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NOT Buck Rogers!

Not Buck Rogers.

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The golden age of atomic dreams.  It was all promise and no disappointments or complications.  Rutherford hadn't done anything clever yet, and everything looked as full of potential as the pre-bust Internet bubble.

The illustration is from the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories and is described thus on the contents page:

Our Cover this month depicts a scene from the first instalment in this issue of the story entitled THE SKYLARK OF SPACE by Edward Elmer Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby, in which the scientist, who has discovered a chemical substance for the liberation of intra-atomic energy, is making his initial tests, preparatory to his interplanetary flight by means of this liberated energy, which makes possible his interstellar space-flyer.

The practical release of atomic energy in the 1940s took a massive effort using the combined talents and resources of the United States and Great Britain plus the brains of a small army of refugee European scientists.  What were they thinking?  They should have just phoned up Richard Seaton, E. E. Smith's hero, who had unleashed atomic energy with 100 percent efficiency by the first page of the novel. 

And how did he manage this?  By dipping a copper wire in a solution of a mysterious substance X and applying an electric current.  By page 35, he'd invented an atomic flying belt and by page 60, he'd perfected an interstellar spaceship.  By the end of the book he'd destroyed two alien battle fleets and an odd number of monsters and he got the girl.  What he did on his days off, I have no idea.

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