Summarized very briefly, the publisher rewrote the character and his comic universe to fit the times and fan base. My favorite has always been the Silver Age superman, which basically is synonymous with the beginnings of the Space Age. It was a very science fiction-y time in real life, with a huge tech backlog from the World Wars and the Cold War being implemented into real life nearly month by month.
When I try to explain to someone younger an example of how the future was once different, it usually goes quickly to either the projected nuclear or space futures (not to mention projected household income of the future) just because the world we live in is so impoverished in those areas compared to how it could have been that a common reaction is ‘what happened?’
The industries that never were born, the taxes never paid, the savings never accumulated, so the flying car purchase could never be financed, and there being no market, no regulatory approval and no infrastructure supporting it, there will be no mass flying car.
In the last 15 years the ability has emerged not merely to tap gas deposits but actual source rocks themselves, coal-bed methane, shale bed methane, to the extend that gas which was supposedly running out in the 70s is potentially available for up to 2000 years of fuel supply according to some very generous estimates, to the point where some people are labeling it as unburnable fuel reserves.http://bos.sagepub.com/content/71/6/18.full
Defense Tech information Center has pdf copies
[PDF] Symposium on Engineering With Nuclear Explosives January 14-16, 1970, Las Vegas, Nevada. Volume 1
|… CONF-700101 (Vol.1) NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS-PEACEFUL … This symposium
on “Engineering with Nuclear Explosives” reports to the … VOLUME 2 …
www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a385476.pdf – 2560k – 1970-05-01 – Text Version – Citation
|… Page 3. CONF-700101 (Vol.2) … Symposium On ENGINEERING WITH NUCLEAR
EXPLOSIVES January 14-16, 1970 Las Vegas, Nevada … VOLUME 2 …
www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a385477.pdf – 2560k – 1970-05-01 – Text Version – Citation
And of course, the minimum cost was not the actual program cost. These were experimental one of a kind advice and their cost soared accordingly.
What killed Project Plowshare? Lack of political tolerance pulled the plug, but had the money been forthcoming there were still serious technical obstacles. Three things, in my opinion killed Project Plowshare on a technical level.. Trace radiation, cost of the devices/emplacement, and earth shocks. Let’s run through those.
What might have stopped this fear? It was long thought that near fission free nuclear devices would be available in just a few years. They never appeared, though I have an article in the works about such a device.
Even if the fission trigger were totally absent, neutron activation of the bomb parts themselves and the surrounding medium would according to one estimate (see the 1970 volume 1) be the equivalent of 200 tons of fission. According to another worker, it was possible by boron shielding to cut the surrounding activation nearly by a factor of 1000. Simply put, a lot of ideas looked promising but never got a trial. In the future, if totally aneutronic nuclear energy release is achieved, they may return to become a major part of our industrial landscape.
The other thing that killed Plowshare was the fact that the devices had a certain minimum cost. To make them pay, as I wrote here, you want the largest thermonuclear pure fusion yield you can use. But that leads to massive earth shocks– earthquake equivalents. In isolated applications, like blasting subsea mountain peaks for eliminating navigation hazards at sea, great. But near a city, huge rocking explosions will lead to massive damage claims.
This post I wrote as part of the Wang Bullet series a few years ago tells the cost of thermonuclear power
29.3 gJ/ton coal at $80 ton gives $2.73 a gigajoule coal
So, 1 megaton device– $10 million–4184000 gigajoules per megaton
$2.39 per giajoule– about the same price as coal
10 megaton device– $10 million–41840000 gigajoules per megaton
0.239 per giajoule 1/10th the cost of coal
So, 100 megaton device– $10 million–418400000 gigajoules per megaton = ~1/100th the cost of coal
If the devices were free, the deuterium being the only cost, the price would be 1/1891 that of coal at $80 ton (given Deuterium at $500/kilogram) calcs for that here https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/01/what-if-we-get-super-cheap-d-d.html
All this is only if you can use the energy with equal efficiency to coal, otherwise discount by the wastage factor.
The takeaway is anything much below a megaton device is very expensive relative to the larger sizes.
But if the device cost is 10,000 vs 10 million dollars all of a sudden a 100KT device is the equivalent of ~1/100th the cost of coal and you can blow a 300 meter harbor for $10000. You could use airbursts to fuse the surface of a field to stop erosion. If it were legally OK (And can you imagine a -no permit- nuclear world?!) and there was absolutely no radiation hazard at all the number of devices used a year might be quite staggering. But I seriously don’t see casual use by farmers and fishermen akin to dynamite use in say the 1930s.
If you could reduce the cost of a nuclear device to under $10000 (possible with a different engineering model) and totally eliminate radiation Plowshare would return as if by magic. A million dollar device needs a megaton yield to be economical. 10,000 dollars, 10 KT is similarly economical. But near cities megaton range explosions wouldn’t work and 50-100 kilotons would probably be the upper limit.
But 50 years ago our society was probably mature enough and calm enough to contemplate $10,000 100 kiloton devices. (Although even then Herman Kahn had concerns about gangsters using them for extortion) http://www.hudson.org/research/2212-some-problems-in-the-near-future (written in 1961)
Diffusion of nuclear weapons to irresponsible private organizations. To the extent that these advanced weapons or their components are treated as articles of commerce, perhaps for peaceful uses as in the Plowshare program, their cost would be well within the resources available to many large private organizations. In fact, if prices are lowered to $100,000 or so and this is not all implausible they are in some sense available to vast numbers of individuals. (Almost any dedicated or fanatic member of the middle class of any advanced nation could save up all or an appreciable fraction of this sum.)….
