Monday, October 8, 2012

The New York Times ran a story about the USS Nautilus traveling under the polar ice on August 8, 1958, called "Polar Cruise Citations."
This document shows the USS Nautilus's position as it passes over the North Pole under the arctic ice on August 3, 1958. 

Here's our man -- Marvin the Martian. He first appeared in 1948. He is going to blow up the Earth with Uranium PU 36. The PU was pronounced by Mel Blanc as "pew," which sounds like the number 2. Put it altogether and you have, pew! uranium 236, which is close to what will go in a nuclear reactor -- usually U235. But also, plutonium 239 is Pu239. So there you go with the pew factor. And that is what goes in a warhead. No wonder Merry Melodies later changed the uranium to "Illudium PU 36." Talk of uranium was too creepy. Especially when you combine that with talk of blowing up the Earth. The melodies were supposed to be merry, guys! 

Now, consider this: May 26, 1958. Eisenhower made a speech and officially marked the opening of Shippingport Atomic Power Plant in western Pennsylvania. This was our first commercial nuclear power plant. It ran on pellets of thorium dioxide and uranium 233. This was in the papers and on the news programs. This was Chuck Parker's world. It was going nuclear. The family had already gone nuclear, why shouldn't your power company? Also, out west, near San Francisco, California was the Vallecitos Nuclear Center which from October 1957 to December 1963 was cranking out electricity. But as early as 1954 the Navy had a submarine powered by atomic energy: the USS Nautilus. So nuclear power meant, bombs, subs, lights, refrigerators, TVs and the family itself.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

This is a 1959 Cadillac. The cars looked like rockets but Chuck Parker's life was all too grounded. For all the exuberance of the car designers, there was a lot of pessimism in many lives as the tail-end of the Eisenhower era. When a few years later Kennedy said America should go to the moon it was heroic because it was desperate. To get to the moon NASA would have to catch up with the Russians and surpass them. And they don't call it rocket science for nothing. If math was not your strong suit, you didn't really believe space would do anything for you personally. You were one small piece in a machine that seemed to be growing beyond recognition. Maybe some day Marvin the Martian would blow up the Earth with his Uranium PU-36 Space Modulator. More on that next time. Gee-wiz, I gotta go!