All posts by gcharleboix

So after skimming through The Giant’s Shoulders #72 I found nothing particularly interesting, however, I did find something sort of interesting in the 35th one.

Near the very start of the class we discussed how, in the past, scientific debate consisted mostly of ridicule, and this site has an example of this; an entire book ridiculing Athanasius Kircher and other predecessors of Newton.

Hot, Crowded Earth: Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel “Make Room! Make Room!”

I chose to read Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! because I find its dystopian view of population growth and the impact of human activities on the world rather interesting, and indeed somewhat depressing. I think the book is relevent to this class Make_Room!_Make_Room!because we’ve been talking about Malthusianism and about global warming and environmental harm, and this book shows one possible outcome if we aren’t careful about how we live our lives on this planet. It also details the society born from a dense, resource-deprived population, which isn’t really an example of Social Darwinism, but perhaps a look into psychology, which we’ve only briefly touched on.


About the Author:
Harry Harrison was born on March 12th, 1925, in the town of Stamford, Connecticut. He eventually made his way to New York City, 3_Harry Harrisonspecifically Queens, where he grew up.(1) After getting out of high school, he was drafted into the military where he “worked on secret military computers, as an armourer and gunnery instructor, and finally – promoted to sergeant – became a Military Policeman”.(2) His service left him with a hatred for the military and war.
In one interview, Harrison said he was inspired to write the book from reading a number of scientific journals, and doing a bit of research on his own about population growth and resources.(3) In another, he says this: “The idea came from an Indian I met after the war, in 1946. He told me, ‘Overpopulation is the big problem coming up in the world’ (nobody had ever heard of it in those days) and he said ‘Want to make a lot of money, Harry? You have to import rubber contraceptives to India.’”(4) The setting of the book is in 1999 because it was still fairly close to the time in which he wrote the book, enough so that it was believable. One of the characters in the book, Soloman Kahn, had a birthdate and military life similar to Harrison’s, but the character was not meant to be a reflection of him.


Book Summary:
The book takes place in a dystopian future in New York City, year 1999. In this future, the world population has skyrocketed, resources are scarce, and the world is heavily polluted and hot, with little water make_room_make_room.largeto go around.
The story starts off from the viewpoint of a police investigator, Andy Rusch. It chronicles his day beating back the crowd in the streets, and breaking up a stampede on a store that had a sale on “soylent steaks”, which are rare and highly sought after among the poor. Once that is broken up we got to the point-of-view of a kid named Billy Chung, who managed to make off with a box of soylent steaks in the confusion. After he finds a place to hide and eats his share of them, he decides to sell the rest so that he can pay his way into a job delivering telegrams.
It is during Billy’s first delivery that we meet another couple of important characters in the story, Michael O’Brien, and his girlfriend, Shirl Greene. These two live among the rich in a closed-off community, and it is when Billy goes in and notices much of the security is disabled that he gets the idea to rob the place.
The robbery goes wrong when Mr. O’Brien walks in on Billy searching through a jewelry box, and attacks. Billy fights back by striking O’Brien across the head with the tire iron he used to break in, and the blow ends up killing O’Brien. It is O’Brien’s death that sets the stage for the rest of the book.

Andy gets stuck with the task of investigating O’Brien’s death, and during the investigation, he developes a relationship with O’Brien’s “girlfriend” (really, something similar to a concubine, the prettier women were bought and sold like furniture), Shirl Greene. Since Greene has no place to go and has a contract permitting her to continue living in O’Brien’s suite until the contract ends, the two end up living together in opulence for a month.

After the month is up, Shirl moves in with Andy and his roommate, Soloman Kahn, much to Shirl’s dismay since she had gotten used to a life of luxury. Andy remains obsessed with solving the murder case and hunting down Billy Chung, while his roommate Soloman becomes involved in protests against the overturning of a bill to implement population control by limiting birth rates. Soloman eventually grows sick from the stress and dies, and after he does, an entire family moves in to replace him, which gets on both Shirl and Andy’s nerves, and Shirl leaves and goes back into her life as a concubine. Andy eventually hunts Billy down and accidentally kills him, causing him to get demoted, and the book ends with the US population hitting a record high 344 million citizens at the century’s end.(5)

Comparison with Movie:
Make Room! Make Room! was adapted into the movie Soylent GreenSoylent_green, which came out in 1973. The movie parallels the book pretty closely, just with different names for the characters, the murder victim being changed from a malicious businessman in the book to a kind soul in the movie, and a twist ending in the movie. Whereas the book has a rather unexciting ending, the movie leads on to the investigator doing some research about the victim’s past associations, finds he was associated with the company that makes Soylent products, and goes to investigate the company. He finds out a rather gruesome fact: Human corpses are used to make their Soylent Green product, and the movie just ends with him screaming “Soylent Green is people!” while being carried off.


