Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Identified abnormal object

Note: I am still filling my backlog.

I came across this site, objectsobjectsobjects.com:

Object Lessons is an essay and book series published by The Atlantic and Bloomsbury about the hidden lives of ordinary things, from sardines to silence, juniper berries to jumper cables.

I really wanted to read about how sales were made in the era before the computer. In the age of the internet, making a sale is relatively easily. Contracts can all be signed electronically, bank approvals are instantaneous. Leasing a car involves multiple parties, and before the internet, that could have required many days, faxes back and forth, and even paper being mailed. Now, it takes several painful hours, but that is all. You can even buy a Tesla with Apple Pay using FaceID now. 

They have a bunch of ordinary objects, but the thing that really caught my eye is nuclear airplanes. We have nuclear submarines, and nuclear aircraft carriers:

The U.S. Navy recently asked Congress for $139 billion to update its fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Unlike “conventional” submarines, which need to surface frequently, nuclear submarines can cruise below the sea at high speeds for decades without ever needing to refuel. Defense planners expect that the new submarines will run on one fueling for the entirety of deployment—up to a half century.

Nuclear submarines are pretty cool! They can run on one fueling forever! That is sick. Nuclear air craft carriers don't need to refuel for decades. So why don't we have nuclear planes, the article asks? For defense purposes, the US needed to get planes near the USSR. This was challenging with fighter jets which couldn't go very far on a single fueling. The US even made one of my favorite real estate moves ever:

Procuring the bases, however, proved expensive and unpopular. At one point, the United States offered $100 million in gold to purchase Greenland from Denmark and gain a new strategic location for bases. In the end, Denmark decided to keep Greenland, but the proposal illustrates the lengths the United States had to go to compensate for its planes’ limited range. A nuclear-powered airplane could avoid all of these issues.

There is uh, only one downside with nuclear jets. The radiation of the nukes would probably poison the pilot in a small jet. The shielding required to protect the pilots probably also would be immensely heavy. Never fear though, military analysts could come to the rescue. Simply use older pilots: they would die before the effects of radiation poisoning show up!

I guess poisoning pilots is a choice that we could have taken. And I guess in the calculations of the Cold War, a world-obliterating war between the US and USSR would kill a lot more people than some radiated pilots. 

I don't think making radioactive planes is a particularly good idea. But innovative ways to power jets are definitely welcome. Not needing to refuel would mean commercial flights across the world with no stops! (Side note: airports would now have stores of highly enriched uranium.)