Jan 122015

Testing_bulletproof_vest_1923Things I Learned While Writing – Red Legacy edition.

These are things I didn’t know before, and found out while fact-checking for Red Legacy.

People have been trying to stop bullets for as long as there’ve been bullets. Early black-powder guns were relatively weak, and the lead balls could sometimes be stopped by a good silk shirt. In the 20s gangsters made vests out of multiple layers of very thick cotton, which were effective enough against pistols that the FBI (and presumably rival gangsters) switched to more powerful guns. Flak jackets from WWII were decent at stopping relatively-slow-speed flying shrapnel, but not much use against rifle rounds. After WWII the height of bullet-stopping tech was nylon webbing that held plates of steel or aluminum or ceramic (thus Marya’s upgraded lab coat). Kevlar wasn’t invented and made into armor until the mid-70s.

Every female name in the Russian language ends with the letter “A”. Or at least the ones that don’t are so rare that searching the standard “Russian Names” lists doesn’t produce any.

Chernobyl wasn’t actually a nuclear explosion. I know that this is probably common knowledge to most people, but all I’d really known about it before was that it was a nuclear reactor and a huge tragedy and there was an explosion and the area is still glowing (note: it’s not actually glowing), so of course I assumed it was a nuclear explosion. In fact, the explosion that tore the facility apart was an enormous steam explosion, and the nuclear disaster was when the fuel rods ignited and sent highly radioactive material pluming into the atmosphere for hours. The deaths via radiation sickness of those in the facility directly exposed were gruesome, but there weren’t many of them. The biggest effect was the large area of the nearby country that had to be abandoned for decades, and the still-high prevalence of cancer and genetic disorders among those who were the surrounding populace.

Chernobyl was also a complete cluster-fuck. It was due to a bungled test of a safety feature which didn’t have enough approval, was delayed to a shift that wasn’t prepared for it and then switched to third shift of workers mid-test, and had several mistakes and equipment failures exasperate it. Quite a few things had to all go wrong at once for this to happen, enough so that if it was in a fictional account the readers would groan and say “Are you kidding me? There’s no way that level of incompetence and misfortune would coincide in real life! It would make more sense as the result of enemy action or internal sabotage.” (note that I only very loosely based the Arkhipov incident on Chernobyl. I did the reading more to make sure that what I wrote wasn’t completely preposterous.)

100,000 volts is indeed enough to jump a 1-inch thick rubber sole.

  3 Responses to “TILWW: Red Legacy”

  1. Don’t you think that the “female names ending in a” thing is common to all Slavic languages?

    • I’m not sure, I’m not very familiar with other Slavic languages. It seems to be the case with Polish as well, but that’s just from personal experience, I didn’t do any googling to verify.

  2. Gendered endings are a pretty common thing actually. I haven’t seen that much of it in names specifically however French, Spanish, and Italian all have gendered endings. Spanish uses a as the feminine ending and o as the masculine one, I wonder if the same is true for Russian. (One note is that even if table is mesa and sky is ceilo in Spanish, people who speak Spanish don’t actually think of tables being girls and the sky being a boy)

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