At an August 1938 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor Lewis F. Richardson attempted to use mathematics to predict the likelihood of war:
The professor reduced to beautiful differential equations general tendencies common to all nations — resentment of defiance, the suspicion that defense is concealed aggression, response to imports by exports, restraint on armaments by the difficulty of paying for them, and, last, grievances and their irrationality.
He concluded there was "no chance of war," which proved to be a somewhat inaccurate prediction.
Richardson viewed war instead in Tolstoyan fashion, as a massive phenomenon governed by forces akin to the forces of nature, over which individuals have little or no control. Accordingly, he ignored all those intricacies of diplomatic-strategic analysis usually pursued by political historians and turned his attention to quasi-mechanical and quantifiable processes which, he assumed, govern the dynamics of the international system of sovereign states.
Despite the eccentricity of his mathematical war-prediction model, Richardson was apparently quite influential in the history of mathematics. Wikipedia notes that he did pioneering work in mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, as well as in the study of fractals.
The Pickle Peace Plan was championed by the Picklers Planetary Unity Party which, in turn, was a creation of the Pickle Packers International, an industry association. It had two main planks:
Instead of a red telephone or bomb button, heads of governments should have a jar of pickles handy. At the first sign of hostility, they would send pickles to each other instead of missiles.
If war did break out, all politicians would be required to don uniforms and do the fighting while everyone else watched it on television.
William R. Moore, executive vice president of the Pickle Packers International, noted, "We picklers think that with such a peace plan, both sides would either come to a quick armistice or talk themselves to death. Either way, we the public would benefit by such action."
Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, is best known as the woman for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, so he could marry her. But she was also an inventor, though not a very prolific one. In 1940, she invented "trench mittens" that could be unzipped to allow a soldier to use his trigger finger.
The Whitewright Sun - Feb 8, 1940
The backstory is that the Duke and Duchess were widely suspected to be Nazi sympathizers. Nevertheless, at the start of the war they were trying to make a public display of how patriotic they were. The Duke pushed to get a position in the army. And the Duchess used her fashion skills to invent "trench mittens".
But by the end of 1940, the British military had decided they were too much of a liability to keep around, so they were shipped off to the Bahamas for the duration of the war.
The "Caccolube" was a simple but effective device to disable an enemy vehicle. It was a condom filled with abrasive powders and crushed walnuts, and was dropped into an engine crankcase. "After the engine heats up," the OSS manual explained, "the hot oil will deteriorate the rubber sac and free the compound into the lubricating system.
"When circulated through this system, the compound fuses and welds the moving metal parts of the machinery. Slipped into a truck, the Caccolube takes effect after the truck has been driven from 30 to 50 miles. It reacts so thoroughly on pistons, cylinder walls and bearing journals that the vehicle is not only thrown out of service but the engine is destroyed beyond repair."
This lethal "lube job" replaced the original effort using sugar, when it was discovered that sugar actually promoted better engine performance in the vehicles of that era. Source: Jack Anderson, "Rare arsenal used by spies," Santa Cruz Sentinel, Mar 9, 1987.
The Central Government War Headquarters (CGWHQ) is a 35-acre (14 ha) complex built 120 feet (37 m) underground as the United Kingdom's emergency government war headquarters – the hub of the country's alternative seat of power outside London during a nuclear war or conflict with the Soviet Union. It is located in Corsham, Wiltshire, in a former Bath stone quarry known as Spring Quarry, under the present-day MoD Corsham.
Seeking a way to use technology to win the tunnel warfare in Vietnam, Nelson Frost of Byram, Connecticut invented the "Holie Terra." Although in the write-up for the patent he received (No. 3,395,641), he referred to it more formally as a "remotely controlled tunnel exploration and destroying means."
From his patent:
In certain types of warfare, for example, insurgency as practiced in Southeast Asia, enemy infiltrators and insurgents resort to extensive tunnel networks to hide from the established forces. The tunnel system in any one area may be elaborate and may traverse several levels and numerous branches with the arrangement being such that the insurgent forces are disposed in the system in such a position that a high explosive detonated at the tunnel entrance will have little effect on those hiding in the tunnels because of their labyrinthine construction whereby the direct force of an explosion is screened from the occupants. Because of the danger of booby traps or ambush it is not practical for attacking forces to enter the tunnels with the result that heretofore there has simply been no way to kill or dislodge insurgents hiding in the tunnels and the broad object of the present invention is to provide means for exploring tunnel networks by a self-propelled device which can be safely controlled from a remote position outside of the tunnel network.
More particularly, it is an object of the invention to provide a tunnel exploring device which may be maneuvered from a remote position deep into the tunnel network and there be detonated so that there is a much higher kill probability of the enemy forces with greater safety to the attackers than has been possible by any means employed heretofore.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.