Dawn of the Atomic Age: The First Nuclear Reactor

In December 1942, the Atomic Age began, in secret, in a racquetball court under the bleachers of an un-used football stadium in the middle of Chicago. It was here, as part of the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb, that a team of physicists put together the first nuclear reactor and produced the first self-sustained fission chain reaction.

A lab notebook from the CP-1 reactor, on display at the Chicago History Museum

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Who Was Really First to the North Pole?

In 1909, two people, within a week of each other, declared to the world that they had been the first person to reach the location of the North Pole. Immediate controversy broke out, and the debate has raged ever since, revolving around charges and countercharges of fraud. So, who was really first to the North Pole?

Robert Peary and his team, who may or may not actually have been at the North Pole when this photo was taken

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Broken Arrow: America’s Lost Nuclear Weapons


“Broken Arrow” is the military’s code word for an accident involving a nuclear weapon. Since 1950, there have been almost three dozen acknowledged “Broken Arrow” incidents. Six times, the US has lost a nuclear weapon in an accident that it was unable to recover, including a Navy plane that crashed into Puget Sound with a nuclear depth charge, and an attack plane that rolled off a carrier near Japan and sank with its B43 nuclear bomb. Several times, nuclear weapons have been dropped or accidentally released near American cities. In many of these, the nuclear weapon’s conventional explosives actually detonated, and only the bomb’s safety precautions prevented a nuclear explosion.

Mark 17 hydrogen bomb

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Icons of Aviation History: The Martin B-10

The Martin B-10 is considered to be the first “modern” military bomber. At the time it was introduced, the design, featuring retractable landing gear, turreted defensive machine guns, and an internal bomb bay, was considered revolutionary. Not only could it carry a full ton of bombs, but it was fast enough to outrun almost all existing fighter planes. On the eve of the Second World War, the B-10 changed the entire face of air combat.

B-10 on display at the US Air Force Museum

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Billy Joel and “Allentown”


In 1982, recording artist Billy Joel released a single titled “Allentown” The song painted a picture of a depressed American economy and the decline of the US as a world economic power, through the eyes of a single city crippled by the disappearance of its manufacturing industries.

Allentown PA                                                                                                                  photo from Wiki Commons

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Pennsylvania’s “Roswell”: The Kecksburg Flying Saucer


In 1965, just a few weeks before Christmas, people in the little town of Kecksburg PA, not far from Pittsburgh, reported seeing something crash to earth from outer space. According to the stories, the US military then appeared and spirited the object away. Some whispered that it was a crashed Soviet intelligence satellite, or an American test of a secret Nazi project. Others declared it was an extraterrestrial spaceship. But what was it really….?

Photo from Wiki Commons

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