The Doomsday Machine

The classic Kubrick movie, Dr. Strangelove, was released in 1964. The film met with international critical acclaim, so you would think it would have been prior art in the minds of British patent examiners in 1974, when prolific inventor A. P. Pedrick received his patent on the Earth Orbital Bombs as Nuclear Deterents [sic]:

GB 1361962, FIG. 2

The thought process is pretty standard. Upon detection of gamma radiation from the Earth below, satellites drop nukes on Washington, Beijing, and Moscow. Along the way, there are significant digressions into shoddy physics, for example suggesting that a neutron beam could be used to cause “complete disintegration” of atoms and providing an alternate interpretation of photons:

If we see the photon as a little cylinder in the surface of which tiny gravitation particles trace out a sinusoidal double-helix it at once makes a difference if the photons are not moving along exactly the same lines of movement, as the gravitons will be caused to pass round and through, or orbit round and reflect back from regularly spaced nuclei in the surface atoms, according to the exact positions at which they reach the glass surface.

GB 1361962, p. 6, lns 90-100
Pleasant nonsense

Other than his bizarre pet theories and his dissatisfaction with modern physics, the inventor finds his motivation for this doomsday device in a strange place. He doesn’t focus on the idea of creating a nuclear deterrent, since by the ’70s we were already in a state of mutually assured destruction. His focus was on replacing the existing deterrent, so that the nuclear materials of existing bombs could be repurposed.

This invention is concerned with means for meeting the Worlds so called “energy-crisis”, and, in particular, the provision of a system of orbital nuclear bombs whereby distrust be- tween nations may be removed to the extent that they can release the deuterium and tritium in their stored nuclear bombs to allow it to be used for peaceful purposes…

GB 1361962, p. 1, lns 8-15

I’m not sure why he thought that deuterium and tritium were all that hard to come by, or that by reclaiming the amount used in bombs would make a difference to world energy production. For a person like Arthur Pedrick, the facts never get in the way of vision.

GB 1361962, FIG. 4

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