Atomic Awesome

Darth Vader On A Unicycle In A Kilt Playing Bagpipes

It’s always sad when evil villain’s plans are spoiled by the forces of good and they don’t have a fallback career.

Thanks to P161911 for the tip!

Atomic Awesome

Cold Enough to Freeze Steam

Antarctic Nuke Plant Console 1

In the early 1960’s, in support of research into cold fusion weather operations, the US Navy SeaBees build a nuclear reactor in Antarctica. Designed by the Martin Company, the reactor operated for 10 years, providing steam for desalination and electricity to the outpost. The operating consoles and control panels now reside at the Seabee Museum in California, and I was able to capture these images on a recent visit.

Continue reading Cold Enough to Freeze Steam

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #21: Sheet Mills and a Pickling Machine


 Today we’ll look at four types of inter-related rolling mills that produce steel sheets. A jobbing mill rolls steel sheets that range between 1/8″ and 1/2″ in thickness and then send the sheets to a furnace for annealing, producing “blue annealed sheets”. Some plate mills can produce light plates that overlap the output of jobbing mills, but the output of plate mills is not annealed, unlike the jobbing mill. The material sent to a jobbing mill is called “sheet bar” produced by a universal mill or a sheet bar mill and sent to the jobbing mill cold. A jobbing mill uses two-high stands, i.e. stands with two rollers, and consists of a stand with both rollers pinion driven, a roughing stand and a finishing stand.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #21: Sheet Mills and a Pickling Machine

Atomic Awesome, Idiotic or Inspired?

Rising Like A Phoenix

He flies through the air with the greatest of 'Bees...

He flies through the air with the greatest of ‘Bees…

Those of you who have been with us for a while may recall that back in 2011, our sister-site Hooniverse awarded their coveted Hooniversal Car Of The Year trophy to none other than the Official AtomicToasters Racing Hooptie, the now-world-famous ZomBee.

It is with something of a heavy heart that we inform you that the ZomBee is dead.

Continue reading Rising Like A Phoenix

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #20: Wheel and Tire Mills



When we think of steel wheels, we normally think of the one on our cars or trucks, but there are other kinds of steel wheels used in industry and heavy equipment. The easiest example I can think of are the steel wheel used to support and drive the treads on a bulldozer or a tank. We tend to think of the toothed wheel that drives the treads as a sprocket nowadays, but 100 years ago it was common to call them steel wheels, and I believe that it’s still a proper term in the industry, although I can’t prove it. Anyway, that’s basically the kinds of wheels that were made on the Mesta Wheel Mill, generally speaking.

The modern equivalent of the Steel Tire Mill would the ring rolling machines you see in forging operations. A common example of a steel tire is on a railroad wheelset, and you can also find them on certain kinds of excavating equipment.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #20: Wheel and Tire Mills

Atomic Awesome

Good Use of Government Resources

You may remember the SAGE network from such posts as Expand Your Radar Horizons (Parts 1 and Duex), and possibly some other I am forgetting regarding missile defense during the Cold War years. SAGE stands for Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, and essentially was a network of radar installations coupled with what passed for serious computing power at the time, creating a system that combined live radar input with pre-established flight information from commercial airliners that would give operators a live picture of the air traffic in the airspace of the US and Canada. Anything that was out of place could quickly be isolated and intercepted. At the heart of all this was of course the computer, the AN/FSQ-7 (2 computers per SAGE center, 21 such centers around the US), “the largest computer system ever built, each of the 24 installed machines[7]:9 weighed 250 tons and had two computers.[8] The AN/FSQ-7 used a total of 60,000 vacuum tubes[8] (49,000 in the computers)[7]:9 and up to 3 megawatts of electricity, performing about 75,000 instructions per second for networking regional radars.” (Wikipedia)

So what do you do with such a powerful computer system, which also happens to be the second ever real-time computer with an electronic graphical display? Why you use the situation display console, a 19-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) display (which drew vector-based lines or alphanumeric characters on any portion of the screen) to display a more, say, entertaining image!

Continue reading Good Use of Government Resources

Atomic Awesome

One is the Loneliest Number

In 1961, GE proposed using a mildly modified B-52 as a test bed for the the XNJ140E-1 nuclear turbojet. In a wild tribute to asymmetry, the large atomic engine would have been mounted along the left aft portion of the fuselage. The initial plans were for the test aircraft to retain all eight of its conventional turbojet engines, yet be capable of being powered by the reactor for sustained nuclear flight. This testing would wring out the nuclear turbojet before its use in the NX-2 nuclear bomber. There were even alternate configurations of the B-52 test bed that utilized a second atomic engine, and only four conventional turbines. In this configuration, the Stratofortress would have been capable of pure nuclear flight for the entirety of the mission, including take-off and landing.

Continue reading One is the Loneliest Number

Atomic Awesome

Man Made Lightning

Nuclear explosions are known to have some occasional side effects, not all of which could exactly be classified as advantageous. Some of the effects however, don’t really have all that much bearing on the final outcome, and we only know about them thanks to high speed photography. Lightning bolts out of nuclear clouds is just one such effect.

Continue reading Man Made Lightning

Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #19 – Merchant, Bar and Structural Mills


The Mesta Machine Company made a series of smaller mills to complement their bigger slabbing and plate mills, called merchant, bar and structural mills. These are all basically bar mills and produced smaller shaped steel forms for engineering and construction. When I say “smaller”, it is in comparison to the sizes output by the blooming or slabbing mills. You have to remember to think big.

Merchant mills produce a variety of shaped products such as angles, channels, beams, rounds and hexagons, and in the old days they would keep an assortment of stock on hand for buyers of small lots. In the present, merchant mills produce large lots to order, and the keeping of stock on hand has typically passed to other steel sellers.

Bar mills produce steel bar with a rectangular, round, or hexagonal cross section in various sizes and lengths, with bar that is 10mm or less in diameter sold in rolls. Steel reinforcing rod or rebar is  typically made on bar mills dedicated to the task (but not always), as best as I can determine (lost my reference, dang it) due to the volume usually produced. A video of a rebar and rod mill is after the jump.

Continue reading Mesta Memories #19 – Merchant, Bar and Structural Mills

Atomic Awesome

Nuclear Rails

Nuclear power has been looked at for planes and automobiles, but what about the third mode of transportation — trains? Unsurprisingly, it was considered both in the US and the Soviet Union.

Continue reading Nuclear Rails