Alfred Ely Beach’s Last Secret?

On April 9, 1873, Governor John Adams Dix signed the Beach Pneumatic Transit bill into law. After more than three years of legislative battles, Alfred Ely Beach was finally poised to begin work on New York’s City first real subway system. But the proposed system was never built. What happened?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 19 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Alfred Ely Beach’s Pneumatic Subway Tunnel

Yesterday, we briefly examined the story of Alfred Ely Beach. Simply put, he was a brilliant inventor who recognized the need for a subway system in New York City. But he knew that Boss Tweed, the corrupt leader of Tammany Hall, would never let him build it. So he secretly constructed a demonstration tunnel under the streets of Manhattan, hoping that public opinion would force Tweed’s hand.

The tunnel was a hit and Tweed saw an opportunity. He joined forces with Beach and together, the two men lobbied the legislature for permission to expand the system. However, the proposal stalled, partly due to concerns from the Astors and other wealthy families that subway tunnels would undermine their properties.

The Pneumatic Subway runs into Trouble

Still, with Tweed at his side, Beach was in pretty good shape…that is, until the Orange Riot of 1871. That year, Tweed allowed Irish Protestants to parade in the city, celebrating the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. But for the second straight year, the parade erupted into violence between Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics. Some sixty civilians and three members of the New York State National Guard died in the riot. Tweed’s inability to control the people led others to question his leadership. An anti-Tweed campaign initiated by the New York Times and the political cartoonist Thomas Nast gained steam.

The Times proceeded to publish a series of articles exposing massive corruption in Tammany Hall (the Democratic Party political machine in New York City). This culminated in Tweed’s arrest in 1871. Tweed was released on bail and was even re-elected to the state senate a little while later. But the damage was done. Tammany Hall began to crumble and Tweed was rearrested.

Beach was forced to separate himself from the tarnished politician. He accomplished this with such vigor that he created a pseudo-mythology that continues to this day. In this revised version of history, Tweed and Beach had never joined forces. Instead, Tweed had fought Beach’s every effort to build the subway system. Thanks in part to this campaign, Beach finally gained political approval in 1873. But that was by no means a sure thing.

“Now that the Beach Pneumatic Tunnel bill has been signed by the Governor, let us hope that it will not be buried with the Central Underground and Vanderbilt projects. The public interest demands a road through the backbone of the island.” ~ Daily Graphic

Unfortunately, a financial crisis was about to erupt, one that shared some general similarities to the current crisis. Following the Civil War, the U.S. government granted land and subsidies to railroad companies, creating the framework for massive expansion. Investors responded to the false signals by pouring cash into the industry. Of course, the boom was unsustainable. The Panic of 1873 led numerous banks to fail and many factories to close. It also dried up Beach’s funding sources.

The End of the Pneumatic Subway System?

Eventually, Beach gave up and closed his demonstration tunnel. He died in 1896, having never seen his dream of underground transit come to light. It would be another eight years before the first underground line of the New York Subway system opened to the public.

Alfred Ely Beach’s Pneumatic Subway System in Chaos

Unfortunately, Beach’s demonstration tunnel was destroyed back in 1912. There’s a very slim chance that some remnants of the waiting room might still exist. However, this is highly unlikely.

(SPOILER ALERT!)

When I sat down to write Chaos, a question popped into my mind: What if Alfred Ely Beach started to build his own full-scale subway system under New York prior to the crash? It’s clear he was the type of man who’d do whatever it took to achieve his goals. And it’s not like he didn’t have the capabilities…after all, he built his demonstration tunnel in relative secrecy and with his own funds.

Working on that assumption, I dug up maps for Beach’s planned route, one of which you can see here (figure 10-22). Then I went to work, constructing the remnants of a “lost subway system” buried deep under New York.

I clambered off the rock pile, ignoring my protesting muscles. I was tempted to call for a brief rest but all that changed when my beam fell upon the wall at the end of the tunnel.

It twinkled brightly, casting additional beams in hundreds of different directions. As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I realized that the wall wasn’t the end of the tunnel.

It was part of an entirely separate tunnel.

A perpendicular tube connected to the one in which we stood, forming a T-intersection. Keeping an eye out for explosives, I strode forward and stopped at the point where the two tunnels intersected each other.

I shone my light about the new tube in both directions, marveling at the spectacle before me. It wasn’t gigantic, maybe two feet taller and five feet wider than the current one. But it was unlike any tunnel I’d ever seen. There were no signs of crumbling concrete or ugly metallic beams. In fact, the entire passageway looked like it belonged in an art museum.

It was almost perfectly cylindrical except for a deep, smooth groove carved out of the red-bricked floor. Arching beams, painted bright red, sprouted out of the ground and ran across the ceiling before returning to the ground again. Brightly colored, ornate tiling covered the walls.