Science behind the book and why it’s relevent:
While it is obvious at this point that the future chronicled in the book hasn’t come to pass and probably won’t for quite some time if it ever does happen, there are some things documented in the book that either are currently happening, or have some basis in scientific research and Malthusianism stating how those things could happen.

I’ll first talk about something we aren’t really seeing, and that is this idea that the population explodes to the point of their not being enough room and nowhere near enough resources for everyone. We have discussed a few times in class the concept of Malthusianism, a concept first proposed by Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, which basically states that population growth is exponential, whereas the availability of resources is arithmetical, meaning that at some point population growth exceeds the availability of resources and the population begins to die off until it reaches sustainable levels again.

While it is certainly true that the population is growing at an exponential rate, that rate has steadily been decreasing in recent years, as we can clearly see in our handy graph from the US Census Bureau:


The book also mentions the idea of trying to limit population growth through government policy, which I think is again linked back to Malthusianism, in that it is assumed that reducing the population will restore the balance of resources to population size so there are enough to go around. It just so happens this is exactly what China has been doing in the real world for quite some time with its one-child policy, since China too struggles to get enough resources to feed its population. Since this policy has been enforced since around 1980, we can already see some of its effects: Because of chinese cultural preference for males, there is now a higher percentage of males in china than in the rest of the world; the ratio of males to females was at 1.17 as of 2001, compared to a ratio of 1.03 to 1.07 for the rest of the industrialized world. A particularly concerning consequence however, is that the average age of chinese citizens is going up since they aren’t having enough children to replace themselves, and this ever-increasing group of older citizens needs the smaller group of younger citizens to support it, which places a huge burden on the young.(6) China still has problems with food supply and, particularly, water supply despite the policy.(7)Water-Pollution-in-China


I’d also like to discuss the psychological effect living in a huge population can have, although I don’t think it really pertains to anything we’ve discussed in class, except perhaps to a very small extent, Social Darwinism. In the book, we see the population riddled with crime, with a low value on human life, and with heavy segregation of the rich from the poor (they literally walled themselves in). A long time ago, I found an interesting video describing a study done by Dr. John B. Calhoun on a population of mice. They were placed in a “utopian” environment, where they had no natural predators, and unlimited access to food and water, and were just allowed to grow in population size boundlessly.

In the beginning, everything goes as expected in the experiment: the mice define their territorial boundaries and begin to reproduce at an exponential rate. However, after a while, the crowded mice began to fight constantly, and population began to level off, and different classes of mice began to develop. There were certain mice who always got into fights, who had chewed-up tails and tended not to live very long. There were mice that were always picked on. Then there were “the beautiful ones”, which were physically perfect, but had withdrawn from society and spent their time eating and grooming rather than breeding and interacting with other mice. Eventually, the society becomes completely dysfunctional, and the population plummets until eventually dies off completely.

Calhoun suggests that this is an example of what will eventually happen to human society if we keep on breeding without bound, in fact, we could already be in the middle of it, with our declining population growth.(8)000


The book doesn’t explicitly single out the topic of global warming, but it is sort of implied that it has happened in the book’s fictional world. In the book, we see extremely high temperatures, even in August, which would seem to suggest some sort of global warming has taken place. This is one of the things from the book that we can actually see happening in real life, albeit not (yet) to the extent described in the book.  Before the book was written, even, we already had the dust bowl, where we outstripped our land’s resources and suffered from it.


We learned in class that the possibility of global warming due to our CO2 emissions has been known about since 1896 when Svante Arrhenius first realized it, and it is likely that Harrison was familiar with the idea as well, especially considering that the President Lyndon Johnson had spoken about the issue the year before the book was first published. Also, by the late 80’s at least, we knew that climate change is taking place, and by now we have quite a bit of data on it, so 1999 was a pretty reasonable date for the book’s setting in that regard.(9)


I think that, although the book was way off on its description of world population and climate from the actuality of the world in 1999, it still hits close to home on a couple of points. It accurately assessed that the world would heat up, the violence and mob mentality in the book is reflected to some extent in experiments on animal populations, and the measure of population control has already been implemented in China at least, even though the world’s population is on the decline and it really doesn’t seem to be necessary at this point. I think, if we were to go along the road to limitless population growth and limitless consumption, the story could very well become a reality.


