foone @Foone General hardware / software necromancer. Collector of Weird Stuff. Patreon: www.patreon.com/foone Jul. 17, 2019 14 min read

So, Kodak is weird. And a particular way they are weird has to do with the
International Fixed Calendar, as developed by Moses Cotsworth in 1902.
It's a calendar designed to be maximally compatible with the standard Gregorian while also fixing many of the problems of it.

So it's a 13-month calendar. All the standard English months plus the month of Sol, inserted between June and July.
All months are 4-weeks long, and start on a Sunday.

So this has the nice property that a given date is always the same day of the week. January 8th is a Sunday, and is always a Sunday no matter what year it is, or if it's a leap year, or anything.

So, two obvious exceptions this calendar is going to have to deal with, and the unique way it deals with them:
1. 28*13 is 364: Where does the extra day go?
2. Leap years. Does it have them? Does it go out of sync with Gregorian?

Well, the extra day is Year Day, and is December 29th.
Since December 28th is (of course) a Saturday, this'd be... Sunday?
Kinda. But January 1st is also a Sunday. So it's really more a DOUBLE SUNDAY (or DOUBLE SATURDAY) situation.

As for leap years, it follows the same rules as the Gregorian calendar, but places the leap day in a different place: it's added to Sol, the middle month, as Sol 29.
So you get another 3-day weekend situation where it's Saturday-???-Sunday

The years are synced with Gregorian, which means January 1-28th are identical for every year, then they diverge.
Well, they're identical in terms of date: they will usually have different days of the week.

For example, this year started on a Tuesday, but in IFC January 1st is always a Sunday.

So in the 1920s the League of Nations was evaluating alternative calendars and selected the IFC as the best of the 130 proposed calendars. The International Fixed Calendar League was formed in 1923 to promote it, lead by Sir Sandford Fleming.

They ceased operations in 1937 after they failed to get final approval to adopt IFC from the League of Nations.

But what does this have to do with Kodak?

Well, one of the strongest supporters of the IFC was George Eastman, who invented the first successful roll-film system and founded Eastman Kodak.

So while the International Fixed Calendar was never adopted by any country, one place it did get used was within the Kodak corporation.
From 1928 to 1989, they ran their business by the IFC instead of the gregorian calendar!

The George Eastman House has examples of the Kodak Calendar as distributed through those years.

Eastman himself wrote an article for Nation's Business in 1926, explaining the benefits of this calendar. He was focusing more on businesses adopting it rather than nations.
 http://myweb.ecu.edu/mccartyr/eastman.html 

One of the main benefits he mentions is that it'll make all months (other than February) shorter. Shorter months mean monthly transactions happen more often, so business don't have to wait as long for payments.

One fun side-effect of this calendar is that it fixes the date of Easter: Since the IFC is effectively a lunar calendar and has fixed days-of-the-week, Easter will always end up on April 15th.

In any case, by 1929 the International Fixed Calendar League was primarily being being driven by Eastman, who had opened a US branch of the IFCL.
The League of Nations had narrowed down their calendar proposals to just two, including Eastman's (I'm not sure what the other was)

Unfortunately, George Eastman passed away in 1932, so the movement lost a lot of momentum, and then soon after the League of Nations was less worried about calendars and more about Europe ramping up to war.

as for non-calendar reasons why Kodak is weird:
They discovered something in 1946 that wasn't publicly known and was supposed to be top secret. And they sued the government over it.

In July 1945 the US tested the first nuclear weapon in New Mexico, at Trinity site.
This was initially covered up as an explosion at an ammunition magazine, but was revealed as a nuclear test after the bombing of Hiroshima.

The thing about the test that wasn't made public was the fallout, and how far it had spread. See, Nuclear weapons create two types of fallout:
1. long half-life fission products, un-fissioned material, and weapon residues
2. short half-life sand & dust.

1 is always created, and can be calculated from how the weapon is designed and how big it is. Later designs are smaller and involve more fusion stages, and are therefore "cleaner": More of the materials gets used up in the explosion, so there's less of type-1 fallout.

and #2 is directly related to the altitude of the explosion. Generally when you're trying to destroy a city, you want to detonate it high up: This means there's better angles for the shockwave to destroy more of the city, and you're not getting blocked by hills.

Nuclear weapons are very powerful but if you put a lot of their energy into destroying a big hill of dirt that's a lot of energy that could have gone into flattening buildings.

But the other reason why you detonate them high up is because it limits how must dust & dirt you throw in the air. And a bunch of freshly irradiated dust will happily get high up in the atmosphere and rain down elsewhere. This is usually a very bad thing.