My remaining doubts melted away. Still, I could scarcely believe that I was looking at an abandoned subway tunnel constructed decades before the rest of the system. But it wasn’t just any tunnel.

It was Alfred Ely Beach’s lost subway system. ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerCy Reed’s triumph is all too brief. And even though he’s found Beach’s lost system, that’s of little consequence…what really matters is what’s hidden inside the maze of underground tunnels. You can read more about his thrilling adventure by getting a copy of Chaos at one of the above links.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’re going to venture into the world of science to examine the strange world of superconductors. Stop by tomorrow to check it out…you won’t want to miss it!

 

Chaos Book Club

 

New York’s Forgotten Subway Tunnel?

In 1912, city officials and representatives with the Degnon Contracting Company were preparing to excavate for the planned BMT Broadway subway line. Holding lanterns above their heads, they climbed into a dark ventilation shaft in City Hall Park and proceeded to find themselves in a well built, but slightly dilapidated tube. They quickly discovered a tunneling shield as well as the rotted remains of an old wooden train within the vicinity. What was Alfred Ely Beach’s forgotten pneumatic subway tunnel?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 18 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

New York before the Subway System

By the mid-1800s, public transportation in Manhattan was a nightmare. Streetcars and carriages raced down crowded streets at reckless speeds. Accidents were a way of life. So, after London opened its first subway in 1863, New Yorkers started clamoring for one too.

At the time, Boss Tweed was the major figure in New York politics. He ruled Manhattan like a king and collected kickbacks from all sorts of businesses, including the streetcars. Tweed didn’t want to give up the income, at least not without a hefty replacement.

Alfred Ely Beach’s Pneumatic Subway System

Meanwhile, a man named Alfred Ely Beach had become intrigued at the idea of building his own subway system under New York’s streets. Beach was the owner of the Scientific American magazine and had invented a typewriter for blind people. He was also fascinated by pneumatics, a system that used compressed air or vacuums to propel cylindrical containers through close-fitting tubes. Although the technology was usually used to send mail from one place to another, Beach thought it could move people as well.

At the 1867 American Institute Exhibition, he unveiled a prototype of a pneumatic subway system. His tunnel was 100 feet long and made of plywood. Using a steam-powered fan, Beach proceed to transport a 10-person subway car from one end of the tunnel to the other and back again.

Alfred Ely Beach versus Boss Tweed

Beach believed he had the answer to the city’s transportation problems. But since he knew Boss Tweed wouldn’t give him a chance to build his pneumatic subway, he decided to go over Tweed’s head and appeal to the public. So, he got a permit to build two pneumatic mail tubes under Broadway. After it was approved, he amended the bill to allow for a much larger tube which would supposedly hold the smaller ones.

In 1868, Beach and a team of workers entered the basement of Devlin’s Clothing Store at the corner of Broadway and Warren Streets. Using a tunneling shield and working only at night, they began to cut a hole through the earth. Despite making every attempt to keep the project a secret, people began to wonder what was going on. But Beach refused entrance to curious onlookers.

In just 58 days, Beach’s demonstration pneumatic subway tunnel was complete. It was 8 or 9 feet in diameter and measured 312 feet long. One entered the system by going through Devlin’s and proceeding into a lavish waiting room that held elaborate chandeliers, paintings, a grand piano, and even a fountain full of fish. The subway car – a cylindrical wooden vehicle that held enough seating for twenty-two people – was equally opulent.

On February 26, 1870, Alfred Ely Beach finally opened the doors to his magnificent pneumatic subway tunnel. People lined up around the block just to get a glimpse of it. The New York Herald called it Aladdin’s Cave, and marveled at how people could miraculously transport from one end of the tunnel to the other.

The price of admission was $0.25 and all proceeds were donated to the Union Home and School for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans. The public took over 400,000 rides during the first year. After entering the car, people would ride to the end of the short tunnel via air pressure from a 48-ton fan. Then the fan reversed, sucking the car back to the start of the pneumatic subway tunnel.

The Pneumatic Subway: Lost…and Rediscovered?

The tunnel was a massive hit and Tweed saw an opportunity. He joined forces with Beach and together, the two men lobbied the legislature for permission to expand the system. However, the proposal stalled in the legislature, partly due to concerns from the Astors and other wealthy families that pneumatic subway tunnels would undermine their properties. When everything was said and done, the system was never built, for reasons we’ll explore tomorrow.