Works Cited:

  1. Tomlinson, Paul. “Harry Harrison – A Brief Biography,” 2009.
  2. ———. “Who Is Harry Harrison?,” July 1999.
  3. Harry Harrison Interview. Interview by Paul Tomlinson, 1985.
  4. “Harry Harrison: When the World Was Young.” Locus Magazine, March 2006.
  5. Harrison, Harry. Make Room! Make Room! New York: Orb, 2008.
  6. Hesketh, Therese, Li Lu, and Zhu Wei Xing. The Effect of China’s One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years. Health Policy Report. The New England Journal of Medicine, September 15, 2005.
  7. Jun, Ma, and Naomi Li. “Tackling China’s Water Crisis Online,” September 21, 2006.
  8. Calhoun, John. Population Density and Social Pathology. National Institute of Mental Health, November 1970.
  9. “Climate Research Unit: Data,” n.d.


Make Room! Make Room!

Make_Room!_Make_Room!I chose to read Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room!, primarily because it hits close to home with my fear and hatred of crowded places, but also because I think the book is quite relevent to our recent discussion of global warming, human consumption,  and environmental change.

The author, Harry Harrison, was born in Stanford Connecticut in 1925, and died on August 15, 2012 at the age of 87.  He was drafted into the military at the age of 18, where he Soylent_greenworked with secret military computers, as an armourer and gunnery instructor, and as a sergeant and military policeman.  His experience in the military left him with a hatred for war and the military in general.  Harrison got his inspiration for the book from reading scientific journals about the threat of overpopulation and through his own research on the topic, and the book itself later served as inspiration for the 1973 film Soylent Green.

The book takes place in a dystopian (what was then) future, in the year 1999, in New York City.  In the book, the characters live in a hot, barren, crowded and poisoned earth created as a result of human consumption and an unchecked population growth.  The poor mostly live out on the streets, or if they’re very lucky, in crowded tiny apartments197kzsc3pjkfqjpg - Fun fact, the original source of this image is impossible to track down. that are poorly maintained and falling apart.  They get only a limited, unreliable electrical supply during the day, which shuts off at night.  Since is not enough farm land to grow enough food for everyone, and not enough jobs to go around to pay for it even if there was, they get rationed out food and water from the government as welfare, the food mostly being either seaweed, plankton, or small fish which is either canned, pressed into crackers, or pressed into “steaks”, the latter of which is rare and highly sought after among the poor.

The rich, on the other hand, lived in a walled-up community, have limitless electrical power, and expensive but still not really limited amounts of water.  They even have access to actual meat, vegetables, and even beer and whiskey, albeit in highly expensive and limited amounts.

The increased population seemed to decrease the value of human life, crime was incredibly rampant, especially murders, burglaries and prostitution, most of which cases the police don’t even bother to investigate, and the prettier women were basically used as accessories for rich men.

Regarding the economics of the situation, it is interesting to note that the value of currency has deflated rather than inflated, to a point where $20 can show you who are the have’s and the have-not’s (of course, resources like meat are still at inflated price due to scarcity). Presumably this is a product of a shrinking economy as more space is allocated to residential use and less to industry/farmland; there would be no point in printing more money because the limited resources simply can’t be spread any thinner.  It suggests industry had become so productive that it destroyed itself from the products of its production (which polluted the earth and caused massive population growth), which is somewhat similar to Dust_Bowl_-_Dallas,_South_Dakota_1936what environmentalists are saying will happen to our fossil fuel industry, and what did happen to our farming industry back during the dust bowl.


Black Rain



Looking at the history war on our planet, World War II was the most deadly war. Historians have estimated that 50-70 million people around the world were killed, including 30 million civilians (World War 2 Of those many civilian casualties, an estimated 150,000 were attributable of the atomic bomb, known as “Little Boy,” dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 (World War 2

Hiroshima is the backdrop of Masuji Ibuse’s novel Black Rain, a fictionalized account of a family who survived the initial blast and is now facing both physical and social complications from the fallout. Ibuse was born in Japan in 1898 and died in 1993 having written over 40 books and poetry including his most famous Black Rain (Kuroi Ame) in 1969 ( Though Ibuse was not in the city of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped, he used first hand accounts and survivors diaries to write the book. He was awarded an Order of Cultural Merit, which according to his Wikipedia page is “the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Japanese author,” (

