Using atom bombs to dig ditches: The 1965 comic-strip proposal

A scan from the 1965 comic strip "Atomic Ditch Digging"

Last week Trump infamously suggested nuking hurricanes. Loopy, of course -- but it also put me in mind of a similarly bananas idea from 1965: Using nukes to dig ditches and excavate earth.

As Matt Novak notes in the Paleofuture vertical at Gizmodo, Athelstan Spilhaus -- a scientist and educator -- wrote the comic "Atomic Ditch Digging", and got it published in US newspapers on July 4, 1965.

A screenshot:

Scan of a 1965 comic strip arguing in favor of "Atomic Ditch Digging"

Spilhaus was pretty stoked about it, as Novak notes:

“For an explosion equivalent to 2 million tons of TNT, chemical explosives would cost $2 million, nuclear just $600,000!” the strip exclaimed.

The strip went on to explain that by placing a small nuclear device, just 4 feet in diameter, inside Earth, the explosion would be entirely safe. Or, that was what they claimed anyway.

“Most of the radioactivity could be kept underground so that workers could go into the craters within a week or two and people live nearby within a year,” the comic strip said.

The last panel of the strip explained that a “second Panama Canal” could be dug for “a tenth of the cost of doing it mechanically.” If only President Teddy Roosevelt had been able to use nuclear bombs in the first decade of the 20th century, right?

Go check the rest of Novak's post at Paleofuture to see the other scans from that comic. They're quite something! Now I want a t-shirt with just that image of a shovel bedecked with an atomic symbol.