Headline:Rewriting History
Date:Sunday, September 15, 2019
Posted By:Plaid Hatter Games

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para {Back in [wiki 3b7f33ff-bc91-4b4e-804d-79b2f7188d7b] I had the bright idea that I would rewrite history a bit. And that doing so would solve a bunch of narrative issues that would crop up by simply taking today and projecting forward a few hundred years or so. When I'm feeling less than creative, I tend to turn to reading about writing. And when I'm feeling less creative than that, YouTube. And one of my favorite YouTubers is [link {https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFQMO-YL87u-6Rt8hIVsRjA} {Hello Future Me}] and this week he was talking about [link {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbnzAJXW0Sw} {On Worldbuilding: Fictional Histories}].} para {It's a great talk, definitely worth the watch, but at the risk of summarizing a brilliant summary: History is Complicated. And I don't think I respected that enough when I set out with my ambitious plan to rewrite history from 1777 and on. Here is a rough sketch I made on the history of Nuclear Power in our own timeline:} set uri [my request get REQUEST_PATH] my tag img src $uri/IMG_7450-1000px.jpg para {One of the core ideas in my story is that that somehow people discovered Nuclear Power during the First World War. In the process they managed to sidestep a lot of the unpleasantness of World War II and follow-on wars fought over Oil. Granted, at the cost of an even longer and even more stupid phase of Nuclear Brinkmanship that would lead to one world power occupying the Moon, and the rest of the world creating colonies around the Asteroid belt.} para {From my timeline it's clear to see that technology takes time. All of of the events in the history of Nuclear Power take place over 80 years. At one end is the accidental discovery of radation in 1896. On the other end of the line is the development of the [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Model} {Standard Model}] and the launching of the [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Nimitz} {USS Nimitz}][link #footnote1 {1}] in 1975.} para {That span of time also includes 2 world wars, [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_suffrage} {Women's Suffrage}], [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu} {the Spanish Flu}], [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1906_San_Francisco_earthquake} {the 1906 San Franciso Earthquake}], [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression} {the Great Depression}], [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal} {the New Deal}], the [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_revolution} {Communist Revolutions}] of Russia AND China, the fall of every European Empire, and... I could go on.} para {For Nuclear Power to be a factor in World War I, I have to push the discovery of Radiation back to at least 40 years before the war. That's not as crazy as it sounds. In our own timeline, radiation was discovered in 1896 by [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Becquerel} {Henri Becquerel}] leaving [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium} {uranium salts}] in the same drawer as photographic plates.} para {But... that was not the first time the phenomenon was recorded. In 1847 [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abel_Niépce_de_Saint-Victor} {Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor}] also discovered that uranium salts fog photographic film. A few people replicated the result, but nobody followed up on it. For our story telling purposes, let us imagine that someone DID follow up on the finding:} set UL [my tag ul] $UL item "[link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie} {Marie Curie}] would probably be famous for something else, and die of old age instead of radiation cancers." $UL item "we would have plenty of time for the [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Jutland} {The Battle of Jutland}] to feature nuclear powered battleships." instead of it being rediscovered 40 years layer, we have plenty of time for Nuclear Power to be worked out in time for the 1910s.} para {In my analysis I say down and worked out a timeline of key events in the development of Nuclear Power. At first I concluded that this is an idea that is completely unrealistic. My sketch is messy. It's partly my handwriting. It's mostly the subject matter:} para {The main takeaway from the timeline of our history is that technology takes time. Let us use the accidental discovery of radiation in 1895 as one end our our timeline, and the the formation of the } para {All of these events (well, except the Earthquake) will be replaced by different events in my story's timeline. Actually, I also have to re-think most of history from 1777 and onward. That was my originally declared "break" from history as we know it.} para {My story depends on Fusion being cheap an ubiquitous. History tells me mankind didn't imagine (at least in a scientific sense) fusion until Eddington proposed the idea around 1920. The Neutron wasn't even discovered until 1934. The first application of fusion was the Hydrogen bomb. The first hydrogen bomb was tested in 1952. The first practical hydrogen bomb (using was [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_hydride#Lithium_deuteride} {Lithium Dueteride}] secondary) was tested in 1954. This [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bravo} {device}] also had the distinction of being several times more powerful than originally designed[link #footnote6 6].} which uses Fusion as it's main explosive force, was detonated in 1952.} para {Fusion power had its "Happy Accident" in 1954 with the . During that atomic test, the blast was many times more powerful than originally expected. It boils down to the difference between Lithium-6 and Lithium-7. Both are naturally occurring isotopes, but natural Lithium is only 7.5% Lithium-6. At the time it was thought that only Lithium-6 could be used for fusion. Supplies if Lithium-6 were coming up short, so the powers that be figured they would just make a device with Lithium-7 as filler, and live with a smaller yield. They were mostly testing the concept of storing Deuterium in the form of rather than the elaborate cryogenic liquid Deuterium arrangement used in prior bombs.} para {As it turns out, science was wrong about how Lithium-7 interacts with high energy Neutrons. Also, as it turns out, the solid Lithium-Dueteride fuel worked better than expected. Both developments radically alter the } of Lithium,and that nobody expected that Lithium-7 could be used to boost a thermonuclear reaction. I don't want to downplay in any way the tragedy of the event. But the fact that Lithium-7 can be used to accelerate nuclear fusion completely changes the economics of fusion power when we finally get it working on a large scale. Getting back to my alternate timeline, the only way that phenomenon would be discovered is in some sort of reaction where fusion was taking place already. performed in a laboratory para {Now, history is littered with decisions and accidents. Nuclear energy is mainly a series of accidents.