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Old 10-30-2020, 08:07 AM   #106
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There are also well argued theories that if we hadn't discovered fossil fuels and petrochemicals, we would continued to develop the arboreal and crop based fuels and polymers they replaced and we'd be carbon neutral. You don't actually need fossil fuels to create an an advanced civilization, in fact you could argue it just accelerated us to a dead end.
It's an interesting theory. For me, the crucial turning point in tech/fuel history occurred around 1850-60, when the US began to discover and utilize petroleum deposits in a large scale manner.

German science promptly began to find and invest precious coal tar derived chemicals that revolutionized the chemical industry. ( Coal tar was originally from coal but is derived from any hydrocarbon tar.) That lead to pesticides, fertilizer and herbicides.

In the US, the onset of cheap oil fueled vehicles, factory production ( thus engendering the massive industrial revolution,) and cheap electricity for the masses.

In Germany, Krupp had already begun a serious industrial revolution, but it was hydropower based and grew swiftly with the advent of petro power.

In short, petroleum fueled a massive and quick surge in human tech, population, food production ( remember pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer,) and ability to wage war.

The single biggest takeout from all of this was that the world population had been quite slow to grow over many thousands of years. It progressed from tens of millions to several hundred million in 1850. Then it began to take off, quickly into the billions. Shockingly the number of people on the earth born since 2000 is greater than the world population when I was born in 1946.

Up to about 2008, if you matched a graph of world oil consumption and world population, they tended to be, on the same time scale, almost identical J curves.

So oil gave us the ability to overpopulate the earth and create the matrix to brew a large number of scientists, developers, builders, and machine people who would create the tech that is both fueling us and destroying us.
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Old 10-30-2020, 12:06 PM   #107
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Its been decades, but my favorite part of Rhodes book is the brightest minds in American atomics gathered to brief the president. The general conclusion was a better than 50% chance of a chain reaction that would end earth as we know it. Go for it guys!
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Freakin Atomic Playboys. Lucky they didn't destroy gravity, or blow a hole in the bottom of the sea and let all the water run down the hole.
At some point, after the development of the thermonuclear explosive, and prior to testing it in the Pacific, it occurred to these Playboys that they could possibly set the oceans on fire. It fell to physicist Gregory Breit to perform calculations which convincingly discounted this.

As student intern at a conference in the 1970's, I was tasked to meet Prof. Breit at the airport and guide him to his accommodations at the conference facilities. At that point he was pretty frail. He was carrying a battered old briefcase which I helped him with...I imagine what could be inside. Maybe the plans for a Flux Capacitor?

But I also thought about the enormous responsibility that he and the other developers had taken on at that time.

In this context, I am mindful of the first critical reactor, the "atomic pile", CP-1, in the squash courts underneath the stadium in Chicago which could have had a meltdown were it not for the fortuitous cancellation of competing, and then poorly understood, physical effects which gave rise to "negative reactivity feedbacks". This first-ever nuclear experiment was undertaken in one of America's most populous cities.

So, intellectual curiosity, loyalty, hubris? You be the judge.
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Old 11-19-2020, 10:27 AM   #108
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Another amazing and completely appalling read on the subject is Command And Control:

It'll fill you with wonder on how we are all still alive.
I'm about halfway through this book. Good Lord, it is a wonder we are still alive!

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Old 11-19-2020, 03:02 PM   #109
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I'm about halfway through this book. Good Lord, it is a wonder we are still alive!

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It really is a testament to our dumb luck as a species.
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Old 11-19-2020, 06:42 PM   #110
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My interest is piqued; I ordered the book today. It should be an interesting follow-on read to Peter Townsend's Duel of Eagles. Yes, they really aren't related.
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:13 AM   #111
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Also interesting, how Kodak discovered the Manhattan project:

https://www.popularmechanics.com/sci...ctive-fallout/

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a flood of complaints came in from business customers who had recently purchased sensitive X-ray film from the company
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:24 AM   #112
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One nitpick on the "Command and Control" book, there are no pictures, diagrams, sketches or illustrations at all. There are complex descriptions of things like Titan II silos that would be easier to understand with an illustration. Still a good book though.

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Old 11-22-2020, 08:23 AM   #113
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I found a couple of good diagrams of a Titan II missile silo.
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Old 11-22-2020, 08:58 AM   #114
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Wonder what’s the psychological effect of being bored out of you mind manning one of those for a career. They probably cycle people in and out for short periods to keep them sane.
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Old 11-22-2020, 09:09 AM   #115
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Wonder what’s the psychological effect of being bored out of you mind manning one of those for a career. They probably cycle people in and out for short periods to keep them sane.


Extremely high rates of highness. Drug and alcohol use was rampant in those crews.
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Old 11-22-2020, 10:56 AM   #116
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Wonder what’s the psychological effect of being bored out of you mind manning one of those for a career. They probably cycle people in and out for short periods to keep them sane.
One of my friends was a silo lieutenant during the cold war. The two of them were buried there for a couple weeks at a time IIRC.

He said that they did a lot of acid.
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Old 11-22-2020, 11:08 AM   #117
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Thanks for the Titan 11 stuff, my dad quit Pac.Bell to work communications install for the field of silos in Vandenberg.
I heard about dropped wrenches, but never had any idea what was inside.
I did tour Minute man launch sites in SD, but those were solid fuel rockets that destroyed the launch tube. Liquid fuel so much more dangerous.
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Old 11-22-2020, 11:33 AM   #118
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One of my friends was a silo lieutenant during the cold war. The two of them were buried there for a couple weeks at a time IIRC.

He said that they did a lot of acid.
That’s fucked up. You’d think they’d be drug tested.
With current day tech maybe they’re allowed video games and internet porn to kill time.
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Old 11-22-2020, 09:16 PM   #119
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I found a couple of good diagrams of a Titan II missile silo.
Very cool! I got to see a TII being assembled at Vandenberg. It was converted for placing light satellites into orbit.
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Old 11-23-2020, 08:07 AM   #120
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That’s fucked up. You’d think they’d be drug tested.
With current day tech maybe they’re allowed video games and internet porn to kill time.
In the section of the book I'm in now, they didn't have reliable drug testing methods and relied on hearsay and surveys at the time (early 70s). The book did say that after Vietnam that drug use was rampant in all of the service branches and morale was very low (even though I was not in the service, I do remember those times).

The Titan II (in 54 silos) was aging and there were attempts to de-commission them but a deal with the Soviets could not be made that would allow it.

It was a nasty (and very unsafe) combination.

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