May 18, 2012
Chemical warfare is nothing new. As early as 428 BC the Spartans were burning wood soaked in resin and sulfur for use against their enemies. And the First World War is often remembered for its horrific deaths due to mustard gas. But the mid-20th century ushered in a new futuristic chemical weapon: LSD.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (peyote), and psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms) were all seen as possible contenders for non-lethal weapons of the future; sprayed on an unsuspecting army or civilian population and making them vulnerable to invasion.
An Associated Press story from the September 6, 1959 Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa warned that the nuclear stalemate with the Soviet Union might prompt the Russians to develop chemicals that could be used against the United States. Americans scientists were said to have developed their own weapons to counter-attack.
Working in deep secrecy, U.S. scientists almost overnight have developed an arsenal of fantastic new weapons, variously known as psycho-chemicals and “madness” gases, which could virtually paralyze an enemy nation without firing a shot.
Interestingly, the article doesn’t name the chemicals, instead calling them “madness gases” or surgical anesthetics:
By way of definition, chemical warfare embraces the use of such compounds as the psycho-chemicals to create hallucinations in the enemy’s mind or the deadly nerve gases and other toxic substances to kill.
Some of the new chemicals act much faster than ether, the anesthetic used to put surgical patients to sleep, and have an effect lasting 24 to 48 hours. One means of dispersal is a newly developed “smoke ginny” with which 2 men can lay a blanket of chemical fog over an area 5 miles long and 200 yards wide.
The February 28, 1960 edition of the Sunday comic strip “Closer Than We Think” by Arthur Radebaugh pulled this idea from the headlines and illustrated it in the picture above. The strip quotes Lt. Gen Arthur Trudeau from the U.S. Army as warning that the Soviets are developing weaponized versions of “psycho-chemicals” and that the U.S. should follow suit:
New nerve drugs may be used to immobilize whole cities or battle areas in tomorrow’s warfare. The Chemical Corps knows about a complete arsenal of “nerve gases” that can make fighting men and embattled citizenry as happy and peaceable as kids playing tag.
Lt. Gen. Arthur Trudeau, chief of Army research and development, is worried about possible attacks with these drugs. He fears the United States might become a victim. “The Soviet [Union] has 15% of its munitions in chemicals,” he said. “I think psycho-chemicals are the coming weapon — we are missing out if we don’t capitalize on them.”
The 1981 children’s book World of Tomorrow: War and Weapons by Neil Ardley also illustrated what a psycho-chemical attack might look like, with soldiers believing they’re being hunted by giant flying pterodactyl-like creatures:
This isn’t a scene from a science fiction story in which flying monsters take over the world. It is a view of a future battle as seen through the eyes of a defending soldier. He and his fellow troops reel back as invading aircraft fire shells containing chemicals. The chemicals are drugs that produce dream-like reactions or hallucinations in people. The soldiers see the aircraft turning into flying monsters and the buildings bend over, and they flee in terror. Invading forces protected from the effects of the drugs will soon arrive easily take over the city.
May 15, 2012
The Kids’ Whole Future Catalog touted itself as “a book about your future.” This 1982 book promised kids a peek into a coming era of automatic language translators, cities floating on the ocean and robot teachers. It also told kids about the kinds of jobs they’d have 30 years into the future. Well, 30 years have passed and it seems like as good a time as any to look back at their predictions.
Some of the predictions about which jobs would become obsolete are remarkably prescient. One of the predictions involves travel agents and stockbrokers, who are predicted to become scarce thanks to the home computer which allows people to make their own airline reservations and check stock prices. There’s even a prediction about jobs at the post office disappearing, as more and more people send mail through the computer.
What kind of job will you be working at 30 years from now? Do you expect to be programming computers or delivering mail? Can you imagine yourself as a stockbroker or a travel agent? Don’t be surprised if you end up in a totally different kind of career than the one you’re thinking of right now. In 30 years, some of today’s jobs may no longer exist. The computer will eliminate many of them. As more and more people send mail by computer, jobs at the post office will disappear. Stockbrokers’ and travel agents’ jobs may also become scarce. Instead of calling these experts, people will use their own home computers to check stock prices and make airline reservations. Today, computer programmers are in great demand, but in 30 years, they might not be. By then, many computers will be able to program themselves.
But don’t worry about find a future career. Although some kinds of work will no longer be available, new job opportunities will open up— in space industries, genetic engineering, undersea mining—maybe even robot psychology! Thirty years from now, you may be working at a job we can’t even imagine today.
Of all the job listings, one in particular stuck out to me. The “history research position” pretty accurately sums up my current occupation:
HISTORY RESEARCH POSITION AVAILABLE. Are you interested in what written communication was like back in the 20th century? Extensive computer work involved. Weekly reassignment, flexhours, and personally tailored workload. Zip your resume to WHATWAS CORP., 4V19*D458S
Another possible occupation of the future was a “genetic engineer” who would work on breeding animals that could survive in space. I’m not sure what a “girax” is. Any guesses?
GENETIC ENGINEER WANTED to develop space-sturdy strains of cows, goats, and giraxes. High zero-g tolerance, degree in animal genetics required; training in trans-species communication desirable. Top salary. Reply to SPECIAL SPECIES CONGLOMERATE, R20*H520##
The space theme continued with more listings for jobs in space, even with a new version of the cruise ship comedian: the space colony actor.
