Episode #27: Atomic Train

In this episode, we took the midnight train going anywhere… far away from the bad TV mini-series, Atomic Train (1999). Could a dangerous Russian nuke end up on a runaway U.S. train? What would a major city like Denver do to evacuate after a nuclear detonation? How can a movie with a runaway train, nukes, hazardous chemicals, Rob Lowe, and 50+ helicopters be so boring? Tim Westmyer, Gabe, and special guest Elliot answer these questions and more.

This was a fun episode to record but a really tough movie to watch. If you are brave enough, it can be found on YouTube (for now at least): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV_fkGZGhk0

Before the atomic train conductor yelled “all aboard,” we recommend checking out:

Threads (1984 TV movie) and Special Bulletin (1983 TV movie)

The Stand (1994 TV mini-series)

-Michael Krepon, “Moving from MAD to Cooperative Threat Reduction,” Stimson Center, December 2001, https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/93680/Report41.pdf

Unstoppable (2010 movie)

 

Low-Yield Hot Take: Ant Man, the Wasp, and an ICBM

I really liked Ant Man and the Wasp, but the movie continues the flashback scenes showing the original Ant Man and Wasp riding a nuclear ICBM that travels through the air like a cruise missile and not through space like an ICBM.

I love the Dr. StrangeLove joke but come on, Marvel!

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Episode #25: Blue Sky & Nuclear Test Site Visit

In this episode, we did some atomic tourism, first to the Nuclear Test Site and then on the emotional journey that is the 1994 melodrama, Blue Sky. How does a mild mannered nuclear test site scientist navigate radioactive cover-ups and family crises? What was it like visiting the former nuclear test site in Nevada? How do you convince your friends it would be more fun to record a podcast in a hotel room than to wander the Las Vegas Strip? Tim Westmyer and special guest Clark answer these questions and more.

This episode was a lot of fun. Tim and his old college roommate/policy debate partner Clark recorded inside a Las Vegas hotel room after visiting the Nevada National Security Site, the swarth of dessert formerly known as the Nuclear Test Site. The public tour requires you to sign up almost a year in advance, so this episode was a long time coming.

Here is a photo of the group in front of the Sedan crater (a “peaceful” nuclear explosion as part of tests showing whether nukes could be used in civilian construction projects) and the Atomic Testing Museum. Tim is front and center in his proud Lakers/Dodgers combo hat.

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Visit our resources page to see what other stuff we recommend checking out and some of the background information that went into the show.

Low-Yield Hot Take: Blade Runner’s Nuclear Plot Lost Like Tears in Fallout

1280_ryan_gosling_blade_runner_2049In Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, that forms the basis of the 1982 movie, a nuclear “World War Terminus” was responsible for post-apocalyptic San Francisco.

This is the reason why most animals are dead and humans use bioengineering and cloning to create artificial animals like snakes and robot cats. Radiation and nuclear war is also a motivation for people to move off-world (that and the fact each person who does gets their own replicant butler).

The 1982 movie doesn’t mention nuclear war as far as I can tell, but these plot devices of off-world colonies and artificial animals remain as holder overs. When I watch Blade Runner 2049 tomorrow at theNational Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution IMAX theater, I will keep an eye out for nuclear plot points.

Death Stars: The Ultimate WMD

 

I (Tim) wrote an article for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (the keepers of the Doomsday Clock!) about the appropriation of nuclear weapon imagery and themes in Rogue One and Star Wars. I am talking about the Death Star, of course.

Here is a highlight:

The central plot of Rogue One involves our heroes stealing the blueprints to a new secret weapon of the evil Galactic Empire: the Death Star, a moon-sized, space-based battle station equipped with a laser capable of destroying an entire planet in a single stroke. There is hope that the plans could hold the key to finding a weakness in the station that could be exploited by the Rebellion to start a “chain reaction” and put an end to the weapon.

The Death Star, in Star Wars generally and particularly in Rogue One, serves as a stand-in for the nuclear weapons arsenal with all the accompanying nuclear imagery, deterrence theory, and dangers shown to the audience. Rogue One deploys the Death Star as a visual, technical, and thematic stand-in for thermonuclear weapons.

To read the full article, click here. Joel and I also did a podcast episode on this idea, which you can listen to by clicking here or on iTunes, GooglePlay Music, etc. Enjoy!