I picked up this amazing thrift store find at Goodwill over the weekend. We’ve got a lot of science books already, but figured this one would be great for cutting up into various art projects. Little did I know what a gem I’d come across.
It was written by John Paton and published in 1985, my 1st year of highschool. Most of the science inside is sound,(actually, that’s not true) with the writing drastically condensed. Our entire solar system is covered on pages 10-11, not counting the half page illustrations. Paton does get the important information covered- “never look at the sun with naked eye, telescope or binoculars”. Sadly the paragraph devoted to Pluto is wasted space now. Knowing then, that space about space is a premium, it is interesting to see some of the things Paton did include, things I don’t ever remember in freshman astronomy…
“The Moon has many of the valuable minerals that are becoming scarcer and scarcer on Earth. Perhaps in years to come the Moon’s minerals will be mined and transported as in the picture below. Lunar gravity is only one-sixth of Earth’s so it is much easier to shoot things off its surface into space. The minerals could be put into huge buckets and fired off a track by magnetic waves. This mechanism is called a mass driver. Out in space, the minerals could be ‘caught’ by a space tug and taken to wherever they are needed”.
OK, last I checked the earth wasn’t too hard up for iron, aluminum or silicon, I’m wondering just which scarce minerals Paton is imagining us suiting up for- unless he was still living under that popular 1985 belief that the moon was made of cheese. The illustrations are 1st rate though…
At first I thought that perhaps the book’s editor, Michael Dempsey had hired the illustrators prior to the writer and Paton was running from punt position based on the excellent sci-fi material handed to him. If that was truly the case there should have been more pictures of scantily clad space vixens with ray guns and tin foil mini skirts. A quick Wikipedia surf on “mass drivers” led me to a much stranger and subversive discovery.
These propulsion units are basically electromagnetic catapults which would be used as a primary “non-rocket based” acceleration systems to get you out of orbit. You would probably also need some type of supplementary electric system, and could possibly agument with nuclear reactors.
The mass drivers were conceived by Gerard K. O’Neil, a Princeton university professor who strongly advocated for human colonization of outer space as soon as possible. O’Neil did some great and important work in particle physics- and this truly merited success may have made him a bit cocky. After retiring from teaching he founded the Space Studies Institute and put some serious thought into the whole cities in space concept- His new frontiers; “Island Three” and another popular space colony system the “Torus Colony” happen to be covered in depth on pages 18 and 19 of “The Children’s 1st Encyclopedia”.
I didn’t know there was such a thing as sci-fi propaganda, but I do believe I’ve got a hold of some now, and it should probably be worth something. I’m loath to put it up on Ebay, lest the buyer not fully appreciate the techno weirdness they got their mitts on.
It is important to note that while this is a “science” encyclopedia, there is a scant one page devoted to chemistry and if you’re looking for the periodic table, you’d best be grabbing another book.
While I tend to be drawn into the whole “let’s make babies in space” scenario, I found the section on Atomic Energy even more endearing. The five paragraphs, excluding sidebar, went into a very convoluted explanation of nuclear fusion. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it- What I found most fantastic about this section wasn’t the pleasing factoids, but again the amazing illustrations: crazy large solar panels next to a giant power station in an area which looks suspiciously like Shiprock NM. I’m just not sure the Navajo nation is going to sign off on this one. Aside from the area being one of their most significant religious and historical sites, the tribe wouldn’t be eligible to get tax incentives for the renewable energy development due to their federal tax exempt status. Seriously, why go green (or atomic green, like in the picture) if you can’t catch a break.
So now what to do with the book, I’m sure there is a fantastic craft opportunity waiting to happen, I’ll just need to read a little deeper and for the time being, put down the scissors.