Atomic Cannon

Geek Culture Places


Sometimes, a brief stop along the road can become a teaching moment…

Our clan had just relocated to Manhattan, Kansas. Having never lived in this part of the country before, I hit the  Internet to find interesting attractions in the area that I might take the kids to visit. In pretty short order, I had  compiled a list of various museums and parks that were within a days drive. I then went to the Roadside America website to see if there were any amusing stops we could make along the way. It is not often that a travel guide includes the words "atomic" and "cannon" within the same sentence. Seeing that it was just a few minutes away, I grabbed the kids to go investigate.

Just outside Junction City sits the "World’s Largest Atomic Cannon". The M65 is a 280mm cannon that measures over 42 feet long and weighs 42,500 lbs. Built in 1952 and on permanent loan from the Smithsonian, this mothballed piece of Cold War ordnance sits on a hilltop directly across the highway from Ft. Riley. It  reportedly could lob a warhead up to 20 miles. (Ironically, if fired from its present position, the shell would come just shy of hitting Abilene, KS, which is the home of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.)

Stopping to investigate this relic prompted many questions from the Geeklets. There were historical questions about the Cold War era, science questions about atomic physics, mathematical questions about how to plot trajectories, etc. There were also other more societal questions about politics, warfare and ethics which came up on the drive home. We did more research and found a video clip of the "Grable Shot" test done with the M65 as a part of Operation Upshot-Knothole at the Nevada Test Site.

I find it great when a small stop or event can turn into a larger investigation with your kids. Are there any places you have visited with your young ones which turned into an unintended teaching moment?

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