After Beach’s lost tube was rediscovered in 1912, it was dismantled in order to make room for the new BMT Line. This is hardly surprising:

“Unlike the nation’s other early cities or many of the well-known Old World cities that exude a cherished past, New York rarely uses its history in constructing its identity or in stimulating its economy. Perhaps because the city has always been a place where people have come to build new lives, New York and its citizens have rarely wanted to look back. Instead, the past for them often either lies in the way of progress or is enshrined in memory in some other part of the world.” ~ Anne-Marie Cantwell and Diana diZerega Wall, Unearthing Gotham

Alfred Ely Beach, the Pneumatic Subway Tunnel, & Chaos

Alfred Ely Beach and his tunnel play very important roles in Chaos. Initially, I wanted to resurrect his demonstration tunnel but that proved impossible. The tunnel was indeed destroyed back in 1912. There’s a very slim chance that some remnants of the waiting room might still exist. However, this seems pretty unlikely.

(SPOILER ALERT!)

But that doesn’t mean that the demonstration tunnel was Beach’s only underground secret…

What were you up to, Beach?David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerCy Reed soon figures out the answer to his question…and in the process, uncovers a mystery that’s rested quietly beneath New York’s streets for over a century. You can read more about his thrilling adventure by getting a copy of the Chaos paperback from any of the links above.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’re going to take a closer look at Alfred Ely Beach and the mystery that underlies a good portion of Chaos. Stop by tomorrow to check it out…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

 

Chaos Book Cover

My Interview with Megalith

I had the pleasure of being interviewed about Chaos by M over at the awesome Megalith blog recently. Megalith is a site “dedicated to reviewing action-adventure, thriller, and mystery novels.”

Chaos by David Meyer

My Interview with Megalith on Chaos

Here’s an excerpt…

Q: Sounds like my kind of book! So, is this your run-of-the mill action/adventure story? What sets it apart from other books?

A: I should start out by saying that the seed for Chaos was planted a few years back when I was tromping through an abandoned subway tunnel with my future wife (yes, she still married me!). As I passed through a particularly desolate stretch, I found myself wondering: What if someone hijacked a subway train? It wasn’t the most original question in the world. After all, a similar premise underlies Morton Freedgood’s novel, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. But while Freedgood saw the subway system as a unique crime scene, I saw it as a “lost world” full of crumbling ruins, dangerous natives, and metal monsters.

Head on over to his site to read the rest. Thanks M!

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Why did America Really Bomb Hiroshima?

On August 6, 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, it dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. These bombs remain the only two nuclear devices ever deployed during war and, according to many experts, decisive reasons for Japans’ subsequent surrender on August 15. But a substantial amount of experts think the Hiroshima atomic bomb and the Nagasaki atomic bomb were unnecessary and worse, were dropped for political purposes. So, who’s right?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 17 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb: The Official Story

As I mentioned above, the official story of the Hiroshima atomic bomb is that it caused Japan to surrender and thus, ended World War II. This saved hundreds of thousands of American lives since soldiers were spared from having to conduct Operation Downfall, or the planned invasion of Japan.

Problems with the Official Story

But here’s the problem with that scenario. Prior to the Hiroshima atomic bomb, President Harry Truman was aware of the fact that Japan was willing to surrender as long as Emperor Hirohito was allowed to keep his position and was not forced to stand trial for war crimes. Hirohito’s stated purpose was that he wanted to maintain discipline and order in Japan after the war was over. President Truman insisted on an unconditional surrender however, and went ahead with the bombings. But after Japan surrendered, Hirohito was allowed to keep his throne and escape prosecution. This strange sequence of events begs the question…what purpose did the Hiroshima atomic bomb serve?

Incidentally, this isn’t a new question. In fact, people started asking it almost immediately. And it wasn’t just ordinary people…it was prominent American leaders. Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Fleet Admiral William Leahy, Brigadier General Carter Clarke, and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz all found reason to disagree with the bombings. In a letter to President Truman, Fleet Admiral Leahy went so far as to say:

“The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons… The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” ~ Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman

And this wasn’t just post-war regrets either. In his book, The Decision to Use the Bomb, Gar Alperovitz shows that practically every single American civilian and military advisor suggested that Truman accept Japan’s terms. But Truman chose to listen to the lone dissident, James Byrnes, instead. So, what was Byrnes up to? Clues can be found in discussions surrounding the 1945 Potsdam Conference.

“It was Byrnes who encouraged Truman to postpone the Potsdam Conference and his meeting with Stalin until they could know, at the conference, if the atomic bomb was successfully tested. While at the Potsdam Conference the experiments proved successful and Truman advised Stalin that a new massively destructive weapon was now available to America, which Byrnes hoped would make Stalin back off from any excessive demands or activity in the post-war period.” ~ John Denson, The Hiroshima Lie

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Myth & Damage Control?

So, there’s a case to be made that the Hiroshima atomic bomb was deployed to scare Russia rather than to defeat Japan. But if this is true, then why is the general public largely unaware of this today?

