In the "The Doomsday Machine," a second-season episode of Star Trek, the starship Enterprise plays a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with an alien planet-killing machine described by Spock as "a robot, an automated machine of immense size and power", the function of which is to break down planets into rubble which it then consumes for fuel. Kirk believes that it is a doomsday machine, built by a long-dead civilization and was never meant to be used, much like the old H-bomb used to be on Earth.
In P.D. Smith's new book Doomsday Men physicists unwittingly mimicing Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film, Dr Strangelove, marched around their laboratories singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" (as did the eminent physicist Ernest Rutherford) in celebration of their super-weapon achievements to be used against the Axis Powers. At the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, young scientists even parodied Goethe's great play, Faust, with leading physicists of the day in the roles of Mephistopheles, Faust and God.
The eminent nuclear scientist Leo Szilard wrote that "the father of the atomic bomb was no physicist â he was a dreamer and a writer" and his name was HG Wells. Wells's The World Set Free, accurately imagined the atomic bomb. He credited the science fiction novel published in 1914, with first putting the idea of a nuclear chain reaction into his mind. He was also impressed with Wells' book The Open Conspiracy for World Government, and "joined" this movement along with other Jewish scientists associated with the Manhattan Project.
Szilard was directly responsible for the creation of the Manhattan Project. He drafted a confidential letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt explaining the possibility of nuclear weapons, warning of Nazi work on such weapons and encouraging the development of a program which could lead to their creation. In August 1939 he approached his old friend Albert Einstein and convinced him to sign the letter, lending the weight of his fame to the proposal, which led directly to the establishment of research into nuclear fission by the U.S. government and ultimately to the creation of the Manhattan Project.
Smith provides evidence of a Russian doomsday system right out of Star Trek, called "Perimetr," that went operational in the mid-1980s, and is still active. In his brilliant piece in Slate, journalist Ron Rosenbaum points out that the "Cold War" might not actually be over: Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russian nuclear bombers would recommence strategic flights potentially armed with nukes.
This doomsday apparatus," Rosenbaum continues, "which became operational in 1984, during the height of the Reagan-era nuclear tensions, is an amazing feat of creative engineering. According to Tony Blair, if Perimetr senses a nuclear explosion in Russian territory and then receives no communication from Moscow, it will assume the incapacity of human leadership in Moscow or elsewhere, and will then grant a single human being deep within the Kosvinsky mountains the authority and capability to launch the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal.
In Dr. Strangelove, art foreshadows current history: the doomsday machine was a Soviet system that automatically detonated some 50 cobalt-jacketed hydrogen bombs pre-positioned around the planet if the doomsday system's sensors detected a nuclear attack on Russian soil. Thus, even an accidental or (as in Strangelove) an unauthorized U.S. nuclear bomb could set off the doomsday machine bombs, releasing enough deadly cobalt fallout to make the Earth uninhabitable for the human species for 93 years. No human hand could stop the fully automated apocalypse.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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