So I’ve been playing Fallout 4 for … hang on, lemme check … 48 hours, and I’ve already encountered three mad scientists1 – which makes me think that’s just the tip of the mad science iceberg.
It’s good to see Fallout 4 is really kicking up the weirdness, with both the mad science and the horror – between Dunwich, Pickman’s Gallery, and whatever awful thing is waiting for me at the Salem Museum of Withcraft, this is starting to look like some abominable hybrid of HP Lovecraft and Ed Wood, which, come to think, pretty much encapsulates all that is good in life.
After all, life in the Wasteland is hard enough:
mad science is the only way …
… hang on, epiphany time. I shall now proceed to speak cathedra ex gluteus, or, as they say, talk out my a – nyway,
I submit to the committee that true Mad Science – goggles, Alton Brown hair, crazed German accents – didn’t become a thing until after WWII.
I could look it up, I suppose, but between being called in to work this morning and the fact that it’s like -10 outside and I just want to hibernate until the thaw, I have been struggling to get this blog written all damn day, so I’m just gonna go with it.
It’s no coincidence, although I spent an hour today and couldn’t find the link, that UFO sightings correlate almost 1-to-1 with secret military bases, and that UFO sightings didn’t really become a phenomenon until after the Trinity Atomic Bomb test.
I think UFOs are a sublimation of our real fears, and a symbolism of that fear – after 1945, we had cause to fear things in the sky.
(Also, of course, most UFOs are just secret test aircraft, Venus, swamp gas – yada yada. But secret aircraft themselves are a manifestation of the Cold War, so the thesis still stands.)
The use of nuclear weapons was a watershed moment in human psychology. Not only did we now have the power to destroy the planet, but that power was vested in a small group of select individuals: soldiers and scientists. Anyone with a little training can grasp at least the rudimentary aspects of a gun, or even a bomb, and every guy thinks he could secretly be Chuck Norris if he really had to – gods know I’ve seen enough of them on Friday nights at the casino.
But nuclear physics is another story. Nothing about nuclear weapons2 can be intuitively understood, and even nuclear physicists will cheerfully admit it doesn’t make sense to them half the time.
When we look at images of the 1950s with our modern eyes, we see the innocence of a childhood too young to understand what’s happening. I wonder how much of that is reality, and how much is our perception? Or, to put it another way, how much were they truly ignorant of what was happening in their world? This was a generation that went from WWII to Korea to Vietnam, from victory to defeat, all the while living with doomsday hovering over their collective heads. No wonder Levittown rose from that era – it was a generation-wide case of shell shock.
And like Cthulhu plushies or Santa Claus3, we deal with fear by making it funny. Humor is the best weapon we have against the ultimate indignity of death. Also, it’s easier to demonize this guy:
than it is to realize that the people who gave us the bomb were people, with wives and children clutching teddy bears, and that they weighed the cost of their war and found the price worth paying. Because if they could do it – the best of us – what does that mean about ourselves?
Some links of interest:
The National Atomic Testing Museum – I suppose there are other things to do in Las Vegas, but why? Be sure to check out their Area 51 exhibit.
The Los Alamos Historical Society – the ranch house where the first nuclear scientists were housed at the beginning of the Manhattan Project.
Roswell, NM – just because. And also it’s a really, really nice town, and everyone should visit.
Bert the Civil Defense Turtle – historical irony at its campy best.
- Well, two mad scientists and one homicidal doctor, but a maniac with a scalpel and an Alton Brown haircut is mad science enough for me
- I am trying hard to not say “atom bomb” because ALL bombs are made out of atoms, and they all rearrange atoms. A fission, fusion, or multi-stage nuclear weapons alters the atoms themselves.
- That’s another blog post.