According to Alperovitz, the “Hiroshima myth” started shortly after Japan’s surrender. Admiral Halsey, Commander of the Third Fleet, called the bombs “a mistake.” Albert Einstein took to The New York Times to tell people that “a great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden deployment of the atom bomb.” Other military leaders started to come forward, expressing their misgivings over the decision.

James Conant, Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, decided that it was important to convince the American public that the atomic bombs were necessary. He approached Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who wrote a long article on the subject for Harper’s magazine. This became the basis for the story that is widely-accepted today. Truman would later uphold this point of view, adding that his decision saved half a million lives.

“The most influential text is Truman’s 1955 Memoirs, which states that the atomic bomb probably saved half a million US lives— anticipated casualties in an Allied invasion of Japan planned for November. Stimson subsequently talked of saving one million US casualties, and Churchill of saving one million American and half that number of British lives.” ~ Kyoko Iriye Selden, The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb…the first shot of the Cold War?

World War II is often called “The Last Good War.” Unfortunately, at least in this case, the facts point to a different conclusion. The atomic bombs killed 90,000-166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 in Nagasaki. Many of these people were women and children. Worse, there is reason to believe that the bombs were deployed to scare the USSR rather than for military purposes. If true, then the atomic bombs weren’t just the last shots of World War II…they were the first shots of the Cold War.

By the way, my purpose here isn’t to find fault with America. Indeed, too often citizens conflate the idea of “America the government” with “America the country.” It’s quite possible to find fault with one and not the other. In this case, I’m questioning the choice of President Harry Truman and the motives of James Byrnes.

The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb & Chaos

In my mind, the most interesting fictional villains are the ones that have a point. They may pursue evil goals and commit horrible atrocities along the way. But if you strip away everything, I think the best villains are the ones that have a legitimate gripe. Since much of the backstory for my novel Chaos takes place during World War II, it seemed only natural that the villain would draw his rage from that conflict as well. But since adventure novels are full of ex-Nazis, I wanted to go in a different direction. Thus, I created Jack Chase. His motive (SPOILER ALERT!), which you can probably guess from this post, is atomic in nature…

Chase grabbed both side of his silk shirt and yanked. It burst open, revealing a disgusting mass of scars, welts, and discoloration.

Bile rose in my throat. “What the hell happened to you?”

“August 6, 1945.” His voice took on a harsh, bitter edge. “The Enola Gay dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima. Eighty thousand civilians died instantly. Thousands more perished afterward, due to injuries and radiation fallout.”

“You were there? But that’s impossible. You told me your father was an American soldier who died while you were an infant. You said you wanted justice for him.”

“My father was an American soldier. He was also a prisoner of war. The Japanese kept him in Hiroshima, along with at least eleven others, as a deterrent to prevent American bombings. Somehow, a Geisha girl found her way into his cell. She gave birth to me. But the politicians didn’t care about any of that. The deterrent, if you will, wasn’t large enough.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerBy the way, Chase’s past is based on fact. According to Barton Bernstein’s, Unraveling a Mystery: American POWs Killed at Hiroshima, at least 11 and possibly as many as 23 American POWs died in the Hiroshima blast. It’s a sad and often forgotten footnote to that awe-inspiring disaster.

Later, we see the full extent of Jack Chase’s fury as he races to unleash his sinister plan…a plan that promises to rewrite the world as we know it. If you want to know what happens, pick up a copy of Chaos at one of the links above.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, we’re going further back in time, specifically to Manhattan circa 1869. Stop by tomorrow to explore one of New York City’s greatest secrets…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

Chaos Book Cover

5-Star Review for Chaos!

We here at Guerrilla Explorer wish to extend our thank you to “Indiana Jones” (is that really you Harrison Ford???) for writing a 5-star review for Chaos on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Check it out…

Hang on to your seat! If you like roller coaster action, fast-paced adventure and the thrill of treasure, you’ll love Chaos, the suspense-filled debut novel of David Meyer.

Chaos is a finely woven story full of intrigue set below the streets of New York City. The main protagonist, Cyclone Reed, is an urban archaeologist turned treasure hunter. Written in the first person, Reed’s ability to laugh at himself truly makes him appealing. The dialogue is short and witty, and just when everything seems to be wrapped-up; the story takes another exciting twist and turn. I was hooked from page one and the author kept me guessing right up to the surprise ending.

Chaos has made me a fan of David Meyer, and I can’t wait to read about Cyclone’s next adventure.

Thanks Indiana!

Chaos by David Meyer

About Chaos

As a reminder, Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the locations below. Thanks for your support!

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

 

The Nth Country Experiment?

In 1964, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory conducted a top-secret experiment with enormous global ramifications. The project remained classified until 2003 when heavily-excised documents were finally released to the public. What was the Nth Country Experiment?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 16 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Nth Country Experiment?