Though Ibuse’s Black Rain deals with the bombing and the immediate aftermath of it, it is important to look into the decision why President Harry Truman made the decision to drop the bomb. During the global depression of the 1930s, the Japanese realized they were unable to be self-sustaining without oil and other valuable natural resources. To find a solution to this, they looked outwardly to China and other pacific locations to conquer and obtain these resources. After years of fighting in the pacific, the Japanese decided to declare war on America after President F.D. Roosevelt put into place an oil embargo in July 1941 when Japan would not remove their troops from French Indochina and China (History Channel). Soon, the other allied countries followed in kind. The war declaration came with the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941. This action put the United States into war with the axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan).

After the Allied powers fought off the Germans successfully with the D-Day invasions in June 1944 and other hard fought battles, Germany finally surrendered on May 8, 1945 (World War 2 With the war in Europe over, the US and the other allied countries were then able to focus their militaries on the fight with Japan. During the Potsdam Declaration on July 27, 1945 the US asked for complete and unconditional surrender, but the Japanese who had been fighting a war since their 1937 invasion of China, would not agree to the terms (

The United States and it’s allies battled Japan and with the successful invasion of the Marshall Islands in 1944, the US was able to finally defeat the majority of the Japanese fleet by years end. The invasion of the Japan came in 1945 with battles in Okinawa, but Japan would not stop fighting. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito even gave an official imperial order telling civilians to commit suicide instead of being taken prisoner by the invading troops (Hirohito’s Wikipedia).

After the surrender refusal, the US had successfully tested the atomic weapon trinity and the decision to hit the Japanese mainland was decided. Hiroshima was seen as a great military city for the Japanese and it’s wartime population was over 200, 000 people. This bomb and the follow-up atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9 drove the Japanese to surrender on August 14, 1945.

Book Summary

In Ibuse’s book Black Rain, he discusses both the day of the Hiroshima bombing and its the aftermath. It is organized such that the majority of the book contains journal entries primarily from the central family characters and then various other people caught in the bombing. These stories are tied together by a basic plotline that takes place nearly five years after the bomb


The main character is named Shigematsu Shizuma, who has been copying down these journal entries, initially as a way to try to prove his niece, Yasuko Takamaru, hadn’t been in contact with the radiation of Hiroshima enough to get any sickness from it. It was important to prove this because they wanted to get Yasuko married off before she was too old, and the family hopes the journal will disprove a rumor which was spreading around the town that she had been affected by the radiation sickness. Later on, Shigematsu intends to turn his collection of journal entries into a historical work, entitled “Journal of the Bombing.”

The journal entries start out with Yasuko’s account, which takes place on the day of the bombing. Yasuko was in Hiroshima, but outside the bomb’s main heat radius, where she saw the flash of the bomb and the smoke arising from it. It was that night that she got covered in the “black rain” while on a boat, and found that the substance seemed to permanently stain anything it touches, including her skin.

Most of the rest of the story consists of Shigematsu’s account. He starts off at Yokogawa Station, which was closer to explosion center, and the bomb caught him and burned his face. After the initial shock from the blast, he regains his composure and decides to leave Hiroshima. He initially heads off to find his wife, Shigeko, and niece, Yasuko, so they could then together board a train at the Yamamoto Station, so he could return to Furuichi Works. The Furuichi Works was a textile company where he worked.

On their way out of town, the family must suffer through extensive heat and radiation-laced smoke during their journey, as well as witnessing and tripping over badly burned, dead bodies. Shigematsu presumes it is at this time when Yasuko hurts her elbow and acquires the radioactive contaminant that leads to her sickness.

Shortly after they arrive at the Furuichi Works, and Shigematsu has his rest, his first tasks were to act in place of a priest, reciting funeral hymns over bodies that were to be burned on a riverbed near by. After that, he had the task of exploring Hiroshima and trying to obtain coal for the factory, which was in short supply and not likely to be shipped in soon due to bureaucracy requiring a meeting before the decision to do so was made.

The book goes into extensive detail about the dead and injured in Hiroshima. It frequently notes dead bodies floating in streams, alongside dead fish that had inflated and been killed by their own swollen air bladders constricting their organs after the blast. It talked often about the burn injuries, where in most cases the skin had been burnt a black, grey, or white color and simply peeled off like paper. Some of the burn victims felt no pain since their nerves had been burnt by the heat of the blast, so many didn’t discover the full extent of their injuries until well after the blast.