Because (in a war) that dust could easily travel to neighboring countries who are now very pissed off at you for poisoning them.
Or when you're testing in your own country, that dust is raining down on your own crops, even 5 states away.

And the fun part of the Trinity test is that it was a ground-based test. They raised it up as high as they could, sure, but that was only a 100-foot (30m) tower.

So compared to most tests, it put out a massive amount of fallout.
Most of this was very diffuse and not super dangerous, but it was over a very large area, and there are ways it could get concentrated.

Like for example, on a river.
And a paper mill in Indiana that was making cardboard pulp from corn husks was inadvertently using river water contaminated by the Trinity fallout.

So as early as August 1945 (the month Hiroshima & Nagasaki were bombed!), Kodak started noticing their film was getting fogged and spotty.

Because they shipped their film in cardboard containers, made from a paper mill in Indiana.

See, photographic film is basically a bunch of silver halide crystals suspended in gelatin. These crystals have complex chemistry that causes spots on their surface to turn metallic if they absorb light... or gamma rays.

so the film was getting spots and fogging from absorbing radiation from their cardboard containers. The radiation was very weak and not really dangerous to users, but film is designed to be very sensitive to light, which makes it very sensitive to other forms of EM radiation too

This is why EVEN TO THIS DAY (I literally saw one of these signs yesterday), the TSA has signs about putting your undeveloped film through the x-ray machine.
X-rays are another type of EM radiation, and sensitive enough film will be fogged by them.

So as WW2 had just ended and nuclear weapons were still pretty secret, Kodak kept quiet about their discovery, although they had communicated with Los Altos to figure out what had happened. And they installed air samplers to detect fallout and prevent this happening again.

Which, guess what, it did.
In January 1951 the US government started testing in Nevada, with the Operation Ranger series of tests. These were the first tests inside the US since Trinity.

And few days later, Kodak's HQ in Rochester, N.Y. (1,600 miles/2500 km away!) got a massive snowstorm, and their fallout detectors reported that the snow was 25 times more radioactive than normal.

This was a secret 1-kiloton test. No one was supposed to know, but Kodak did. They filed a complaint with the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Association of Photographic Manufacturers.

The AEC's reply was basically "Sorry about that, but we can't tell you where the tests are going to be (They're secret!) and we can't stop the wind from blowing"
And Kodak's reply was: YOUR TESTS ARE GOING TO COST US MILLIONS IN RUINED FILM, AND WE HAVE LOTS OF LAWYERS.

So the AEC compromised: Executives of Kodak and other film companies would get Q Clearance (an above-top-secret clearance needed for nuclear weapons matters) and be told ahead of time where tests would be and where the fallout might go/did go.

So during the cold war, Kodak and other film manufacturers had access to highly secret information (the kind the Soviets would (literally) kill for), in order to ensure their film wouldn't be contaminated by fallout from US tests.

The main reason we know about this is because in 1997-1998 there were a series of senate hearing on this, because while it's very nice that the government was so worried about damaging the photographic industry, they didn't provide similar warnings to people living downwind.

Fallout dissipates very quickly: If people living in affected areas had been told to evacuate or stay indoors, their radiation dose could have been severely limited.
But for reasons of secrecy, they weren't told.

So this decision probably ended up killing quite a few people over the years due to increased cancer rates.
And not just people living in the immediate area of the nuclear tests: Farmers weren't told either, and it's not known to what degree crops & livestock were contaminated

And it's definitely the case that people far from directly downwind were affected:
A research project in the 50s-60s collected baby teeth from the St Louis area and measured how much Strontium-90 was in the teeth.

Strontium-90 doesn't exist in nature in any significant quantities and easily absorbed into the body and used in place of calcium. Baby teeth are an easy way to measure exposure in humans, since bones tend not to be discarded as often.

It can cause various sorts of cancers including leukemia, as it's got a relatively short half-life and stays in the body for a long time, depending on where it gets deposited.

The preliminary results released by the Baby Tooth Survey in 1961 showed that the amount of Strontium-90 in children was elevated compared to pre-1950, and was increasing, with the later children having the most exposure.

And keep in mind, this was in St. Louis, Missouri.
All the above-ground tests were in Nevada and New Mexico, over a thousand miles away.

A later study found that children born after 1963 had 50 times the Strontium-90 in their teeth than children born prior to 1950.

It was actually these results that lead to the US, UK, & USSR signing the
Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963.
This banned above-ground test detonations of nuclear weapons. From then on, they'd all be underground.

Since then plenty of other nations have signed the treaty, with the total being 126 as of 2015.

