Recently I’ve been reading reprints of the old Doc Savage pulps. I believe that the last time I did so was in high school, so I’m more or less rediscovering them at this point. I may get into more detail about Doc and his exploits in a future post, but the three things you need to know to appreciate the following excerpt from “The Land of Terror” are as follows:
- The year is 1933.
- Doc Savage is the pinnacle of physical and mental development. His five assistants are all geniuses in their respective scientific fields, but Doc knows more than all of them combined.
- The author, Lester Dent, constantly fawns over Doc and points out his perfection at every available opportunity.
I’ve long mocked ’50s and ’60s comics for their lousy grasp of science, but here’s a corker from an earlier decade, made all the more ironic because Doc is just so fucking confident about everything he says.
“I am not sure what the Smoke of Eternity is,” Doc explained. “But I have an idea what it could be. When the substance dissolves anything, there is a weird electrical display. This leads me to believe it operates through the disintegration of atoms. In other words, the dissolving is simply a disruption of the atomic structure.”
“I thought it was generally believed there would be a great explosion once the atom was shattered!” Johnny murmured.
“That was largely disproved by recent accomplishments of scientists who have succeeded in cracking the atom,” Doc corrected. “I have experimented extensively along that line myself. ”There is no explosion, for the very simple reason that it takes as much energy to shatter the atom as is released.”
Whew, that’s a relief. Doc Savage’s supreme knowledge of nuclear physics has just saved us from 60 years of Cold War and “smoking mushroom clouds.” Hiroshima applauds you, Doc.