Interlaced with Shigematsu’s account is the account his relatives, Watanabe and Takamaru, who went looking for him after the bombing, and held a short funeral service for him. It also contains the account of Mr. and Mrs. Iwatake, the former of whom was the brother of a prominent doctor, and who had been cured of a severe case of radiation sickness. Mr. Iwatake acquired his sickness when he was caught in the blast at an army base in Hiroshima (where he was being trained because he had been drafted, despite being just short of 45 years old, which is the age limit of the draft).

While the family works on their journals to prove Yasuko free of radiation sickness, they learn she is actually now showing the signs of the disease, after apparently hiding her earliest symptoms. She starts to have abscesses, sores that never heal, and her hair and teeth start falling out, at which point she seems to have given up. It was at this time Mr. Iwatake’s account was presented because it was supposed to act as a sort of pep talk for her

Mr. Shigematsu’s account ends on the day when Japan’s surrender was announced, which happened to be just a day after he and his family were relieved of their duty at the textile plant. It was after this that they went to their country home where Shigematsu was to recover and start raising carp. It was never stated whether or not Yasuko recovers.

The Science of the Bomb

When looking into the science from the book, the obvious takeaway is the nuclear bomb known as Little Boy. All the survivors knew at that time was that the bomb that fell on Hiroshima was big, but that is a vague and non-descriptive word. The idea of a nuclear device was unimaginable since the technology had never existed, and the Manhattan Project was classified. Due to the surprise attack, there were no devices were present to accurately measure the yield of the blast, but estimates done from examining the affected area have it at from 12.5 kilotons up to 20 kilotons (Rhodes 714).hn10 hiroshima4fire ball

The uranium fission bomb, called Little Boy, was of a innovative design. It housed, at one end, a ball of highly enriched uranium 235 (U235) and at the other another ball of U235 with a propellant behind that. Upon detonation, the propellant was lit triggering the ball of uranium in front to be shot forward in much the same way a bullet is shot from a rifle. When the two masses met at the front of Little Boy, they were squeezed together by the force of the uranium bullet to achieve a critical mass and cause a chain reaction (Malik).

A chain reaction occurs via the use of neutron bombardment. The highly enriched uranium is naturally radioactive and emits a neutron randomly as it decays to a lighter element. When a mass of U235 is squeezed to its critical mass, the probability that the extra neutron hits a neighboring uranium atom becomes high causing that atom to decay and emit energy and another neutron. These two neutrons now bounce around decaying more atoms in an exponential manner, which is the chain reaction. Energy is released from each decay in accordance to E = MC2 (Georgia State University).

Nagasaki hiroshima 1

It is from this massive release of energy that the iconic mushroom cloud comes from. While most bombs have some form of a fireball associated with them, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima that day was different. This initial impact caused houses to crumble on top of people, trees to fall over, and vehicles such as trains and busses to fall off of the tracks and crush people. “Because the heat in [the] flash comes in such a short time… there is no time for any cooling to take place, and the temperature of a person’s skin can be raised [120O F]… in the first millisecond at a distance of [2.3 miles],” (Rhodes 714). talks of a victim of the bomb whose kimono absorbed the heat from the blast more so in the darker regions and less in the lighter areas. The effect of this was to imprint the pattern onto her skin (Slavick).

Coinciding with the extreme heat, the blast will have the effect of creating strong wind gusts. Winds varied with distance but they were reported to be supersonic, or at least 767 mph. A vast majority of the buildings in the blast’s range were completely destroyed; the only surviving buildings were made of concrete (Glasstone). The debris from the destruction provided more fuel for the fires raging, creating a firestorm. The firestorm would suck in air from the surrounding area and create a powerful updraft in roughly the same area as the initial blast. This column of hot air would carry dirt, debris, and smoke into the upper atmosphere and trigger the final and more lasting effect of the attack, the black rain.

Black rain, which where Ibuse get’s the book title, is a very particular form of fallout. When most people think of fallout, they think of radioactive ash or dust that gets blown around the surrounding country side. However, in Hiroshima it came down as rain. The heat from the firestorm and initial attack sent a large amount of debris into the air. There, it would mix with water vapor and any radioactive particles in the air and fall as rain. This is what is referenced by Yasuko in the book as the tar like substance which rained down upon parts of the city and stained their skin.