ACTORS/ACTRESSES. Be a star among the stars! Sing and dance on stages throughout the galaxy! The UP AND AWAY THEATER has bookings at Moon Base II and all the major space colonies. Zip your video tape to Minerva White, Director. 46X8N06*
IS EARTH GETTING TOO CROWDED FOR YOU? New Frontiers, Inc. is currently listing thousands of job opportunities in space. Registration information from TY**039##4
SHUTTLE PILOTS. Universal Airlines need experienced shuttle pilots for its regularly scheduled weekend flights between Earth and the moon. All positions involve job-sharing. If you have logged a minimum of 1,000 hours in space and are looking for a steady, secure position, zip your resume to *47WXH7824
CHEFS needed for space hotel. To specialize in insect cookery. Top salary plus time-in-space bonus pay. Free transportation to and from Earth. Zip your resume to Earth Headquarters, SPACE-OUT INNS, J207*1P26V
It was fairly common for Americans of the 20th century to expect that life expectancy would continue to climb indefinitely —and with good reason! Life expectancy in the year 1900 was just 49.2 years of age (47.9 for males, 50.7 for females), but by 1980 that number had climbed to 73.9 (70.1 for males, 77.6 for females). In 2012 that number is about 78.
CENTURIAN EMPLOYMENT COUNSELOR. Would you like to specialize in the employment needs of persons over 100? High-level job search skills necessary. Top pay, liberal time off benefits. Contact Lyn, CENTURY EMPLOYMENT, *193B8*G26
APPRENTICE HERBOLOGIST. Work with an experienced herbologist. Learn to prescribe herbal remedies for common diseases. Biology or botany degree desirable. Inquire UW480*2XN6
NASAL TECHNOLOGIST needed to develop and test mood-creating products for home and industrial use. Biochemistry degree with smell specialty required. Send resume to the NEW OL-FACTORY, INC. 41*WD570B60
Some of the jobs even included “your own personal robot”:
ROBOT RELATIONS. Interviewer needed to design or match personal robots to the needs and desires of human customers. Four years experience with robots, psychology degree, and high-level communication skills necessary. Your own personal robot included. Inquire MECHAN PALS INC., 5K2*1B8*NV2
PEACE ANALYSTS. We need two members for the Earth Food Distribution Committee. Varied cultural and dietary background required, plus creativity and communication skills.
FOAM HOME PHONE SALES. Do you transmit with style? Job involves computer chats with people all over the globe. We will train. Send video tape and resume to XANA-DOME, INC., K904022**5
May 3, 2012
In 1922, eccentric magazine publisher Hugo Gernsback decided that the world needed a 1,000-foot tall concrete monument to electricity. Gernsback imagined that this monument might last for thousands of years, and rather than some static behemoth stuck in time, the interior of his monument would be constantly changed to reflect the technological advances of each new generation.
Gernsback’s article in the October 1922 issue of Science and Invention magazine explained why electricity was worthy of a monument. Interestingly, he saw it as a message to future generations that even if our civilization should be wiped out by war or natural disasters, we were still able to accomplish something great at one time.
In connection with our editorial of this month, we show on this page a monument dedicated to the age in which we are living. Electricity, more than anything else, has made our present civilization what it is, and if this civilization should be wiped out by war or some other cataclysm, nothing would remain to tell what Electricity did for the race during the past century.
Before the Egyptians built their first pyramid they probably foresaw that unless they built something of a tremendous size it would not stand the ravages of man and Nature. Hence the size and form were chosen in such a way as to make it last for practically all time.
Gernsback explained that this monument would look like a gigantic electrical generator, 1,000 feet tall. By comparison, the Statue of Liberty is just 305 feet tall, and the Empire State Building (which was almost a decade away from being built in 1930) isn’t that much taller than the proposed monument, at just 1,250 feet if you don’t count its spire.
When we therefore propose to build a gigantic monument to Electricity, we have the same objects in mind. On some plateau we could erect an electrical generator, molded in concrete, 1,000 feet high. Molded of the finest concrete, such a monument would last for a thousand years. It would probably not be affected by the weather and the climate, and it is doubted whether it could be easily destroyed by any savage race that might come after us.
In the inside passages, along the walls, could be inscribed, in diagrams and otherwise, electrical fundamentals, from the first static machine down to the latest radio developments. As new inventions come about, these can be inscibed from year to year.
If the entire electrical industry would think well of such a plan, a monument of this kind could be built without taxing any one concern a great amount. It would be a lasting tribute to our race, and to the progress that is exemplified by Electricity.
Gernsback doesn’t suggest where such a monument might be built, but judging by the illustration, it could very well be in Smalltown, U.S.A. The illustration is by Frank R. Paul, who would help define the 1920s and ’30s pulp sci-fi era’s aesthetic. Four years later, in 1926, Gernsback began publishing Amazing Stories, the first magazine ever devoted solely to science fiction. Amazing Stories featured countless covers and story illustrations by Frank R. Paul, whose most famous illustration for the magazine appeared in 1927 for a reprint of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.