

On the topic, Lucifier's Hammer was also excellent.

kwandongbrian said...

They may have moved battleship guns (unless you are thinking of the anime, "Space Battleship Yamato"), but I thought the space ship was built from the ground up. It was built at a harbour, though.

Hmm, I don't know.

Actually, this page shows a ship very similar to the ones in Dyson TED lecture:

Tripp said...

That's very cool ( and a cool site in general) There appears to be turrets from the New Jersey on that, so I am not completely forgetting and that does look a lot like the ship from the TED lecture.

I like the Von Braun rocket elsewhere on the site as well.

Speaking of Space Battleship Yamato, I recall watching the American version Star Blazers,but the original is now on Netflix ( I think)

kwandongbrian said...

I'm going to have to reread it the next chance I get.

The smaller ships were called 'stovepipes' I think, and they were battleship guns with life support built around them.

Never saw SBY but the Kickass Mystic Ninjas had a review of the series.

Tripp said...

I think I tried to download the Ninjas but failed, so I will have to go back.