Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Plus ça change

I was tooling around in online issues of Popular Mechanics ("Written So You Can Understand It") and came across a July, 1918 article about the War in Yurp called "Boomerangs". It featured the "shooting bayonet" and the "tower of ivory" -- ie: the mushroom cloud featured above.

This was, of course, a kind of presage of the nuclear mushroom clouds at the end of WWII. Paging through history, you find this phenomenon fairly often: the inexplicable phenomenon during one era becomes quite understandable in a future era, frequently to the horror of witnesses.

In the case of the WWI mushroom cloud, the troops on the ground were amazed and dumbfounded by it. They did not know what this "tower of ivory" was, only that it was generated somehow by the Enemy. Sometimes it would dissipate in the air, other times it would collapse back on the ground.

According to one report, narrated in the story excerpt above, the cloud left the unmistakable stench of phosphorus gas in its wake, so it was assumed that the cloud was an experimental means of delivering poison gas in the field of battle.


The point was that it was meant to, and apparently did, inspire terror and dread in the expeditionary troops of WWI who had never seen anything like it.

Now, of course, the image is familiar to all, so much so that during the Bushevik years, Rummy was inclined to go around declaring nuclear war "survivable." Well, yes. Some do survive nuclear annihilation.

Build enough bunkers, all kinds of people might survive.

Then they can fight among themselves for Ultimate Dominance.

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