"Science and science fiction, how do you even distinguish the two?"
- Jerry Pournelle
||Spacefraft fueled by radioactive materials.
|I had already managed to take note of the external form of the
etheroneph the previous evening. It was almost spherical, being flattened at the lower end rather like Columbus's egg. Such a shape, of course, provided for the greatest volume with the least amount of materials and the smallest cooling surface. The etheroneph was evidently made mostly of aluminum and glass...
After breakfast Menni took me on a tour of our ship. First we went
to the engine room, which occupied the entire lowest floor of the
etheroneph at its flattened bottom. It consisted of five rooms, with one in
the center and four others arranged around it, all of them separated by
partitions. The huge engine stood in the middle of the center room.
Round glass windows were set in the floor on all four sides around it. One
was pure cyrstal, while three were of different colored glass. They were
all about three centimeters thick and marvelously transparent, though at
that moment we could only see a small part of Earth's surface through
The main part of the engine was a vertical metal cylinder three
meters high and a half meter in diameter. Menni explained that it was
made of osmium, a very refractory precious metal resembling platinum.
It was in this cylinder that the decomposition of the radioactive material
took place. Its red-hot, 20-centimeter thick walls gave an indication of the
enormous energy being released in the process. It was not very warm in
the room, however, for the cylinder was encased in 40 centimeters of a
transparent material that provided excellent insulation from the heat. The
etheroneph was evenly heated by warm air conducted through pipes
running off in all directions from the top of this case. The other parts of
the engine attached to the cylinder — electric coils, accumulators, dials,
and so on — were arranged in perfect order around it, and a system of
mirrors enabled the mechanic to see all of them at once without leaving
|From Red Star,
by Aleksandr Bogdanov.
Published by St. Petersburg in 1908
Additional resources -
Bogdanov takes a shot at the Columbiad and projectile-vehicle approach of HG Wells:
As for the 'cannon
shot' method I have read about in your science fiction novels, it is of
course simply a joke, because according to the laws of mechanics there is
practically no difference between being hit by the shot and being inside
the projectile at the moment it is fired."
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