Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, March 19, 2021

Author Rainer Karlsch has come out with a new book that posits a chilling scenario for the final days of World War II in Europe: Nazi Germany had developed a prototype tactical nuclear weapon, and had tested it in March 1945.

Hitler’s efforts to produce atomic weapons was no secret; the American atomic program at Oak Ridge and Alamogordo, staffed with expatriate German scientists, knew they were in a race with the Nazis to build a bomb. Werner Heisenberg’s team was hampered more by limited resources than by ability to pull it off; Michael Frayn’s play “Copenhagen” presents a compelling (if fictionalized) account of the Germans’ efforts.

Still, the idea that they got as far as making a limited-range fission bomb (perhaps no more effective than a modern-day “dirty bomb”) is disquieting, and not without skepticism:

“The eyewitnesses [Karlsch] puts forward are either unreliable or they are not reporting first-hand information; allegedly key documents can be interpreted in various ways,” said the influential news weekly Der Spiegel.

“Karlsch displays a catastrophic lack of understanding of physics,” wrote physicist Michael Schaaf, author of a previous book about Nazi atomic experiments, in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

“Karlsch has done us a service in showing that German research into uranium went further than we’d thought up till now, but there was not a German atom bomb,” he added.

It has also been pointed out that the United States employed thousands of scientists and invested billions of dollars in the Manhattan Project, while Germany’s “dirty bomb” was allegedly the work of a few dozen top scientists who wanted to change the course of the war.

Karlsch himself acknowledged that he lacked absolute proof for his claims, and said he hoped his book would provoke further research.

But in a press statement for the book launch, he is defiant.

“It’s clear there was no master plan for developing atom bombs. But it’s also clear the Germans were the first to make atomic energy useable, and that at the end of this development was a successful test of a tactical nuclear weapon.”

In my mind, the idea that something like this could remain undercover for more than half a century gives me pause. Plus, some measurable fallout should remain in the Thuringia region to this day. I’m not sure what the alternative explanation could be, though (assuming the eyewitness accounts are accurate).

What if Hitler had the use of an arsenal of tactical bombs, even a few months earlier? The Nazis probably couldn’t have won — it was far too late by 1944 for the outcome to have changed — but they could have done considerable damage on the way out:

- A desperate elimination bombing of concentration camps, both to destroy evidence of the Holocaust and to provide a true “Final Solution”;

- Indiscriminate targeting of advancing Allied troops, more for terror purposes than to turn the tide;

- Mounting of a few warheads onto remaining V-2 rockets, and launching them toward London, Paris and Moscow — a last-gasp bid to freeze the Allies’ momentum.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/19/2005 08:21:37 PM
Category: Science, History | Permalink | Feedback (1)

As long as the iPod is spawning so many cottage industries, Apple figures it might as well get a piece of the action. The “Made For iPod” label is being rolled out to signify an Apple-approved accessory for the digital music player, and third-party producers will have to cough up 10 percent of the wholesale price to slap that badge onto their wares.

This can be looked at as a sinister move by Steve Jobs & Co. — an attempt to control as many facets of the iPod market as possible. Especially in the computer industry, where interchangeable legacy-free parts are considered the ideal (despite the rampant “Made for Windows” hardware out there), this is seen as one more proprietary move by a company that’s based its entire Mac line around that strategy.

It’s not really much of a bullying move. Apple’s not trying to prevent other companies from cranking out iPod holders, speakers and such. But they are trying to redirect sales toward a more select group, and at the same time (in theory) providing some quality assurance. It also helps Apple by indirectly outsourcing any accessory manufacturing they might have been compelled to undertake.

No word on if the $250 Louis Vuitton iPod case will be sporting a “Made For iPod” tag.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/19/2005 07:34:05 PM
Category: Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback (1)

game over
What must those aliens be thinking? The above digital image was sent out into space during the dedication of the Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest radio telescope, way back in 1974. No return message has been received, although since the target is tens of thousands of lightyears away, we shouldn’t be expecting one for a while yet.

Here’s how to interpret this pixelated piece:

[F]rom left to right are numbers from one to ten, atoms including hydrogen and carbon, some interesting molecules, DNA, a human with description, basics of our Solar System, and basics of the sending telescope.

I’m looking at it, and I’m thinking it’s an early prototype for Robotron: 2084.

Still, considering it’s from 1974, it could have been a lot worse: They could have sent a Pong lookalike hurtling through the universe.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/19/2005 07:03:14 PM
Category: Videogames, Science | Permalink | Feedback (1)