Even if nuclear weapons and their delivery systems do not become articles of commerce, almost all of their components will have peaceable “relatives” and therefore may become generally available. Only a few special parts or assemblies would have to be specially manufactured by organizations or individuals who wish to obtain actual nuclear weapons’ capability.
In another context, Kahn wrote of nuclear ‘six gun’ technology We may any day see a spectacular and revolutionary weapons development, which really makes all nations equal in potential for violence in much the same way that the six-gun became the great equalizer in the American West. Differences in skill, morality, nerve and recklessness might then be decisive, and physical size or wealth might then become either irrelevant or a handicap.
In another context, Khan wrote of what would happen if there were a gradual diffusion of nuclear capability and some unspoken threat manifestation that made many nations ‘go nuclear’ overnight:
As a result, sometime in the 1980’s or 1990’s, an incident might occur that would result in a number of nations suddenly procuring the then easily available weapons within a very short period of time, possibly only a year or two. We might thus experience an explosive diffusion of nuclear weapons to fifty or sixty inexperienced and “uneducated” nations. Such a diffusion could present a far greater danger, a far greater potential for disaster, than the gradual adaptation of international and national societies to these devices.
More Herman Kahn on thermonuclear strategy and concerns in general http://www.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/842/kahnpublicnuclearstrategywohlstetter.pdf
In summary, if we had tomorrow $10,000 absolutely clean 100 Kiloton devices they would probably be banned if they were presented by aliens on a silver platter as a free technology. It is like the Saturn V– in 1961 they had the will to use it but not the capability; in 1973 they had the capability but no longer the will to use it. Society as a whole as well as individuals can have attitudes and moods that preclude capability and productivity.
- Canals blasted down to sea level. None of this nonsense about locks or tidal gates. Got an isthmus? Get a canal! And the coolest name was the PANATOMIC canal (Panama–Atomic– get it? One version IIRC was for 250 devices yielding over 120 megatons. One route called for a single 35-40 megaton device to crater out a mountain peak.) Here is a pdf showing a plan to blast a canal across Israel with 520 x 2 megaton devices– over a gigaton– with some local digging around cities to avoid massive seismic damage- although listed as 1963 this must be similar to the thoughts circulating after the 1956 Suez crisis. – http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2014/ph241/powell1/docs/453701.pdf
- Orion was not strictly Plowshare but it was a sample peaceful application of nuclear explosives (1964 document in pdf http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19760065935.pdf) and of course the Wang Bullet system Brian thought up and I have worked out some ideas on https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2010/03/150-kiloton-nuclear-verne-gun.html
- Hurricane disruption. It was an idea, okay? H-bombing a hurricane http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015077324005;view=1up;seq=92
- Generating diamonds through nuclear blasts or radiation https://archive.org/download/PlowshareSeries1958UCRadLab/Plowshare%20Series%201958%20UC%20Rad%20Lab_text.pdf
- Superdeep waste disposal caverns accessed by drill pipe then created by explosions, possibly sealed to glassy tightness with a smaller second explosion, then pumped full of nuclear waste, toxic waste, anything you dont want on the surface for a million years or so.
- Similar moderately deep storage caverns to store fresh water, oil, natural gas, chemicals, etc. Huge huge volumes hidden and secure deep underground.
- Similar moderately deep storage caverns to catch storm or sewer runoff, as silt dumps to extend the lives of dams and reservoirs for thousands of years, etc
- Similar moderately deep storage caverns for nuclear desalination Prof. George C. Kennedy’s supercritical water idea http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015077322645;view=1up;seq=9
- Similar moderately deep storage caverns for nuclear power generation. Project Pacer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_PACER http://www.ralphmoir.com/pacer/
- Use of thermonuclear fuel in explosions to retort or heat massive amounts of stuff underground. CO2 from carbonates, steam from water, molten salt, molten rock, heating copper ore with chemicals to leach it. In a typical explosion 70 metric tons per kiloton of yield vaporized by the shock wave, shock-melted rock is estimated to be 350 metric tons per kiloton of yield
- Retarcs-– (crater spelled backwards) are heaped up mounds caused by shallow nuclear detonations under the right conditions. Small islands ( a few hundred meters) on demand in fairly shallow water with the right strata and the right yield. If the strength of materials and geological facts were greatly different, you could make a nice Grenada size island with a few gigatons. But the facts are what they are and you can’t.
- Retarcs used for quarry piles (just for the gravel, dear). Other forms of atomic quarries are possible, including huge throwout fan ejecta curtains. Here is a you tube video of the Schooner event (1968) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8g6gymgRoA
- Nuclear quarries, excavations, and trenching row charges. You could theoretically throw enough debris over a river to dam it. How did the narration of the 1951 Superman TV series go? “Can change the course of mighty rivers” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8x7mZf0kLE
In a strange way, atomic power in the 1950s was sometimes mentally regarded as a kind of super-power given to humans perhaps unable to wield it correctly, for good or evil. But many who had sworn an oath were determined to use it to defend truth, justice and the American Way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Air_Command
Look, up in the sky ! — I guess you had to be there.