#2. Old Bombers Are Used as Crash Test Dummies
Melanie Stetson Freeman / Getty
The B-52 is the grandfather of all current bombers, and it dwarfs the C-130 mentioned earlier. Introduced during the Korean War, it has seen service in every single major conflict the U.S. has been involved in since. However, some of the older variants have been retired and scrapped due to their age. But this doesn't mean that they have been totally useless in death.
U.S. Air Force
OK, that one might be on fire.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. struck an arms deal with the Soviet Union that required them to retire 30 B-52 bombers. They were sent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which incidentally looks like someone went crazy with Photoshop:
Whoa, a little heavy on the copy/paste function there.
Someone at that point had the awesome idea to destroy the massive planes with explosions, but then somebody thought, "Hey, I wonder if that would yield tons of information about how big planes explode? And if the people who make airliners would like to get in on that?"
Not that airliners were just exploding left and right 20 years ago, but they kind of needed to know how to make their planes explosion-proof due to, you know, terrorism. When a terrorist bombs an aircraft, it usually rips a hole in the plane. However, that isn't usually what causes the whole thing to fall out of the sky -- instead, after the hole has been created, cracks spread, and the whole thing can just burst like a metal balloon. The solution? Create a material resistant to those cracks. The only thing stopping this research was a lack of aircraft to blow up to see how it worked ... until the FAA found themselves with those 30 B-52s that needed to be blown up anyway.
Reduce, reuse, explode.
It would be awesome if we had video here of them blowing the shit out of the planes, but obviously that video wasn't released to the public, since the most interested parties would have been terrorists who'd scrutinize the clips and think, "Ah, so we need to blow it up like this from now on." Which would have defeated the purpose somewhat.
#1. Old Soviet Nuclear Missiles Are Used to Power Homes
Sovfoto / UIG / Getty
Most people alive today, and many of you reading this article, grew up in a time when thousands of nukes were pointed at their homes from halfway across the world, ready to rain death and destruction at a moment's notice.
"What happens if I press this but- oh shit."
However, since the Cold War was won (USA! USA!), the need for these missiles has lessened greatly and thousands have been decommissioned. So what happens to them after they're decommissioned? Well, there's a 10 percent chance your computer is powered using old Soviet nuclear fuel.
Under a program titled Megatons to Megawatts, Russia has been handing over their decommissioned missiles in order for the U.S. to dismantle and remove the nuclear material for use in their nuclear power plants. Old Russian nukes provide more power than geothermal, solar, and wind. The program has been so successful that 45 percent of all U.S. nuclear fuel was pulled from weapons that were previously intended to kill the very people getting power from it. It's because of this spooky irony that the power industry has been hush-hush over the entire deal.
They just called the uranium "recycled" and left it at that.
The U.S. sees it as a way to prevent loose nuclear missiles in Russia, while Russia sees it as a way to make the U.S. dependent on nuclear treaties. And Russia is right. The U.S. power industry has now been permanently tied to nuclear disarmament treaties. Ten percent of the U.S.'s annual power comes from the fuel from these missiles ... which is expected to be completely depleted at the end of 2013. Utilities operators (as well as people who enjoy consuming electricity and living in the modern world) have their fingers crossed that a new disarmament treaty will be passed soon. So that would be another reason to do it.
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Related Reading: Sometimes the military finds new uses for its own old equipment. It's kinda the munitions equivalent of masturbation, but tell us those Chinese military crossbows aren't the shit. If you're interested in crazy antique weaponry that was straight-up abandoned, click this link. It turns out the Navy routinely throws away billions of dollars' worth of battleship. If low-budget DIY warfare is more your thing, this list of incredible military improvisations should sate your peculiarly specific tastes.