X, the Unknown Nuclear Program

X the Unknown was one of Hammer’s finest black-and-white science fiction horror movies, better than the enjoyable (but slightly ridiculous) The Crawling Eye. Both written by Jimmy Sangster, who wrote an entertaining autobiography, Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?

In X the Unknown, the radioactive monster, essentially nuclear reactions suspended in liquid, is defeated by an experimental means of controlling nuclear reactions with sound waves.  An unusual and impossible idea. I always wondered where the screenwriter came up that, since it is both absurd and impossible, and was, even in 1956. Or was it?

After WW2, many Germans with Nazi- or questionable-backgrounds fled to South America, some to Argentina. Ronald Richter was one such Austrian. He had a crazy idea about power generation from fusion—not his only crazy idea, as he “discovered” delta-rays, which were emitted by planet Earth. (His discovery does not exist.)

Richter thought a nuclear plasma could be contained , and heat drawn from to produce electrical energy. Even today the answer to that question is maybe.

A tokamak is a machine which uses magnetic fields to contain a plasma in the shape of a torus (which is a mathematical term for a doughnut shape). And it works—mostly. Various tokamak designs have yet to cross the break-even threshold, wherein more energy is produced from the plasma than is used to create and maintain the plasma.

Richter presented his radical ideas on power generation to Juan Peron, who granted him millions of pesos to pursue nuclear power. The Huemul Project lasted from 1949 to 1952, until visiting scientists proved all Richter’s claims of cheap energy fraudulent. (Richter died in 1991 in Argentina.)

The method by which the power-generating plasma was to be contained in a machine called a Termotron? Sound waves.

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