The Mysterious Cube The Nazis May Have Used When They Tried To Build An Atomic Bomb

It sounds like a MacGuffin from a Marvel movie: a mysterious cube, designed and produced by supervillains, becomes the key to unleashing mass destruction, the likes of which the planet Earth has never seen. But as new research may be about to show, such an event may have been a historical fact ... though luckily, the cube was never put to the use for which it was intended.

The object under scrutiny — just two inches high — is currently held in the archives of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. According to the Smithsonian, academics have long since speculated that the origins of the cube can be found in Nazi Germany in the early 1940s when Nazi scientists were put to work to develop atomic capabilities at the same time the Allies were working on the Manhattan Project. Now, the researchers Jon Schwantes and Brittany Robertson are employing radiochromatic dating — a technique involving a film that produces a result similar to carbon dating, but for radioactive objects — to see whether the cube is a temporal fit.

In an August 20 interview with Vice, Robertson was optimistic, saying: "We do have preliminary results back just today that suggest that the age of our cube is consistent with the age of the Nazi nuclear program."

Relics of the Nazi atomic program

Those working on the project speculate that the object is in fact a "Heisenberg cube," developed by the famous German scientist Werner Heisenberg (pictured) as a building block in the creation of a nuclear reactor that would employ hundreds of such cubes in the name of harnessing atomic energy.

But in 1944 and in the absence of any viable progress, the project was discontinued, and the vast majority of the cubes went missing. According to Live Science, the whereabouts of "roughly a dozen" of the cubes have been confirmed by academics, while over 1,200 were believed to have been created during the race to develop the atomic bomb.

But the purpose of the research by Jon Schwantes and Brittany Robertson isn't simply to provide us with another tidbit concerning the machinations of Nazi Germany, or even to set the historical record straight with regard to the development of atomic bombs. According to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Heisenberg Cube housed at their facility is already being used to train border guards from around the world to be able to better identify the presence of nuclear material, and thereby help prevent international smuggling.