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Backstory: Terrible (and Real) Ideas from the Cold War

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Cold War may have ended 20 years ago, but the constant threat of nuclear annihilation and the unlimited scientific potential of the atom led to some truly "out there" thinking, and we’re not just talking about Edward Teller’s idea to detonate an atomic bomb on the moon. The Kennedy Administration considered using nuclear explosions to widen the Panama Canal, the U.S. Postal Service wrote a 300-page plan detailing how to deliver the mail in the event of an atomic apocalypse, and the Soviets actually built a Doomsday Machine. We’ll talk to energy and science writer Alexis Madrigal and Wired magazine senior editor Nicholas Thompson.

You can read Alexis Madrigal’s blog here.

You can read Nicholas Thompson’s article on the Soviet Doomsday Machine here.

Guests:

Alexis Madrigal and Nicholas Thompson

Comments [3]

Alvin from Manhattan

President Carter's policy of launch on warning brought us closer to nuclear war by forcing the Soviets to delegate launch authority to people lower in the hierarchy, yet he went on to win the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. President Reagan may have helped eliminate more nuclear weapons (via the START treaty) than any other person. History isn't always what we expect it to be.

Nov. 12 2009 01:38 PM
Frank Campi from Rockaway, NJ

Pluto was another Doomsday weapon being developed by the US.

Plowshare also had a way to eliminate the smog in LA with opening a gap in the mountains.

Nov. 12 2009 01:35 PM
Hank from Brooklyn

There was a plan in 1947 to use nuclear weapons to make a second canal across Nicaraugua. I saw it in an old Life magazine.

Nov. 12 2009 01:34 PM

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