In May 1964, the Livermore Radiation Laboratory offered a special assignment to a man named Bob Selden. It was the culmination of a strange couple of days that began when Selden – who held a PhD in physics – was interviewed by Edward Teller, the “Father of the Hydrogen Bomb.” Teller grilled him on the physics of making nuclear weapons, a topic of which Selden knew little.

The assignment? Selden was tasked with developing a working nuclear weapon design using nothing more than publicly-available information.

“The goal of the participants should be to design an explosive with a militarily significant yield. A working context for the experiment might be that the participants have been asked to design a nuclear explosive which, if built in small numbers, would give a small nation a significant effect on their foreign relations.” ~ Summary Report of the Nth Country Experiment

At that time, only four countries knew how to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. was the 1st country to achieve this feat, the USSR was the 2nd, the UK was the 3rd, and France was the 4th. That begged the question: How difficult would it be for the “Nth country” to follow suit?

Could the “Nth Country” develop Nuclear Weapons?

Selden was brought into the already-existing project to replace David Pipkorn. He joined Dave Dobson and the two men got to work. According to a 2003 article on the subject from the Guardian, it was an uphill battle from the start:

“Dobson’s knowledge of nuclear bombs was rudimentary, to say the least. ‘I just had the idea that [to make a bomb] you had to quickly put a bunch of fissile material together somehow,’ he recalls.” ~ Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

Two and a half years later, in late 1966, Dobson and Selden ceased work. They’d developed a design for an implosion-style atomic bomb, similar to the one dropped on Nagasaki. Interestingly enough, much of the information they’d used came as a result of Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, which “propelled a huge amount of technical detail into the public domain.”

“We produced a short document that described precisely, in engineering terms, what we proposed to build and what materials were involved. The whole works, in great detail, so that this thing could have been made by Joe’s Machine Shop downtown.” ~ Bob Selden

For two weeks, the two men heard nothing about the success of the Nth Country Experiment. Instead, they were sent to defense and scientific agencies to give lectures on their results. But eventually, they learned that they’d succeeded in creating a credible design for an atomic bomb.

The Nth Country Experiment’s Influence on Chaos?

The Nth Country project officially ended on April 10, 1967. Prior to the Nth Country Experiment, “there were two schools of thought [in regard to nuclear weapons] – that the ideas could be kept secret, and that the material could be locked up.” But Dobson and Selden proved that the ideas were easily accessible to any country that employed reasonably intelligent physicists. Thus, nuclear proliferation efforts became focused on keeping the materials, namely uranium and plutonium, under tight wraps.

I love history and bits and pieces of it are scattered throughout the plot of Chaos. This is the case for the Nth Country Experiment. While it doesn’t play a gigantic role, its implications are daunting…(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

Chase ignored me. “Theoretically, it’s not difficult to build a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Army proved that in 1964. They secretly hired two physics professors to design an atomic bomb using only public information. In just two years, those professors had developed the blueprints for a Hiroshima-sized weapon that could be built in a normal machine shop.”

His eyes tensed. Then, his hand reached to his collar and scratched his neck. I caught a glimpse of a large ugly welt underneath his shirt’s fine fabric.

“Just blueprints?” I asked.

“Even with a working design, an atomic bomb was out of their reach. They lacked the appropriate fissionable materials. Specifically, Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239. That’s the secret of non-proliferation efforts. While the knowledge to build a bomb is available, the materials are nearly impossible to procure. Red Mercury will change that.”

“And in the process, put nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.” I shook my head. “Are you crazy?” ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerMoments afterward, all hell breaks loose as Cy launches a daring counterattack. If you want to know what happens next, treat yourself to a copy of Chaos today.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’re going to examine one of the most explosive controversies in history. Were the atomic bombs dropped on Japan really necessary? Or was their an ulterior motive behind their deployment? Stop by tomorrow to weigh in on the debate…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

 

The Nazi Atomic Bomb?

In 1937, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman split the atom, giving Nazi Germany an early edge in the race to build the world’s first atomic bomb. Just how close did Hitler get to developing the most powerful weapon mankind has ever known?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 15 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Nazi Atomic Bomb?

At first, the Nazis weren’t fully aware of the military potential of Hahn’s and Strassman’s work. But that changed after they conquered Poland in 1939. Almost immediately, German military leaders banned the export of uranium and attempted to increase the importation of it via the Belgian Congo.

After conquering Norway in June 1940, the Nazis got their hands on the Hydro-Electric Company’s Vemork-based electrolysis plant. Suddenly, Europe’s only source of heavy water, a key ingredient for an atomic bomb, was in their hands.

By early 1942, Nazi scientists had built their first atomic reactor. However, when Hitler realized that the atomic bomb would not be ready in the near-term, he switched resources away from the Uranverein, or Uranium Club. The project lost numerous scientists to more pressing military concerns.

