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Kids! Be the first one on your block…!

bomb patents
Sometimes, listening to NPR pays off.

In 1933, Leo Szilard patented the idea of a nuclear chain reaction. Szilard was a physicist and his patent was highly theoretical, but he tried to use it to gain clout in the Manhatten Project later. The government faced him down, but the issue was worrying. What if other scientists tried to control the project through the patent office? What about scientists in other countries?

So the government decided to file patents on the components of the bomb in the name of the individual inventors as the project progressed.

That presented a different set of problems. The whole project was extra-super-double-dog secret. Plutonium was called “copper,” the bomb was called “the gadget.” But patent applications are as clear and as explicit as the applicant can make them.

So the government invoked an obscure rule already in place: an application marked “secret” would be looked at by no-one in the patent office and filed away in a vault un-approved, forever pending.

Harvard grad student Alex Wellerstein has been looking up these old patents. Turns out, as individual components are de-classified, the individual patents have been granted and published. A lot of it is still secret, but thousands of techniques and methods and bits of hardware are now public.

One patent was issued 60 years after the application; that’s the longest he’s found so far. The applications are still reviewed annually. A lawyer for the Department of Energy told Wellerstein:

“Our feeling has been that a significant taxpayer investment was made to create the inventions and to prosecute the patents so that payment of the issue fee finalizes the effort to provide a property right arising from the government funding. Of equal merit is the recognition provided to the inventors. When the patent issues we make a small good faith effort to find the inventor or a surviving spouse and notify them of the issuance of the patent. When notify someone, they are usually deeply moved by the recognition provided for their long ago secret efforts.”

That’s kind of…touching. Of course, a lot of the old coots are dead now, but a tribute is a tribute.

You know what else is kind of touching? Right in the middle of the Big One, dubya-dubya-deuce, the government didn’t write any special laws or invoke any extra-legal war powers. The department that makes war knuckles under to the rules of the department that files papers. They’re building this huge fucking doomsday weapon in the middle of the bloodiest war in the history of man, and they’re worried about violating international patent law.

I don’t care what the lefties say, the American government makes a lousy supervillain.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 28, 2008, 9:26 am

This is shaping up to be the greatest news story EVER:

Boyfriend of Kansas Woman Stuck to Toilet Accused of Exposing Himself to Teen, Friends

I’m just glad it’s not Tennessee.

Comment from BTM
Time: March 28, 2008, 10:33 am

I’m shocked, shocked! I figured the whole girlfriend on the toliet thing was a fluke and he had straightened up.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: March 28, 2008, 12:40 pm

Wasn’t Kansas (and the rest of the US and most of the world) turned to ash in 1983 though? I saw it in a documentary. Steve Gutenberg was in it. Now I’m confused.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 28, 2008, 1:03 pm

Okay, so Rhode Island is cracking down on illegal immigrants. We’re in the shitter economically and our real problems are corruption and unions, but okay. Illegal immigration is a strain, too. So get this quote:

Carcieri was testy when taking questions after signing the order. When a reporter asked if his order might embolden xenophobes, Carcieri blamed the media for inflaming the immigration debate.

“Embolden xenophobes”? Who the fuck talks like that? Nobody, that’s who. You just know the reporter said something like “encourage racists” and Carcieri snapped back something like, “no, you guys are pushing that idea.” Emboldens xenophobes! Pff!

I bet Carcieri did get testy, too. He does testy real well. He’s about the only political bright spot in the whole damn state.

Comment from porknbean
Time: March 28, 2008, 6:31 pm

Brrr….I just got a summons for jury duty….during the week I’m going to be out-of-town for vacation. I can submit a request to be excused in writing but it doesn’t guarantee I will be.
They can’t make you change your vacation for jury duty, can they?

Comment from Lemur King
Time: March 28, 2008, 9:11 pm

You know, for a while I kind of championed the toilet-enabler guy. I mean, show me a law that says an adult must report other adults that sit on the shitter for an extended period of time. You don’t have to report alcoholics, do you? They are harming themselves… aren’t they?

But exposing yourself to kids? Uh, sorry, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, and please do become a cell-mate/teddy-bear for a big 350 lb sweaty guy named Bubba who cries himself to sleep every night.

I had to look up “xenophile”. Huh… … …

Why couldn’t they just say “kiss-ass foreigner-luvin’ groupie” instead of a fancy five-dollar word?

I make it a point to listen to NPR every day. And yes, occasionally in between bouts of xenophilism they put on a decent topic, but not often enough, I listen not because I enjoy it (actually I apply a dramamine patch to quell the nausea) but I believe in the saying “Know thine enemy”.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: March 28, 2008, 11:29 pm

The only thing worth listening to on National Taxpayer Subsidized Liberal Radio is “Car Talk”. Hell, I’m more than half convinced the only reason NTSLR even exists is to give British immigrants radio jobs in the U.S.

Comment from Muslihoon
Time: March 29, 2008, 12:19 am

Enas: What’s “Car Talk” about?

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: March 29, 2008, 2:05 am

Whoa, you don’t know about “Car Talk”???! OK, it’s one of the most popular NPR (NTSLR) shows of all. It’s a weekly show that has two brothers (Tom and Ray) that talk about cars, car repairs, and other car related stuff with callers. They’ve been at it for about 20 years and they’re really funny. They’re on at 10:00 am on Saturday mornings here, check your local listings.

Here’s their website: Car Talk.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 29, 2008, 6:26 am

I don’t think those are immigrants, are they, Enas? I think when they don’t have programming scheduled, NPR just switches over to BBC World Service.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: March 29, 2008, 2:20 pm

No, these are people in the local stations, doing announcements, fund drives, yada yada. Every state I’ve ever lived in and listened to NTSLR had at least one Brit in the booth. I guess they think that gives them an “international” flavor or something. Excuse me – “flavour”.

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