Project Proposal 1964-238: "The Eater of Worlds"
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Title: The Eater of Worlds

Material Requirements:

  • Schematics and components for an implosion-type fission bomb
  • 6.2 kg of weapons-grade plutonium lead
  • One pair of Hi-Fi stereo speakers
  • Duct tape
  • Live brain tissue surgically extracted from Edward Teller, Robert Oppenheimer, Eugene Wigner, Leo Chazdwick, Ernst Goldberg, and/or any living US or Soviet head of state or national defense director
  • One transistorized positronic cognition matrix (consult with I.A.)
  • Solenoids salvaged from pinball machines constructed after July 16th, 1945
  • Acrylic paint and brushes

Abstract: The Eater of Worlds is a functional replica of the "Fat Man" atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan near the end of World War II. Per the safety guidelines established after the incident at the 1954 Expo and the recommendations of the Submission Committee, the exploding-bridgewire detonators and plutonium core in the version to be displayed at the 1964 Expo will be replaced with inert analogues. The trigger and other internal mechanisms remain active but are incapable of producing an explosion.

A positronic matrix based on the latest developments in synthetic consciousness has been integrated into the bomb's casing, rendering the device self-aware and capable of seeing and hearing events occuring around it. Brain tissue from several leading scientific and political figures involved in the development and deployment of nuclear weaponry have been used as the seed material for the bomb's artificial mind, effectively producing a gestalt consciousness representing the very concept of atomic warfare personified.

Once functional, The Eater of Worlds should be displayed on its own in an isolated room with a laboratory motif for contextual purposes. Visitors are to be encouraged to speak to and question the bomb, thus allowing the bomb's responses to reflect its opinions as a weapon on the growing danger of global nuclear war, and allowing the visitor to be confronted with the reality of global annihilation and to challenge their own preconceptions about the matter.

Intent: It was a muggy summer night when I first met Leo Chazdwick in a bar in Greenwich Village. I never thought to ask how one of the fathers of the atomic bomb found his way into that dive, but there he was - pushing sixty, acting seventy, deeply intoxicated, and looking like he was one ill-timed comment away from bursting into tears. He was shocked that I recognized his face (you can thank my Intro to Atomic Energy professor at MIT for that), and we chatted for awhile, the scientific genius and the second-year dropout, over a few pints of Genesee. He was a proud man - but the emptier his glass got, the more that pride changed to guilt and regret.

"We won the war," he told me towards the end of our conversation, "but we damned the human race. We gave Uncle Sam a weapon powerful enough to destroy the world - of course he wasn't going to just use it once and throw away the plans! Now we've got thousands of them just ready to go, and so do the Reds. It's not a matter of if; it's a matter of when."

I reflected on that conversation for a long time, and I had to admit I found it perplexing how differently people were looking at the Bomb. Chazdwick wished he'd never made that fatal discovery in '42 that set the Manhattan Project on its path to success, but men like Teller wanted to nuke half the world as an engineering project, and politicians were more than willing to threaten human extinction over petty international disputes. I wondered - what if we could ask the Bomb itself what it thought about the matter?

Getting a nuclear bomb was the easy part - a couple phone calls, a quick stop by 231 East 47th Street, and they hauled one up from the basement and loaded it in the back of my rented Studebaker. The hard part was getting it to answer me when I talked to it. Chazdwick's brain was too pickled from his addictions to provide a usable sample, and the piece of Einstein's cerebellum that I got in the mail wasn't fresh enough. I definitely needed material from a living person to stabilize it (so Fermi, unfortunately, was out of the question,) but the slices I could come by weren't enough on their own. It took another year and a half and about a dozen samples before the bomb had a stable consciousness that could hold a conversation, but I had to switch it off for fear that it'd trigger itself and instantaneously open up the entire west side to urban redevelopment.

I worry that taking the core out will compromise the project. It's supposed to be the Bomb in living form - what good is a bomb that can't explode? But the 1964 Expo opens in a few weeks, and there's no other way I'm going to get this thing up and running, and safe enough to satisfy the Critics, if I want to have it on display this decade. Perhaps the existential crisis the bomb will find itself in will make for an interesting look at the psychology of one who is completely unable to do the one thing they feel like they were put on this Earth to do?

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