In June 1942, Germany’s atomic reactor exploded. His interest renewed, Hitler told Field Marshal Erwin Rommel that Nazi scientists were close to developing a “new secret weapon” which could “throw a man off his horse at a distance of two miles.”

Sabotage!

Although research had slowed, it hadn’t stopped. But a series of sabotage attacks on the Vermok plant by the Norwegian resistance movement hampered heavy water production. The plant was finally bombed into submission in February 1944. Nazi leaders ordered the remaining supplies to be delivered to Germany. 613 kilograms of heavy water and 14 tons of fluid were subsequently loaded onto the ferry Hydro and the vessel sat out across Lake Tinnsjo.

But unbeknownst to the Nazis, a Norwegian commando named Knut Haukelid had planted explosives on the boat. 45 minutes after leaving shore, the Hydro exploded, causing a tremendous echo that was heard for miles and killing a number of innocent Norwegians in the process. The boat sank into the 1,300 foot deep lake, putting a dramatic end to the Nazi effort to build an atomic bomb.

The Nazi Atomic Bomb in Chaos

Nearly all scholars agree that the Nazis never got close to building an atomic bomb. Even the cache of heavy water aboard the Hydro was far short of the amount needed to fuel an atomic reactor. Thus, it’s no surprise that author Rainer Karlsch turned some heads when he published Hitlers Bombe, in which he claimed that Hitler built and tested a non-standard nuclear weapon, possibly a “dirty bomb,” near the German town of Ohrdruf. However, the soil revealed relatively normal radiation levels and historians have generally dismissed the claim.

The Uranverein and the Nazi atomic bomb isn’t a major plot point in Chaos. However, it plays an important off-screen role in the sense that it serves as the backdrop for the creation of die Glocke, or the Bell. And the Bell’s mysterious existence, described in the pages of an old, weathered journal, haunts my hero Cy Reed to the edge of insanity…

I looked at Beverly. Her solemn expression told me that something was on her mind. “Last chance,” I said. “Any reason we should keep it around?”

She furrowed her brow. “Maybe.”

“Maybe?”

“Remember what Jenson told us? He said the Sand Demons couldn’t or wouldn’t destroy the Bell.”

I shrugged. “So?”

“So, if it’s the former, maybe we should keep the journal around. If we find the Bell, the journal might help us figure out a way to destroy it.”

I exhaled loudly. A single brush against the flint would send tiny sparks hurtling toward the journal, igniting it instantly. Tiny, golden flames would lick the air, adding light to the dim station. It would take just a moment. And then, I could forget all about Hartek’s journal.

Do it. Do it already.David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerAlthough he doesn’t know it yet, Cy’s decision will have gigantic ramifications. If you want to see how, please consider picking up a copy of Chaos at one of the links above.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’re going to take another curious trip through history, one that will bring us to a strange, top-secret 1964 operation called the Nth Country Project. The results of that project were…to say the least…startling. Stop by tomorrow to find out what I mean…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

The Island of Stability?

There are currently 118 confirmed chemical elements, the last 24 of which are synthetic. But as scientists construct larger and larger atomic nuclei, these artificial elements become increasingly unstable, often breaking up in mere seconds or even microseconds. However, some scientists believe that this won’t always be the case and await the day when the “Island of Stability” is finally discovered. What is this mysterious Island?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 14 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Stretching the Limits of Science?

The search for elements is an exploration in its own right, with its own goals, setbacks, and personalities. The last naturally-occurring element was discovered (well, rediscovered) in 1925. And for a short while, many scientists thought that the “Age of Element Exploration” was over. But all that changed when the first artificial element, dubbed technetium, was created in 1937 (technetium has since been shown to exist in very minute quantities on earth).

Scientists began to create new and larger elements. In 1940, Glenn T. Seaborg bombarded uranium with deuterons and synthesized the gigantic 94-proton nucleus of plutonium. They didn’t stop there. Seaborg and others continued to build bigger and bigger elements. However, these elements were increasingly unstable and broke up quickly. Many scientists thought they were nearing the end of the Periodic Table.

The Island of Stability?

In the late 1960s, Seaborg proposed the “Island of Stability,” a hypothetical concept that would allow the Periodic Table to stretch even further. He suggested that an atomic nucleus was made of up electron “shells” and that the stability of an element depended partly on whether its shells were filled. Some possible configurations were elements that contained 184 neutrons and 114, 120, or 126 protons. These “superheavy” elements could, theoretically, have extremely long half-lives.

With renewed vigor, scientists began to discuss the quest to reach the Island of Stability. The journey would take them past the stable “mountains” (smaller elements) and through the “Sea of Instability” where elements underwent near spontaneous fission.