} para {But what about pushing history back a little further into the 19th century? Well no dice really. Radiation as a concept was only discovered in 1895. It's discovery was largely an accident. And accident only made possible by the widespread understanding of Photography. And more importantly, that photographic plates were a common enough item in a lab to be accidentally left in a drawer with a naturally radioactive element.} para {If we look at the development of Nuclear power, from the and the at one end, in 1975, and the discovery of Radiation in 1895, we see that society needs [expr {1975-1895}] years to really absorb an Idea and integrate it into technology. } para { } para { The fact of the matter is that Fusion is not the sort of thing that someone can devise a desktop experiment to explore. Ok, Ok, there is the [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor} {FarnsworthHirsch fusor}]. It is fairly simple to build mechanically. But to understand what is happening inside of of the Fusor requires a deep understanding of atomic theory. If we consider our 1895 "Aha" moment, the [link {http://www.pbs.org/transistor/science/events/electron.html} {Electron wouldn't be discovered for another 3 years.}] } para {Which raises another point: If the Electron wasn't discovered until 1898, how did they use Electricity until then? And the answer is: just fine. An Electron is an interesting thing to know about, but the concept is not required to devise an entire industry around its motion through circuits. And even today, we still can't quite say if an Electron is a Particle or a Wave. You basically select the math to describe an electron based on the application you intend to use it for. } para {Perhaps, and I'm going out on ledge here, perhaps I am overthinking this. Perhaps Fusion doesn't need the concept of Radiation to understand. Or, perhaps Radiation is something you'd just learn along the way. People didn't cook up Atomic Theory, and then devise chemistry. Atomic Theory was devised to explain the really bizarre crap that Chemists discovered.} para {Let us imagine that at some point in the 1810s someone managed to get just the right (or wrong) set of ingredients next to one another. Instead of a fire or chemical explosion, they set off a Nuclear reaction. I'm imagining a lab where [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uraninite} Uraninite] and [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petalite} {Petalite}] are stored in sufficient quantity that a nutron emitted from the decaying Uranium in the Uranite manages to set of a catastrophic chain reaction in the Lithium of the Petalite. } my tag {h3} {Footnotes:} my tag div id #footnote1 content [subst { 1. I pick the The Nimitz because it is the point in time where Naval Architects were given a clean sheet of paper, told "build us the best ship you can", and in the absence of any other pressure selected Nuclear Propulsion as the best technology for the job. Nimitz isn't the first [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Nautilus_(SSN-571)} {Nuclear Vessel}]. It's not even the first [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Enterprise_%28CVN-65%29} {Nuclear Aircraft Carrier}]. But it's the first time you can point to Nuclear Power being used in a massive Capitol Project, and for it's own merits. [link #footnote2 {2}] }] my tag div id #footnote2 content [subst { 2. If your are curious about why more ships don't use Nuclear Power, it's not for lack of trying. Submarines have a unique requirement in that they need a power source that is independant of Air, which is why a vessel with any sort of endurance uses Nuclear power as a rule. For surface ships, there is a minimum size where Nuclear power is economical. Vessels below 40,000 tons are just too small to fit an efficient reactor and propulsion system based on Nuclear Power. Nuclear Power is also only useful on ships that run at high speed. Aircraft carriers have a unique speed requirement among Capital ships. They need to steam ahead as fast as possible. Not to catch other ships, but to provide additional air speed over the wings of the craft trying to take off and land.[link #footnote3 {3}] }] my tag div id #footnote3 content [subst { 3. And yes, that discovery was another happy accident. After WWI, the Washington Naval Treaty limited the number of Cruisers that world powers could deploy. But it had looser restrictions on the then Science-Fiction concept of Aircraft Carriers. Two cruisers, then under construction, the [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Lexington_(CV-2)} {USS Lexington}] and [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Saratoga_(CV-3)} {USS Saratoga}] were converted to Aircraft Carriers. Cruisers are designed from the keep up to be the eyes and ears of the fleet. As such they have extremely powerful propulsions systems. The two Lexington-Class carriers were extremely swift compared to the first Carrier [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Langley_(CV-1)} {USS Langley}]. During testing it was found that that extra speed allowed aircraft to take off with a more payload and fuel, because the speed of the carrier essentially meant the plane received at 30knot headstart to get up to flight speed. That lesson was learned too late to contribute to the design of [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Ranger_(CV-4)} {USS Ranger}], but definitely was applied to the [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yorktown-class_aircraft_carrier} {Yorktown Class}].[link #footnote4 {4}] }] my tag div id #footnote4 content [subst { 4. And why is the Yorktown Class special? Well let's just say they, while they had a few design flaws, the second ship of the class [link {https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Enterprise_(CV-6)} {Enterprise}] would go on to have such a famous career we name [link {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701)} {Sci-Fi ships}] and [link {https://www.enterprise.com/en/home.html} {Car Rental Companies}] after her. [link #footnote5 {5}] }] my tag div id #footnote5 content [subst { 5. If you haven't gotten the idea. HISTORY IS FECKING COMPLICATED. }] my tag div id #footnote6 content [subst { 6. Several islands were rendered completely uninhabitable. People who were exposed to the fallout died. Including the crew of a Japanese Fishing boat. The concern over the impact of radioactivity and biology ended up becoming a cultural phenomenon that spawned the Godzilla franchise.[link #footnote7 {7}] }] my tag div id #footnote7 content [subst { 7. Ok, ok, I'm being a bit harsh. I rather like the original Japanese Godzilla movies. However the success of that Godzilla Franchise spawned at least 3 other Movie franchises. And those WERE clearly disasters. }]