Medical Science from the Bomb

In Black Rain, Ibuse uses the victim’s perspective to describe the horrific medical effects which came along with the dropping of the bomb. The atomic bomb caused a mass destruction on the surrounding areas, and was the cause of over 150,00 deaths and numerous injuries to the population of Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 deaths were from the initial blast because of its large amount of force on impact (The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The force was estimated to feel like 20,000 Ton of TNT exploding (The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Regarding the black rain, the radioactive waste that fell from the sky, it affected the soil, food, water supply, animals, and humans of Hiroshima and areas within a few mile radius of the initial blast. As the black rain fell, it would stick to people, and this allowed more radiation to enter the body. When the victims would try to wash off the black rain, it would just smear and not come off (Ibuse). As a result, the radioactive elements contained in the black rain caused sickness and eventually death. This, along with other radiation exposure, caused an increase in the total death count by an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 (The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Radiation sickness is classified as a disease caused by radiation poisoning, particularly when a person is exposed to a high amount of radioactive material in a short amount of time. The disease causing radiation is often classified as a form of ionizing radiation, which is defined as “radiation that can form ions when it interacts with matter. Examples of ionizing radiations are x-ray, gamma ray, alpha and beta particles,” (Department of health). Each of these forms if given in large amounts has the ability to effect health.

burns sur

There are two different types of radiation effects, threshold and non-threshold. Threshold effects are a result of high dose radiation experienced in a short amount of time, (Department of health) and the symptoms would be noticed right away. Hair loss, burns, and several others, including death are experienced with threshold radiation sickness (Department of health). The majority of the population of Hiroshima experienced this form including Shigematsu. The latent effects, known as non-threshold are not usually noticed until years after the initial exposure, as was the case of Yasuko. The symptoms of non-threshold effects are the same as the threshold effect, but delayed. These cause an increase in rate of cancer development, and an increase in rate of fetal deformities (Department of health).

In the book Yasuko, Shigematsu, and his wife Shigeko keep daily accounts of the events they see in regards to the bombing. The journal entries gave details on the injuries, deaths, and the earlier and later onset of symptoms of radiation exposure sickness the population experienced. The characters in the book suffered from several different symptoms. An example would be Shigematsu, who suffered from was a continuous amount of diarrhea and vomiting for years. His gastrointestinal problems were documented as frequent as every 30 minutes (Ibuse). Other symptoms experienced were physical weakness and fatigue, fever, skin lesions and boils, hair loss, teeth lose, and eventually death.

During this time, the medical community of Hiroshima did not have an established knowledge of this sickness, so they did not know how to effectively treat the growing population of sick people. The physician would prescribe home remedies, such as consuming specific roots of plants for gastrointestinal issues, and bathing in 50% salt water and 50% fresh water to treat burns (Ibuse). These obviously did not prove to be 100% effective, but it was worth the shot. Eventually a physician with knowledge of radiation exposure came along to diagnose people, and give advice on how to treat the symptoms. Some of the population got better, but others were already too far gone and eventually died.

Eventually the radiation exposure sickness was studied, new and improved treatments were found, and new medical technology was established with the primary purpose of giving off radiation. The bombing of Hiroshima from a medical stand point was a good thing because it allowed new medical information to be found.

Today Radiation studies have been performed to gain accurate information on, how much radiation can be given before a person experiences radiation poisoning, and when a person is diagnosed mriwith radiation poisoning an effective treatment plan to cure the person. Studies have also been performed to show a relation between radiation exposure and the development of cancer. These studies have basically proved radiation is a factor in cancer development. Radiation is also helpful in treatment of cancer. Radiation is also useful in medical devices, such as X-ray machines and MRI machines.

Ethics of the Bomb Dropping

Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain explores two major ethical themes using two different stories. The outer story of Shigematsu arranging his niece Yasuko’s marriage illustrates the class issues and discrimination faced by survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima. This story also functions as a framing device for the larger story about the horrors left in wake of the bomb, and the hardships of those living with and dying of radiation sickness. The tale of the bomb’s destruction, the scale of the calamity, and the degree of pain it inflicted on the population of Hiroshima serves as an indictment of its use. Without need of explicit statement, the description of what Shigematsu observes provides the thesis that inflicting such suffering is unjustifiable — which Shigematsu’s commentary helps to solidify.