In 1998, scholars neared the Island’s shores when they created Element 114. However, the isotope that they synthesized didn’t contain the optimal amount of neutrons. And that is where we stand today. The quest continues and someday soon, we will hopefully discover the mysterious Island.

“But such questions are, in a sense, beside the point. We search for the island of stability because, like Mount Everest, it is there. But, as with Everest, there is profound emotion, too, infusing the scientific search to test a hypothesis. The quest for the magic island shows us that science is far from being coldness and calculation, as many people imagine, but is shot through with passion, longing and romance.” ~ Oliver Sacks

The Island of Stability & Chaos

The idea of a stable, superheavy element residing on the Island of Stability is intriguing. It  seems possible that such an element would have unusual properties. Obviously, it would exhibit an extended lifespan, perhaps one lasting days, months, or even years. And since it would be super-dense, it’s possible that it would be nearly indestructible as a result.

If you read yesterday’s post, you might see where I’m going with this. If you do, then you understand why Red Mercury is so dangerous in my novel Chaos…and why the last thing one would want is to have it explode…

Jumping up, I knocked his gun hand into the air. As I did so, I released the powder and it flew toward the river.

Chase and I struggled over the gun. I knocked it from his grasp. It fell to the ground and he shoved me toward the river.

As he stooped for his gun, I saw my pistol. My fingers closed around it. There was no time to think, only time to react. Raising the gun, I pointed it into the air. But before I could fire, the drifting cloud of Red Mercury sparked.

And then, the whole damn place went up in flames. ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerI wish I could say things get better from there. Unfortunately for Cy Reed, things get worse…much, much worse. If you want to see how, treat yourself to a copy of Chaos today.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’re going to take a trip back to Nazi Germany to uncover one of its most frightening wartime projects, one that caused tremendous fear and consternation for the Allies. If you want to know what I mean, stop by tomorrow to find out…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

The Strange Case of Red Mercury?

Around 1977, a strange, exotic material known as Red Mercury appeared on the international black market. Shrouded in mystery and highly desired by buyers, it caused an uproar across the globe. Just what was Red Mercury?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 13 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Rise of Red Mercury

Red Mercury burst into national prominence in the early 1990s thanks to a series of high-profile newspaper articles. No one knew what it was, other than it was really important and really dangerous. Oh, and very expensive…prices ranged from $100,000 to $300,000 per kilogram.

The legend of Red Mercury soon took on a life of its own. Con artists went to work to fill the insatiable demand, grabbing gigantic wads of cash and giving away useless chemical mixtures in return. Researchers attempted to sort through the mess and eventually determined that Red Mercury was nothing more than a hoax.

However, that conclusion remains questionable. Why would individuals, groups, and nations drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on useless chemicals? Didn’t they bother to ask for proof that it worked before they gave away their cash?

What was Red Mercury?

When Red Mercury first hit the market, it was sold as a material that could be used to build atomic weapons. Since then, various theories have been put forth to explain its purpose. It has been considered a code name for uranium or plutonium as well as a form of stealth paint. However, the most interesting theory is that Red Mercury represents a shortcut to fissile material.

Hydrogen bombs consist of two stages. In the first stage, a “primary” fission bomb explodes. This compresses a “secondary” section of fusion fuel, causing a fusion reaction. The resulting explosion is, needless to say, massive.

All atomic weapons require the use of some sort of fissile material (U-233, U-235, Pu-239, or Pu-241). Fortunately, these raw materials are difficult to locate. And even if a nation were to get hold of enough uranium, it would still face the challenge of enriching it to weapons-grade level. This requires expensive centrifuges that take years to operate. Thus, nuclear non-proliferation efforts mostly focus on limiting access to the raw materials and centrifuges.

Some believe that Red Mercury facilitated the creation of fissile material, allowing a nation to proceed much faster than under ordinary circumstances. Others, such as Samuel T. Cohen (pictured above) claimed it was a ballotechnic. A ballotechnic is a hypothetical chemical, capable of releasing enough energy during a reaction that it could serve as a direct replacement to fissile material. Cohen, who was the “Father of the Neutron Bomb,” alleged that the U.S. government was deliberately hiding the true purpose of Red Mercury from the public.

Red Mercury in Chaos

If either of the above theories were true, the consequences would be disastrous. Nuclear non-proliferation efforts, at least in their present form, would become useless. The idea of a world where thermonuclear weapons technology is readily available to anyone who wants it is not a pleasant one.

In Chaos, (SPOILER ALERT), this possibility is at risk of becoming a reality.

He clucked his tongue, clearly annoyed at my ignorance. “So, Red Mercury is a super-dense form of exotic matter. It’s nearly indestructible. But when subjected to extreme pressure, it undergoes a chemical reaction that releases an enormous amount of heat energy.”

