nuclear power

Them! 1954 movie backdrop

Them!: nuclear optimism, amateur myrmecology, and Wilhelm-screaming w/ Joe Ruppel

Featuring guest co-host
Joe Ruppel Photo
Joe Ruppel, history nerd

Rise of the nuclear monsters

The era of nuclear nervousness and the nuclear monsters in cinema. “Take an object, and biggify it.” Nuclear power in the 1950s. The possibility of “unmetered” energy. White Sands, gypsum, and the Trinity test.

Nuclear optimism

The nuclear success hit list and the optimism of the early 50s. Recognizing downsides. Converting hydrogen into helium, but like really violently. Eclipses, occlusion, and we didn’t realize it at the time but Joe was right to use “occultation.” Las Vegas atomic bomb parties.

Nuclear fallout

The fallout from southern Nevada testing traveling directly as far as northeast Utah. The bitter, metallic taste of nuclear fallout. When Kodak accidentally discovered a-bomb testing.

A sense of scale

The scale of nuclear weapons since the first atom bombs. Considering the time when “duck and cover” made sense. Using NUKEMAP for a sense of scale.


Issues with upscaling. Myrmecology. Antennae and wayfinding. Evolutoniary history and their waspy ancestors. Ants as superorganism. Formic acid attack spray.


Them!: iTunes | Amazon Prime Video | YouTube
Decipher SciFi nuclear hot takes: WarGames | Superman IV

2036 Origin Unknown Katee Sackhoff backdrop

2036 Origin Unknown: ion propulsion, dust storms, and how to speak Greek in orbit

Ion Drive

Compounding acceleration in the relative vacuum of space. Incredible efficiencies versus chemical rockets, and the very low force produced making it only appropriate once spaceborn. The differing problems solved by chemical rockets and ion drives. The benefit of ion drive once out of Earth’s gravity well and going far away. Earth’s tectonic plates, slowly building up to escape velocity. That beautiful blue glow. “Ionic wind” aircraft in-atmosphere: a completely silent aircraft motor with no moving parts!

Landing in spaaaaace

Methods of landing on Mars: Aeroshells, parachutes, rockets, and balloons. Past examples. Different bodies in space and their particular atmospheric densities, atmospheric conditions, and gravitational acceleration.

Nuclear power solutions

Nuclear power vs solar cells. People’s presumption of full-on nuclear reactors rather than the smaller and less-efficient radioisotope thermoelectric generators like on Curiosity. Wondering why we don’t use tiny nuclear robots to blow the dust off of the solar robots. NASA, call us for more great ideas.

Dust storms

Martian dust storms. The low density and force of Martian dust storms, contrary to popular depictions. The visual impressiveness of huge Martian dust storms from space relative to actual effect. The (low) density of the Martian atmosphere and its make-up. How 60mph dust storms are are actually not that powerful: with low gravitational acceleration, static charge, it is very very easy it is to keep dust particles aloft.

Orbital centricity words

The revelation that “geocentric” and “geostationary” apply very specifically to only Earth and there are other words particular to the other major bodies in our solar system. All of the other centricity classifications, including Arecentric for Mars as in the film (though they don’t use it).


Hypoxia and inability to give detailed instructions to your AI on how to disperse the spirit of humanity into the universe.


2036 Origin Unkown: Netflix | Amazon | iTunes
Why You Should Put YOUR MASK On First (My Brain Without Oxygen) by Smarter Every Day: YouTube
How Do Ion Engines Work? The Most Efficient Propulsion System Out There by Fraser Cain: YouTube