Atomic Awesome

The Cold War That Wasn’t – Why call it a SLAM when its a slow kill?

Not an actual image but you knew that

Image from Bisbos.dom

The Supersonic Low Altitude Missile has been featured on this site before back in 2010. It’s just time to dredge it up for the Cold War that wasn’t for a darned good reason.

Continue reading The Cold War That Wasn’t – Why call it a SLAM when its a slow kill?

Atomic Awesome

Forgotten History – The Strange Tale of Seaborg’s Plutonium

First Plutonium Sample

Hang around on this planet long enough and some pretty strange tales are bound to come your way. A while back, one strange tale was sent in by reader Batshitbox. It’s the strange tale of the very first measurable sample of Plutonium 239 and how it was lost, then found again. All thanks to some quick thinking by a University of California employee that saved it from potential destruction.

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Atomic Awesome

Why The World Needs Nuclear Power

Nuclear_Power_Plant[Editor’s Note: Nuclear Science Week was pointed out to us on the tips line by Elizabeth Eckhart, along with a commitment to contribute. If you’d like to see AtomicToasters come back from its Chernobyl-like radioactive slumber, you should follow Elizabeth’s lead, and send in

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stuff for the rest of us to discuss. You can also follow Elizabeth’s Twitter account at @elizeckhart] Continue reading Why The World Needs Nuclear Power

Atomic Awesome

User Input: Polarizing Energy

(Image source:

In the United States this week, the Smithsonian Institute is sponsoring Nuclear Science Week, a program to educate students — and the general public at large — about the whole picture surrounding nuclear energy. It’s an admirable program, because it’s not shying away from discussing the negatives, while taking a […]

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #24: Steam-Hydraulic Forging Presses


 The Mesta Machine Company made large, and I daresay even huge, hydraulic forging presses for a great many years while they were in operation, and were widely used in industry. A while back I wrote a post about the 50,000 ton Mesta hydraulic forging press The “Fifty”, which was built several decades after the dinky little 8,000 ton steam-hydraulic press pictured above. Back in the day, however, an 8,000 ton forging press was a pretty big tool, and the largest that Mesta made at the time (circa 1919) was “only” 15,000 tons.

These machines were the workhorses of many forges through the years as the most efficient way of producing large forgings. I think that they’re wonderful.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #24: Steam-Hydraulic Forging Presses

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #23: Rope Drives and Flywheels


A large-ish rope drive wheel being turned on a pit lathe.

Following on to the last post about the giant frikkin’ gears that the Mesta Machine Co. used to make, this time we’ll take a quick look at their rope drives and flywheels which are also predictably huge.

As it states above, rope drives are used where quiet and smooth transmission of power is required and belts are either not strong enough or too cumbersome. A good example is the drive mechanisms used by most elevators used in buildings. Could you imagine riding a chain-driven elevator up to the 50th floor of a building? I can, unfortunately, and it makes me want to go outside and sit on the nice, safe gravel of my front yard.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #23: Rope Drives and Flywheels

Atomic Awesome

Mini Gamma Gardens

Atomic Poppies

Yesterday we took a look at one of the lesser known efforts to find a peaceful use for the power of the atom, the gamma garden.  Mini atomic gardens were also a part of the Atoms for Peace movement, an outgrowth of the efforts of many scientists who had been engaged in atomic research during WWII to speak publicly about their research and science in general, and the hope that the fruits of their labor could be used to bring good into the world.  Gardeners around the world were encouraged to be part of the grand experiment of the atomic world by buying irradiated seeds, and carefully following the changes of the plants as they grew, to see if any permanent mutation came out of them.

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Atomic Awesome

Gamma Gardens

Oakridge Atomic Seeds

During the early part of the Atomic Age, there wasn’t much that the promise of atomic power didn’t have the potential to make better.  While the main development was the idea of peace through atomic bombs, other peaceful uses were researched, including atomic aircraft, atomic cars, atomic power in the home, and of course, Atomic Toasters—and one fascinating sidebar, the atomic garden. The idea was essentially this: as plants grow, genetic drift and mutation occur over time, and the mutations that result in stronger plants then get passed along to future generations, so why not try increasing the mutation rate through bombardments of plants with radiation, in search of better plants?

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta memories #22: Gear Drives


One of the things that always stand out to me when I’m looking at pictures of old factories and machinery, is the enormous gears that are used almost everywhere. The herringbone-toothed gear shown above is a great example.

The Mesta Machine Company made a great variety of large gear drives for heavy industry and power production. The following pictures show some of the monstrous gears that Mesta made on a regular basis.

Continue reading Mesta memories #22: Gear Drives

Atomic Awesome

When Reactors Breed


In 1951 the light bulb and power plants were pretty ubiquitous. These four bulbs were probably bought for pennies each at the local hardware store. They could be installed in a lamp and plugged into a wall outlet. Electricity would flow into them by means of mysterious and, most probably, very malevolent forces. On the other end of all those wires would be a power plant serving a large area and tied into a grid of power generating stations across this great land. However, on December 20, 1951 these four bulbs were not powered by the commercial power plant feeding Arco, Idaho. Instead, they were being powered by something entirely new.

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