“Sounds like a blast at a barbecue.”

“The amount of energy released is sufficient to replace the fission-based primary in a fusion bomb.”

My heart beat faster. “Wait, are you saying…?”

“Indeed I am. Once I have the Bell, I’ll be able to produce an endless supply of Red Mercury, which will allow me to build hydrogen bombs without going through the costly and tedious process of gathering and enriching uranium.”

He smiled. “In other words, in a few short hours, I’ll be the world’s newest nuclear power.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerRed Mercury weaves tightly into the story. The hero, Cy Reed, has his work cut out from him if he’s going to avoid a nuclear proliferation nightmare. But as with much of Chaos, nothing is as it seems and there is more to Red Mercury than meets the eye…much more. If you want to know the deepest secrets of this exotic material as well as Cy’s desperate fight to rid the world of it, consider picking up a copy of Chaos today.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’re going to delve a little further into the myths surrounding Red Mercury. Specifically, we’re going to take a look at a strange type of element and an “island” no one has ever stepped foot upon. What am I talking about? Stop by tomorrow to find out…I hope to see you there!

 

Chaos Book Club

Buildering: The Art of Climbing…Skyscrapers?

On November 11, 1918, Harry Gardiner signed some insurance papers at the Bank of Hamilton and purchased a $1,000 bond. But Gardiner wasn’t technically inside the bank at the time. He was outside, dangling far above street level, practicing the little known art of buildering. After completing his business, Gardiner finished scaling the building, as his own personal way of celebrating the end of World War I.

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 12 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The Human Fly?

Buildering, or urban climbing, is the practice of scaling buildings. It supposedly began at Cambridge University sometime during the 1800s. However, I imagine that as long as people have created buildings, other people have attempted to climb them.

Buildering first reached a wide audience in 1905 when Harry Gardiner began to scale skyscrapers without equipment. Dubbed the “Human Fly” and wearing nothing but clothes, tennis shoes, and rimless spectacles, he climbed over 700 buildings in his life. His feats brought fame to himself as well as to the buildings he conquered. Recognizing a good opportunity when they saw it, companies like the Detroit News started to hire him to climb specific buildings.

The Art of Buildering Grows

In 1910, a second builderer started his own career. An owner of a clothing store, looking for publicity, hired George Polley to climb his building. Polley did so and received a suit for his efforts. Soon after, he was traveling the world and scaling buildings. Polley was a born showman and liked to “pretend to lose his grip” while climbing. As the crowd gasped, he’d reach out and grab a windowsill, stopping his descent. Over the course of his 17-year career, Polley is believed to have climbed over 2,000 buildings, including the 406 foot tall Custom Tower in Boston.

While Gardiner and Polley were the best known builderers of their era, they weren’t the only ones. Many others attempted to climb buildings, with some suffering tragic falls in the process. It wasn’t long before city officials began to legislate against buildering, turning the previously legitimate exercise into an illegal sport.

Still, buildering continues today, most notably the “French Spiderman,” Alain Robert. Earlier this year, Robert scaled the world’s tallest building, the Dubai-based 2,700 foot tall Burj Khalifa.

Buildering in Chaos

In 2008, I barely missed an opportunity to watch Alain Robert scale the New York Times building and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. The history of buildering is unique, full of personalities, and for the most part, untold.

The hero of Chaos, Cy Reed, is a skilled mountain climber. As such, he’s able to bring his skills to bear when he needs to break into the mysterious offices of ShadowFire.

Crouching on the sill, I rubbed my sore fingers. Then I carefully edged out of the frame and grabbed hold of a protruding brick. I pulled my feet onto another brick, keeping two points of contact between the building and myself.

I started to climb.

I moved hard and fast, doing my best to ignore the howling winds and drenching sheets of rain. My fingers and toes danced from bricks to vents to pipes to windowsills. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t precise but slowly, very slowly, I ascended the building.

I caught a brief rest at the fourth floor and then again at the sixth floor. Feeling renewed, I headed out again, eager to finish the climb. Eager to at last fully understand the Bell.

Rain soaked my body as I worked my way up a piece of piping to an outcropping. I lifted myself onto it and edged my way toward another pipe.

Suddenly, I heard a crack.

Something crumbled under my foot.

I slipped.

My hands flailed out, looking for something, anything.

Nothing. ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerAdmittedly, things look bad for Cy Reed. But they’re about to get worse…a whole lot worse. If you want to know what happens next, consider picking up your very own copy of Chaos today.

Well, that’s it for now. Tomorrow, we’ll be turning our attention to strange science, specifically an exotic material named Red Mercury. Once upon a time, Red Mercury was feared across the globe. Was it a hoax? Or did Red Mercury actually exist? Stop by tomorrow to find out…I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club