Naturally most of those countries don't have nuclear weapons so it doesn't really affect them.

But a few notable nations have not, and they're notable because they do have nuclear weapons:
China, France, and North Korea.

Of those, only China and France have actually violated the PTBT (or would be violating it had they signed it). North Korea's 6 tests were all underground.

China has done 23 above-ground tests, and France did 57.
For comparison, the US tested 231 non-underground weapons and the USSR did 229, with the UK doing 21.

BTW, a side note with the PTBT: It's what ultimately killed realistic scifi's incredibly awesome and terrible favorite spaceship engine: PROJECT ORION!

You'll have to check out @nyrath's great resource Atomic Rockets for all the details, but the tl;dr is that they were studying a way to launch a spaceship using lots of small(ish) nuclear explosions.

 http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns2.php#id--Project_Orion 

The basic idea is that you build a spaceship with a big shock absorber on the back and keep tossing nukes behind you and setting them off.

Yes, that's SLIGHTLY batshit insane, but on the other hand you really can't beat it for sheer power.

Until you get into Star Trek level Future Tech engines using antimatter or whatever, Project Orion is about the most powerful "engine" you can imagine.
It makes most rocket engines, even the giant ones used on the Saturn V, look about as powerful as a super-soaker.

The USAF 10M Orion design was going to have 360 1-kiloton devices and another 138 half-kiloton devices. During acceleration they'd be setting them off about 1 every second. And this is a small design.

The fun thing about Orion is that it doesn't scale down very well, but it sure as hell scales up. You've got enough power at your disposal to build very large vessels and shove them directly to where-ever you need to go.

Need something the size of an aircraft carrier launched and in orbit of Saturn within a few weeks? Orion will get you there.

the other fun thing about orion is that it's most powerful on the ground. It's utterly amazing for launching cargo into orbit, which is exactly where you don't want to be using it.

The USAF was considering modes where they would launch it up 90-kilometers using chemical rockets, and only then activating the drive, but this loses most of the big advantage of Orion's ridiculous amount of thrust.

But they were obviously worried Orion even before the PTBT killed it. The public was unlikely to be very happy with a space ship made of explosions, and you can imagine how much the USSR would freak out at one of these being built, let alone launched.

In any case, the final bit of weirdness about Kodak is that they had a nuclear reactor.

No, really. And not like a small research reactor running on relatively safe un-enriched uranium, NOPE! they had one running of weapon's grade uranium.

It was a Californium Neutron Flux Multiplier. It takes a core of Californium-252 (Kodak used other reactors to create it) which generates neutrons at a rate of around 100 million to 10 billion a second, then runs it past small plates of highly enriched uranium to multiply them

They were using this to check materials for purity and to test neutron imaging, a technique much like x-ray imaging where high-energy particles are sent through a subject and their "shadow" is measured.

They built it into a specially dug basement at Building 82 in Rochester, New York, installed in 1974. The main chamber was only accessible (while running) by a pneumatic tube, so samples would be sent in and then automatically retrieved remotely by operators.

They had three and a half pounds of highly enriched uranium, and it was safely removed when they decommissioned it in 2007.

I love this fact because it's such a silly out-of-place thing.
Like, how many thriller novels and shows like 24 have had bad guys getting their hands on enough material to make a dirty bomb by stealing it from a research lab, or a crumbling ex-soviet state?

Nobody ever builds one by breaking into their local film company.

I also love talking about how incredibly damaging above-ground testing was in light of people still worrying about nuclear power. Yes, the three (or so) accidents we've had in the 68 years of nuclear power generation have released a bit of radiation (mainly from Chernobyl)

But it's a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the FIVE HUNDRED above-ground nuclear tests.

Estimate range from between 100 to 1000 times as much radiation generated by testing as compared to Chernobyl, which is by far and away the largest source of nuclear-power-related radiation leakage.

(This isn't the thread for it and I've been going on too long as it is but nuclear power is exceptionally safe, can be done without much waste, and it's carbon neutral at a time when "safer" power sources of comparable capacity are both destroying the planet and more radioactive)

(yes, Solar, Wind, and Hydro are great and we need more of them in the long run but we can't build enough fast enough to replace our coal & gas power sources and meanwhile nuclear can, and we're running out of time to get started on building them)

also I guess if I make a thread this big I should take a moment to point out that I've got a patreon, if you want to support me doing these rants in future:
 https://www.patreon.com/foone 

or if you'd rather do a one-off donation of a dollar or two, I've also got a ko-fi:
 https://ko-fi.com/fooneturing 


You can follow @Foone.



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