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:

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. Read the rest

Refinery explosion in New Jersey

I've lived long enough in America to know that...

A) "Shelter in place" means "you'll probably be OK", and that... B) There is no footage so awesome it can't be ruined by graphics, chyrons and the inane narration of news presenters.

Read the rest

New York will blow up the Tappan Zee Bridge on Saturday

The Tappan Zee will meet its maker on Saturday as New York state contractors plan to blow up what's left of the 63-year-old bridge. Replaced by the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in 2017, the iconic Tappan Zee will be loaded up with explosives and sent to a watery grave in the Hudson River. The steel will be recovered by a marine salvage team. Restaurants and businesses in the area are planning watch parties for Saturday morning, including the “Dim-Sum-struction of the Tappan Zee Bridge," and "The Big Bang Brunch." Several New York news outlets plan to carry the detonation live.

Lyndhurst, local restaurants host Tappan Zee Bridge farewell, specials on Saturday (lohud.com) (Photo: Brett Weinstein/Wikimedia Commons) Read the rest

Newly divorced woman blows up her wedding dress

Simply setting fire to her wedding dress wouldn't do for Kimberly Santleben-Stiteler. The newly divorced woman from outside San Antonio, Texas (shocker!) attached 20 pounds of Tannerite to the dress and created an explosive target. In front of family and friends, she shot the dress from 200 yards away, creating a fireball and explosion that was heard for miles.

Santleben-Stiteler plans on selling her wedding ring. Sorry, demolition fans.

Via Star-Telegram Read the rest

Massive lava bubble from 1969

Behold a photo of a massive lava bubble, taken by the United States Geological Survey in 1969.

It's from the long eruption of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii, which began on May 24, 1969 and went on for a remarkable 1,774 days.

That bubble above is about 65 feet high, but apparently other bubbles were as huge as 246 feet!

As Smithsonian, via Live Science, reports:

Lava fountains erupt either from isolated vents in lava lakes, or from lava tubes that are penetrated by water, according to the USGS. The formation and expansion of gas bubbles in molten rock pushes powerful streams of lava into the air—typically in a haphazard fashion, with the fountains spurting every which way. It is rare, the USGS notes, for the fountain to take the shape of a dome, like the one seen at Mauna Ulu.

In a 1979 report, the USGS wrote that the dome fountain appeared frequently during the October event, which “lasted for 74 hours, nearly twice as long as any other fountaining episode of the eruption.” The report also notes that the dome had a mottled surface, caused by solidified crust getting mixed with liquid lava. As part of the dome slid away, experts could see a lava core inside, indicating that the dome was “not simply a large bubble.

Read the rest

Scientists detect incredible collision of neutron stars

Astronomers have detected the collision of a pair of dead stars, called a kilonova, that caused a cosmic ripple of gravitational waves around 130 million years ago. It turns out these kinds of massive explosions forged most of the gold, silver, and other heavy elements in our universe. From Nadia Drake's story in National Geographic:

First theorized by Albert Einstein in 1916, gravitational waves are kinks or distortions in the fabric of spacetime caused by extremely violent cosmic events. Until now, all confirmed detections involved a deadly dance between two black holes, which leave no visible signature on the sky.

But with this latest event, teams using about a hundred instruments at roughly 70 observatories were able to track down and watch the cataclysm in multiple wavelengths of light, allowing astronomers to scrutinize the source of these cosmic ripples for the first time.

“We saw a totally new phenomenon that has never before been seen by humans,” says Andy Howell of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s an amazing thing that may not be duplicated in our lifetimes.”

Unlike colliding black holes, shredded neutron stars expel metallic, radioactive debris that can be seen by telescopes—if you know when and where to look.

“We felt the universe shaking from two neutron stars merging together, and that told us where to go and point our telescopes,” says Howell, whose team was among several that chased down the stars tied to the gravitational wave signal.

"In a First, Gravitational Waves Linked to Neutron Star Crash" (Nat Geo) Read the rest

Inert Products: simulated suicide bombs and body parts for training exercises

If four years of life with your circumcision simulator has taken some of the bloom off the rose, you can refresh your collection of odd simulators with Inert's line of training gadgets for people combating suicide bombers, which include suicide vests, IEDs (including "person borne" IEDs), and complete training kits for gaming out guerrilla battles and/or multiple shooter responses, with fake guns, rocket launchers, balaclavas, grenades, etc. Read the rest

WHOOSH! Filling Jack-o-Lanterns with thermite and gun cotton, for science(ish)

Alewis sends us the Royal Institution's video: "A scene of explosive Halloween mayhem as one Jack-o'Lantern spews molten iron into another filled with gun cotton, all in the name of science." Read the rest

Playful, pacifist IEDs

Sculptor Petros Eftstathiadiadis makes these "pacifist bombs" as a commentary on the Greek political/economic situation, constructing them from materials chosen to seem absurd, playful and harmless. Despite that, a few of these look somewhat alarming to me, possibly because of Eftstathiadiadis's (admirable) lack of knowledge about antipersonnel weaponry -- the soap immediately makes me think of jellied gasoline, for example. Read the rest

Truck full of fireworks explodes

The last time I saw a fireworks display with this tempo, it was courtesy of the Flaming Lotus Girls. Read the rest

Xmas tree made from det cord

The slo-mo footage of this Xmas tree made out of detonation cord (starts around 3:00) is just, I mean. Wow. BOOM!