In the outer story, there are two main forces at work in discrimination against bomb victims. The first is resentment; many feel that the bomb victims are trying to gain the system: using their illness as an excuse for laziness. In the book, this is illustrated when an old woman accosts Shigematsu and his friends for fishing during the day rather than working (Ibuse 28). She mocks them by expressing envy for their lifestyle (Ibuse 28). But Shigematsu and his friends are afflicted with radiation sickness and will die a horrible death if they perform labor. Nonetheless, the culture shames them for not contributing. They do not even feel comfortable taking walks — even though the doctor prescribes them (Ibuse 26).

The second is faced specifically by the “Hiroshima Maidens,” women of marriage age affected by radiation sickness. The focus of the outer story is about Shigematsu trying to marry off Yasuko, and to prove her unaffected by the black rain that fell on her. The book does explain how this marriage discrimination takes place out of fear that the “Hiroshima Maidens” will be barren, sickly, and eventually die. By following Yasuko and Shigematsu so closely, and by showing the stigma of those with radiation sickness, it further emphasizes the class rift bringing disadvantage and shame to survivors of the bomb. The character Shokichi claims that everyone has forgotten what the survivors went through (Ibuse 28).

The embedded story that directly follows Shigematsu during and after the bombing focuses on the horrors of war. The book implicitly condemns war through Shigematsu’s commentary, but the truly convincing evidence is in the macabre sights he witnesses and the ghastly accounts of the people he meets. Hiroshima after the bomb is frequently compared to hell and the comparison holds. Shigematsu witnesses people burnt and even flayed by flames and radiation.

The picture Ibuse paints of Hiroshima after the bomb is one that he implies can scarcely be justified. Whatever school of ethical philosophy be applied to it, reading what Shigematsu saw in Hiroshima will, to most, produce a sense of moral revulsion.

How Nuclear Technology Changed Science Fiction Writing


In the post atomic world, the usage and aftermath of nuclear weapons have been very prevalent in fictional works including comics, novels, films and more recently even video games. One of the earlier examples in comics involves Superman and his nemesis Lex Luthor, who is planning to use an atomic bomb against him. This story was originally intended to be released in 1944 but it was put on hold by the US Department of Defense until 1946, after the bombs had been dropped.

Around this time the first pictures of a nuclear explosion were released and subsequent mushroom clouds became the signature depiction of nuclear weapons in fiction. The pictures of the actual bombs themselves weren’t released until 15 years post-detonation and by that time the more powerful hydrogen bombs had been developed. By the 1950s, the idea of a survivable nuclear war was being replaced by the idea that a nuclear war would lead to the end of civilization, properly dubbed “Mutual Assured Destruction”(MAD). Nuclear weapons became another name for the apocalypse and grew in popularity in fictional works.

The novel Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank tells the story of nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union from the perspePicture2ctive of a rural town in Florida. It shows the initial chaos and struggle for survival that followed the bombings like finding food, water, shelter and protecting themselves from bandits. Another novel, On the Beach by Nevil Shute deals with the psychological trauma that nuclear war can bring. The novel takes place in Australia in a world where most of the world was wiped out from nuclear bombs and the spread of radiation. The radiation will eventually reach Australia, meaning that its residents have to deal with their impending doom in various ways, such as assisted suicide from the government.

Along with books, films began to involve the use of nuclear weapons and apocalyptic futures in a creative way. The 1955 film Day the World Ended is a about a mutant creature that was born from radioactive fallout and terrorizes nearby residents. The 1962 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a Picture5satire depicting the deployment of a nuclear bomb. An important part of the comedy is the thought process of people and the events that can trigger a nuclear war. While the use of nuclear weapons in fiction is typically between humans, some films depict of machines targeting humans. The Terminator movies combine nuclear war with the dawn of artificial intelligence where an AI sees humanity as a threat and targets them with nuclear bombs leading to a machine dominated post-apocalyptic future.

The video game series Fallout, initially released in 1997 deals with a post-apocalyptic world with a heavy emphasis on survival. Although the series begins in the 22nd century, it has a retro futuristic setting and artwork influenced by the culture of 1950s America, combining the dread of nuclear war with optimism of promising new technology. The post war conditions are abysmal as buildings are decaying from neglect, and most food and water are contaminated with radiation. Many dangerous mutant animals have arisen due to the radiation and society is at a low with discrimination and even slavery.

These are just a few of the examples science fiction writers have used as plot devices in the post atomic world. The dropping of the atomic bomb forever changed the landscape of apocalyptic fiction.


