Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Latest By
Category:


Armor
Artificial Intelligence
Biology
Clothing
Communication
Computers
Culture
Data Storage
Displays
Engineering
Entertainment
Food
Input Devices
Lifestyle
Living Space
Manufacturing
Material
Media
Medical
Miscellaneous
Robotics
Security
Space Tech
Spacecraft
Surveillance
Transportation
Travel
Vehicle
Virtual Person
Warfare
Weapon
Work

"We're about 20 minutes away from the point where Clarke's law kicks in and technology becomes indistinguishable from magic."
- Peter Watts

Atom Compactor (Metal Earthworm)  
  A tunneling device.  

This is a very early use of the idea of a machine that can effectively drive through the earth, boring its way through.

Inside, a great arc light shed white beams over scientific paraphernalia, machine shop equipment ó and the thing these elaborate devices had produced. That was a great metal cylinder, perhaps , ten feet through and twenty-five long, set up on end in the center of the dome building...

"... What is this thing? Well, it's an atom compacter. In plainer language, it digs holes..."

"With it, if you liked, you could find many times its weight in gold. For with it you could sink shafts in a few hours to the deepest of metal deposits. Or you could build commercial tunnels at a rate of many miles a day. Or it could be used as a war Instrument: You could sink in it behind your own lines, burrow forward through solid earth till you were under the enemy capital, and there lay mines to be exploded when you were far on your way home again."

"It sounds to me as though you had invented a kind of metal earthworm," sniffed Ria...

He pressed at a section of the magnesium alloy beside a hairline oblong in the wall of the cylinder. A door appeared. Swiftly the three stepped inside the cylinder.

Inside, it was like the cabin of a submarine. There were a few padded bunks, a few chairs, also padded, and bolted to the metal floor. The rest was machinery and engines and tanks in a bewildering array.

"Hang on!"

He pulled down the big, power switch.

There was a blinding arc as the switch made contact. An angry scream sounded from the end of the cylinder on which they were resting. The cylinder lurched wildly, then steadied. Ria could feel motion. It was not rapid but it was distinct. They were going down, sinking.

Street gazed at Ogden with his grey eyes shining.

"Success so far, sir," he said, in an awed tone. "The protective screen works, and we're settling down in the earth..."

"We are sinking at a rate of about five miles an hour. John, explain it to her while I look over the controls."

Street pointed to the floor of the ten foot space, like a round room about them. Ria saw a quartz-glass trap door. She could see nothing but blackness through the glass, however,

"This floor is the upper part of a sort of false bottom," Street said. "The real end of the cylinder is five feet farther down. Only there isn't any end that you. can see. The end seems to be open."

"Seems to be?" Ria echoed.

"The real end of the cylinder, Ria," Street explained, "is something invisible. It is a tremendously powerful rotating magnetic field. And it is the secret of the cylinder. That field, acting on substance before it, disrupts its atoms and then whirls the components to the rim of the field. There, the atoms are compacted and condensed. A cubic foot of rock, for ex- ample, is compacted to a cubic inch, but retains all its original weight, of course, in spite of its shrinkage. Look."

He switched on a light, which lit the space under the.glass trapdoor. Ria saw a whirling, furious mist, and, nearer to the glass, a sleek black wall, like black glass.

"The compacted matter, whirled to the rim of the hole the atom compacter is forcing for itself, is denser than any substance yet known and more than diamond hard. It makes a better tunnel lining than concrete, don't you think?"

Technovelgy from Death Dives Deep, by Paul Ernst.
Published by Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1936
Additional resources -

Compare to the mechanical mole from Oath of Fealty by Pournelle and Niven (1981) and the automatic shell from The Great Stone of Sardis (1897) by Frank Stockton.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 0 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Death Dives Deep
  More Ideas and Technology by Paul Ernst
  Tech news articles related to Death Dives Deep
  Tech news articles related to works by Paul Ernst

Atom Compactor (Metal Earthworm)-related news articles:
  - Autonomous BADGER Robot Drilling Machine
  - Prufrock The Newest Boring Machine

Articles related to Engineering
Coin-Sized Nuclear Battery Good For 100 Years
The FLUTE Project - A Huge Liquid Mirror In Space
'Whisper Mode' ala Blue Thunder Researched At Bristol
Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.

<Previous
Next>

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

 

 

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Science Fiction Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Science Fiction in the News

LORIS Passive-Gripper Climbing Robot
'At the end of each appendage's eight fingers there are tinier appendages...'

Drug To Regenerate Teeth In Humans
'We want to do something to help those who are suffering from tooth loss or absence,' said lead researcher Katsu Takahashi.

Coin-Sized Nuclear Battery Good For 100 Years
'...power pack the size of a pea.'

Live Stream With Meta-Ban Multimodal Smart Glasses
'...the bug-eyed, opaque gape of her True-Vu lenses.'

'Autonomous' Waymo Improves Driving With Remote Human Operators
'...some bored drone pusher in a remote driving centre has got your life... in his hands.'

Will Whales Be Our First Contact?
'He had piloted the Adastra to its first contact with the civilization of another solar system.'

SliceIt! Why Not Teach Robots To Use Knives?
'One building now gushed forth smoke and another stench that was unmistakable.'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Science Fiction Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.