Det Cord Christmas Tree

(via Kadrey) Read the rest

Truckload of gas cylinders explodes 39 times

On a Russian highway, a truck filled with propane cylinders explodes 39 times, boom, boom, boom, each explosion more spectacular than the last.

Взрыв газели с балонами на МКАДе

(via Kottke) Read the rest

London's exploding pavements*

Underground power-boxes nestled beneath the pavements* of London keep blowing the hell up. In its defense, UK Power Networks reminds us that there's a lot of these boxes, and only a few of them explode catastrophically every year, blowing huge, dramatic holes in the streetscene. I'm reassured!

The risk is growing said the HSE, with 12 explosions in 2010, rising to 29 last year, following a slight drop to 8 blasts in 2011. Worryingly, in less than six months of this year there have already been 12 blasts.

In May 2012, three women were injured when a cable pit blew up on Edgware Road and back in August 2011, 76 year old Colin Wingate was confined to a wheelchair for three months following a pavement blow out in north-west London.

Londoners at risk of death from outbreak of exploding pavements

(via Neatorama)

*Note for Canadians and Americans: this usage of "pavement" is equivalent to the North American "sidewalk" Read the rest

Bomber enraged by spelling error can't blow up sign because his bomb instructions were riddled with typos

A 50-year-old man was upset that the sign in front of the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission read "Oregon Teacher Standards an Practices Commission" (the D had fallen off the sign or been worn away), so he resolved to explode it with a pressure-cooker bomb. But the bomb didn't work, an outcome the man blamed on the spelling errors and typos in the bomb-making instructions he'd downloaded from the Internet. So he took his bomb into the Oregon Teacher Standards an Practices Commission and gave them a piece of his mind, vis-a-vis bombs, standards, and education. And practices.

"He walked quite confidently into our office as though he had a mission," she said, "and I think that was what alarmed me right off the bat." (Because no one who wants to be a teacher comes in with a good attitude? My guess is that the pressure cooker with wires sticking out of it might have also played a role in her alarm.) The man explained that he was upset with their misspelled sign and had just tried to blow it up for that reason. Didn't work, and you know what else?

After discussing his failed attempt to detonate his bomb, the man complained that the instructions he downloaded to make the bomb also had misspellings. [According to the director, he] implied that [she] and her employees should be concerned about the level of education children receive, given that his [bomb-making] instructions were rife with errors.

I think that only follows, though, if these were official State of Oregon bomb-making instructions that he'd gotten hold of.

Read the rest

Laptop with thermite self-destruct mechanism

Caleb sez, "I wanted to try making something in the style of "Q" from the James Bond movies.

My idea was to make an emergency self destruct system for laptops and portable hard drives. It turned out pretty well, it is always fun to watch stuff melt!"

I wanted to implement thermite as a self destruct mechanism inside the device. To do this, I had to come up with a way to ignite the thermite. This stuff is very difficult to light. You have to get it really really hot. The easiest way is to use magnesium, which itself isn’t the easiest thing to light.

What I finally landed on was an ignition system that uses model rocket igniters, gun powder, and magnesium to light the thermite. The model rocket igniter can be set off from the 12v line inside your computer. However, it isn’t hot enough to light magnesium shavings, much less thermite. To get it to work, I needed to add some gunpowder. A small amount of gun powder would get hot enough to light the magnesium shavings, which in turn were hot enough to light the thermite. I had to be careful though, because too much gunpowder would cause a rapid expansion, blowing the thermite everywhere instead of lighting it. You can actually see some red thermite being blown out of the external hard drive and the laptop as the gunpowder ignites.

Laptop vs Thermite: Slow motion destruction

(Thanks, Caleb) Read the rest

Liquid nitrogen + ping-pong balls = pure awesome

Dr. Roy Lowry demonstrates the awesome power of liquid nitrogen for a group of students at Plymouth University with a riveting demonstration that culminates in making an LN2-based bomb out of a water bottle, placing it in a giant rubber trash-can full of 1500 ping-pong balls, and waiting for the BANG.

Liquid Nitrogen and 1500 Ping Pong Balls Video

(via Neatorama) Read the rest

Vintage Chinese firecracker label-art

MrBrickLabel has a Flickr set of absolutely gorgeous vintage Chinese firecracker labels.

I have been collecting firecracker and firework labels since I was 5 years old (1968). I appraise, buy, sell and trade firecracker labels. Everything you see here could possibly be for trade. I will try to post everything eventually. Hopefully more collectors can do the same and we can use this as a trading and sharing tool...

My Collection of Chinese Firecracker Labels

(via Neatorama) Read the rest

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