2423: Project Orion
Title text: If you tune out again, when you tune back in you'll be hearing about dusty plasma fission fragment rockets.
White Hat and Cueball are having a conversation. In the first panel, Cueball is telling White Hat about his gardening experiences. White Hat tunes out for the middle two panels, and when he starts paying attention again, Cueball is discussing Project Orion.
Project Orion was an ambitious idea, funded briefly by the US government in the 1960's, to launch enormous spaceships into orbit by detonating a series of nuclear bombs below them. The force from the explosions would be absorbed by a pusher plate on the bottom of the rocket, which is the detail Cueball is sharing when White Hat tunes back in. In Ad Astra, Roy McBride uses a similar mechanism to get from Neptune back to Earth. It was considered feasible for construction, but abandoned because of the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty as well as out of concerns for both cost and the idea of spaceships literally armed with atomic bombs. People probably daydream about this project because it seems like it could provide for rapid and massive entry into space, but it was halted due to the intense danger. We may have sufficient technology to somehow make this safe with extensive additional engineering, but the risk is still so large it has not been pursued.
The fact that physicists' conversations tend to converge towards Project Orion is similar to how Randall's conversations tend to converge towards carcinization in 2418: Metacarcinization. Cueball turned into a crab (i.e., he carcinized) when Megan first told him about carcinization in 2314: Carcinization; hopefully physicists don't do something analogous when discussing Project Orion.
- [Cueball is raising his arm, holding the hand tilted down with palm up towards White Hat. Above them is the words Cueball says (without a speech line showing this). The first three lines are in normal font, but then successive lines fade to lighter and lighter gray and finally in the fourth line, just above their heads, the text is almost white. The overall effect is that Cueball's words gradually become background noise to White Hat.]
- Cueball: Our garden grew really well last year, so we think we might put a second raised bed along the garage, if we can find a...
- [Only White Hat is shown, without text, as he stares away from where Cueball must be off the edge of the panel.]
- [Only White Hat again, who now seems to look straight out of the panel.]
- [Back to the original setting. Cueball has lifted both hands up in front of him. He once again has the attention of White Hat. The text above begins with a line half hidden under the top of the panel, almost white font, and then the text fades back to black font over the next three lines, with the next, and last, line in his first paragraph all in black. And then a small gap and connecting line between this and the last two lines of text in his second paragraph. This time there is also with a speech line down to Cueball. The text from "..." to the first comma is difficult to read as only bottom half is shown, and in very faded font.]
- Cueball: ...thanks to X ray ablation, the pusher plate would absorb the nuclear blast, recoil, and then return to position for the next bomb.
- Cueball: Such a wild idea! Probably good that it was abandoned.
- [Caption below the panel:]
- If you temporarily tune out while a physicist is talking, when you tune back in they'll be talking about Project Orion.
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