There is a film entitled "2010: Odyssey Two". It is a sequel to the film "2001, a Space Odyssey". Both are based on the work of Arthur C. Clarke.
I watched it as a kid. I was fascinated. Being brought up to think we were going to have a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was a strange thing. I don't know if there is an equivalent today for kids. But back then, it was the thing, at least for some of us.
Today I learned something. Mr Clarke put into his work the names of several Soviet dissidents. Dissident is an interesting word, not used so much nowdays. However, dissidents do still exist; for example see wikipedia (an article to which I have made a small contribution).
And so, when they said on the screen, the 'Sakharov drive', Clarke was tweaking the Soviet state power that had pushed Sakharov into the shadows.
Sakharov, who was this man?
Sakharov is like a combination of Einstein and Teller. He was a brilliant person, a physicist. He basically invented the Soviet H-bomb, independently. What is an H-bomb? It is a very, very powerful atomic bomb, bigger than the ordinary atomic bombs. If the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed, say, a couple of square miles of a city, down to rubble, then an H-bomb could have destroyed, well, a couple of dozen square miles of a city.
The largest bomb ever created, that we know of, was the 'Tsar Bomba', tested in the Soviet Union. It is rather curious, for the avowed defenders of Marxism and equality of all the workers, to adopt the name of the system which they died, by the hundreds of thousands, starving in the snow, to overthrow in the young days of the Twentieth Century. How could they use the word 'Tsar' when they throw people in jail for writing poetry and novels?
Mr Sakharov, with his H-Bomb, was a very important person in Soviet society. He could not, however, be confined to his research. His mind expanded, branched out, somehow. He could not help but apply this machinery of the mind, of logic, reason, curiosity, intellectual exploration, to the society he lived in, to the government he worked for, and to the bureaucracy that enveloped him.
He was, almost, a living example of D-503, the protagonist of the famous novel "We", by Yvgeny Zamyatin. D-503 is an engineer on the Integral, the great technological acheivement of the One State. But Mr Sakharov did not go insane or become lobotomized as D-503. He managed to become what they call a dissident. He wrote books, he said things, things that needed to be said.
But for Mr. Clarke, to sprinkle his science fiction with the names of real dissidents, well, this was a stroke from a man who was interested in more than gizmodics and technicalities. It reminds me of Ray Bradbury, another science fiction writer, whose stories were about human beings, and not about gadgets.
And yet, as a young person, I had no idea that he had done it. "The Sakharov Drive", was to me a thing of fantasy, of mystery. Sakharov, who was he? As the 'dark man', hidden in Silhouette in 'The Right Stuff', was mysterious. Was he evil? Was he good? Was he real? Was he fake? Perhaps I had even mixed up these two men in my mind. "Something-ov" would run around in my young brain, and wither, soon distracted by a comic book or video game.
We would learn only later, that one these men, had a real name and real life to go with the dark silhouette and shadowy portrayal in 'The Right Stuff'. The Chief Designer, Korolev, was himself thrown in prison by his own government. He was a space dreamer, compromised in a military bureaucracy of a closed state. It is a complicated story. Perhaps the closest thing to understanding we could acheive was by reading The First Circle, by Solzhenytsin, which is a book about the 'Sharashkas', or prisons for engineers and scientists in the Soviet State.
Sakharov's story came out much sooner than Korolevs, because he did not die prematurely, and because he told it himself. And yet, I did not hear it. I did not know it. I was trapped in Castle Greskull, in Hyrule, in Gi Joe's base, the dome of the Justice League, in the grid of Pac-Man and the imaginary worlds of flight simulators. Later on it was other things. Certainly not long books on Soviet history. I did not actually read The Right Stuff until college.
What was the difference between these two men? What were their stories? What were their lives?
Only when I was much older did I even learn the basics of these two men. Why?