The science of the bomb and the advancements, through necessity, of medical research contained in the book are just a small portion of the nuclear technologies derived from the Manhattan Project. Despite the ethical dilemma of American usage of the atomic bomb, many of the resultant technological advances have benefitted society. That’s not to say that it should have been used. The dropping of the atomic bomb changed the world as we know it.

The negative effects of the bomb are clear in the aftermath of Hiroshima, and in the imaginations of the science fiction writers who show what a post-nuclear world war could be. An entire industry has been built on the fear of anther bomb exploding somewhere in the world.

However, the technology the nuclear age has brought is not just energy from nuclear power plants. In the medical field, X-Rays, CT scans, nuclear stress tests, cancer treatments, and other technologies have been developed. The average smoke detector in most homes nuc plantand businesses have radioactive components, as well as do the sights on many guns. The food industry uses high levels gamma rays to kill microbes in order to preserve food and make it safer. There is a use for it in the detection of environmental pollutants as well as the oil industry for tracing oil wells. There is also nuclear technology with the use of plutonium in the batteries powering the Mars Rover and other space probes being sent out to collect data (World Nuclear Association).

Whether nuclear technology will end up being a net plus or the destruction of our world, only time can tell.

Works Cited

Department of health. 25 June 2014 <;.

Georgia State University. Nuclear Fission. 24 June 2014 <>.

Glasstone, Samuel. The Effect of Nuclear Weapons. 1977. 24 June 2014 <;.

Hirohito’s Wikipedia. Hirohito. 24 June 2014. 24 June 2014 <;.

History Channel. History of WW2 IMPERIAL JAPAN 12/1926 to 09/1945. 22 June 2014 <;. 8 June 2014. 22 June 2014 <;.

Ibuse, Masuji. Black Rain. japan: Kodansha, 1969. Militarism and WW2 (1912 – 1945). 9 June 2002. 22 June 2014 <;.

Malik, John. “Los Alamos National Lab.” September 1985. 24 June 2014 <>.

Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Simon & Shuester, 1986.

Slavick, Elin. Hiroshima a Visual Record. 27 July 2009. 24 June 2014 <;.

The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 25 June 2014 <;. 20 June 2014. 22 June 2014 <;.

World Nuclear Association. The Many Uses of Nuclear Technology. March 2014. 24 June 2014 <;.

World War 2 2014. 22 June 2014 <;.


Science and Art – barcodes

I watched this video quite some time ago, but I figured it would be relevent to the discussion of science and art.   Basically, they’re talking about how someone is trying to make more aesthetically pleasing codes for cellphones and the like to scan, rather than the ugly barcodes and QR codes we have now.  The basic principle being that the key bits of data it reads are hidden in patterns in images, that only a computer would really take note of.

Glitchy Evolution in the Digital World

In recent decades, scientists have taken to trying to simulate evolution and learning with computer programs.  Unfortunately, like pretty much every other computer program, glitches are often present.  Here’s what happens when you combine evolution with glitches.

In this video, we see some snail-like creatures that have been subjected to 1000 times as much gravitational force as usual.  As the author says, this much force should simply kill them, and should certainly restrict them from being able to move.  Yet we see them moving around and quite lively.  What the author suspects is happening is that they are taking advantage of some weaknesses in the physics engine in the simulation.  What I suspect is happening, is that they are taking advantage of how the physics engine is dealing with the bullet-through-paper effect caused by the massive acceleration due to gravity,  probably by moving objects just slightly above the surface they are colliding with.

Here’s something slightly more interesting:

In this article, a researcher is trying to “evolve” a microchip that performs a certain task – discerning between two audio tones – using a computer algorithm to design the chip’s contents.  What he had expected to happen is that the chip would evolve some sort of complex digital logic to analyze the tones.   What actually happened is the chip evolved all sorts of feedback loops and “dead” circuitry that has no apparent purpose, but somehow causes the chip to malfunction if it is removed.  It seems to be using the dead circuitry as an inductor, much in the same way radios do, to “tune in” to the tones and detect their presence.  Essentially, a digital chip evolved to rely on analog circuitry.

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms

Here’s a video made in 1940, detailing some experiments on reviving dead dogs.  It seemed sort of fitting for the Frankenstein discussion, because they were connecting pieces of the body together with machines, killing dogs and bringing them back.

The good parts start at around 2:10

The authenticity of the video is debatable, since it seems pretty impressive for the time and could very well have been soviet propaganda, but the scientists and machines in the video existed.