It is two minutes to midnight at the time I’m writing this article.
It is also 8 in the evening British Summer Time.
The first statement is from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and refers to how close we are, as a species, to the end of the world. The second is, more prosaically, the actual time.
The Doomsday Clock was invented in 1947 and set to seven minutes to midnight. By 1949, it was three minutes to midnight. In 1953, we got to two minutes to midnight. Since then, it has moved away (as far as seventeen minutes to midnight in 1991) and back in again. With Trump, Putin, Middle East unrest, tensions in Kashmir, coupled with climate change concerns, we’re as close to the end as we ever have been.
When you’re this close to Armageddon, sheer bad luck can take you over the edge. It has nearly done so in the past. Once again, as with so many of my articles, I’ve had difficulty keeping the number down to five. I’ve used my standard method of looking at which event had the greatest chance of changing history — in both probability and impact.
(I have skipped over some incidents where I felt precautions being taken were likely to stop war breaking out, but we learned from them, for example: don’t leave training tapes in live equipment without telling the next shift unless you want them to stare in horror at screens telling them hundreds of missiles are coming over the pole.)
Continue reading “That Was Too Close… Five Times Nuclear War Didn’t Break Out”
The artist known as “Dom-Bul” imagines what if, instead of Germany, Italy had been divided between East and West during the Cold War.
Continue reading “What If Italy Had Been Divided During the Cold War?”
Mrs America is neither the takedown of a conservative activist feared by the right nor the glorification feared by the left.
The Hulu drama series fairly portrays both sides of the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): the feminist movement, led by the likes of Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), and the anti-feminist reaction, led by Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett).
The series sticks close to the truth (Cornelia Channing has tracked the historical accuracy of all eight episodes for Slate), which is why this review will reveal a little more about the plot than we usually do. If you don’t want any spoilers, watch the series first (I recommend you do anyway!) and then come back.
Continue reading “Mrs America”
Years ago, I reviewed a little marvelous book I had chanced upon and loved: How to Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki. It’s hilarious, the art is brilliant (very 1960s atompunk) and sure to put a smile on your face, whether you aspire to be an evil overlord or not.
The first volume’s artist, James Dignan, does not return for the sequel, but the art of Bill Brown is very similar and definitely not of lesser quality.
The Villain’s Guide to Better Living will tell you all you need to know about the homes of different types of evildoers. From (olde world) vampires to mad scientists and everything in between, there are many hilarious tips and tricks, magazine-like quizzes (gotta make sure you get that interior right!) and art as funny as the writing.
Continue reading “The Villain’s Guide to Better Living”
For a while, the Soviet Union was ahead in the Space Race. It launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space in 1961. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space two years later.
These early victories spurred the United States into action. President John F. Kennedy set a goal of putting an American on the Moon before 1970. NASA, created by his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, received massive funding. The Apollo program succeeded while the Soviet space program languished. Following the 1969 Moon landing, both sides returned their attention to Earth.
What if they hadn’t? What if the American program had failed and the Soviet Union had continued its exploration of — and expansion into — space?
Continue reading “The Soviet Union in Space”
Andrei Sokolov was one of the most prolific Russian space artists. He worked closely with cosmonauts, in particular his friend Alexei Leonov, to make sure his depictions were realistic. Some of his works were carried into space aboard the 1971 Soyuz 11 mission and later transferred to the Salyut space station.
Continue reading “The Art of Andrei Sokolov”
Robert Theodore McCall (1919-2010) was an iconic illustrator of the Space Age. He created concept art for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and was hired by NASA to document the history of the Space Race.
He also painted many scenes of what the future of space exploration might look like.
Continue reading “The Art of Robert T. McCall”
An American military base on the Moon, defended by nuclear grenade launchers. If that doesn’t sound like an atomicpunk fantasy, I don’t know what does.
Except it was a real plan.
A 1959 feasibility study, codenamed Project Horizon, argued for a lunar outpost, manned by about a dozen soldiers, to keep the Moon out of Soviet hands.
Continue reading “Defending a Moon Base with Nuclear Grenades”
Last month, we listed the most fabulous vehicles of Thunderbirds, the 1960s marionette science-fiction show about the Tracy family and their International Rescue organization, set in the 2060s.
International Rescue is headquartered on a remote island in the South Pacific, the most recognizable location of the franchise. But the Thunderbirds visited plenty of other fabulous locations, from Lady Penelope’s Australian ranch to the Paradise Peaks Hotel, high up in the Alps, to Cape Kennedy.
Let’s take a trip around the word of Thunderbirds!
Continue reading “The Fabulous Locations of Thunderbirds”
In late 1949, the Soviet Union claimed to have detonated a nuclear device to blow up a mountain range and start the reversal of two mighty rivers in Siberia: the Ob and the Yenisei.
The goal, Life magazine reported at the time, was to turn the arid desert of what is now Kazakhstan into a “pastoral landscape”.
Continue reading “Reversing the Rivers of Siberia”