Saturday, March 29, 2008

Andrei Sakharov vs Edward Teller

Sparing of two theoretical physicists--what a story of science and ethics. The focus of this topic is to discuss the implementation of programs developing and maintaining a nuclear arsenal [and potential deployment] and the ethics of such considerations. Part of the analysis is a function of global political temperament in post World War II and current climate--the balance of power issue.

Some brief background material:

Andrei Sakharov:

1.) Born 1921 in Moscow.

2.) After a two year interruption during World War II he returned to his academic studies under the guidance of Igor Tamm in theoretical physics.

3.) Research in 1951 lead to the Tokamak reactor design.

4.) Major contributor to the Soviet development/testing of the first thermonuclear bomb in 1953 and H-bomb test in 1955.

5.) Contributed to the 1963 Test Ban Treaty.

6.) Returned to theoretical physics--"baryon asymmetry"/"uneven disbursement of matter and antimatter in the universe".

7.) Strong political antinuclear proponent during the antiballistic missile defense issue between the Soviet Union and the United States.

["Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" was a keynote paper. Unfortunately, I cannot locate a complete copy of the essay. It appeared in the "New York Times" July 22nd 1968 issue. If anyone can supply a full copy please provide a link.]

8.) Ostracized from science/military spheres by Soviet government.

9.) Awarded Nobel Prize for Peace in 1975.

"Uncompromisingly and with unflagging strength Sakharov has fought against the abuse of power and all forms of violation of human dignity, and he has fought no less courageously for the idea of government based on the rule of law. In a convincing manner Sakharov has emphasized that Man's inviolable rights provide the only safe foundation for genuine and enduring international cooperation. In this way, in a particularly effective manner, working under difficult conditions, he has enhanced respect for the values that rally all true peacelovers."--1975 The Nobel Committee

10.) Internal exile from 1980 until 1986 when exonerated by Mikhail Gorbachev.

11.) Died in 1989.

"Andrei Sakharov: Theoretical Physics and Practical Humanics"

"Sakharov: Person of the 20th Century"

"Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov"

Edward Teller:

1.) Born 1908 in Budapest.

2.) Studied physics in Germany [Werner Heisenberg] and Denmark [Niels Bohr].

3.) Contributor to theoretical physics in the 1930's--Jahn-Teller effect concerning crystal symmetry as determined by electron and atomic nuclei reactions.

4.) Emigrated to the United States in 1935.

5.) Actively involved in atomic programs even before United State's involvement in World War II.

6.) Major participant in thermonuclear weaponry and eventual testing of said weapon in 1952.

7.) He and his buddy Ernest Lawrence lobbied for a new weapon testing facility--now Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

8.) In the mid 1950's he butted against J. Robert Oppenheimer.

9.) Subsequent statements pushing for the H-bomb set a barrier between him and the scientific community for his lack of ethics. He too was ostracized.

10.) Given the Enrico Fermi prize 1962.

11.) Died in 2003.

"Edward Teller"

"Edward Teller in the Public Arena"

"Edward Teller, Ph.D./Father of the Hydrogen Bomb"

"Edward Teller's Scientific Legacy/Current Trends In International Fusion Research: 6th Symposium/Edward Teller Memorial Lecture"

"The death of a nuclear legend" by, Barton J Bernstein

"Truth Teller/The nuclear scientist the Left loves to hate"

Here are two brilliant men of theoretical physics that are passionately involved in their beliefs and goals: One [Andrei Sakharov] pleading for detente and restraint between two super powers, the other [Edward Teller] advocating continued nuclear weapon production.

I don't know that much about the physics of nuclear weaponry and was surprised about a particular feature of the hydrogen bomb in that it is an "unlimited" weapon in regards to megaton yield. The "slolika" [Soviet hydrogen bomb] was limited in megaton yield and that it was redesigned by Sakharov and Zel’dovich.

"The idea was to use the radiation (photons) generated by an initial atomic explosion to compress a tube, thereby igniting fusion within it. The design, similar to the Ulam-Teller one, had potentially unlimited yield because the length of the tube could be increased as required."

And, it was while he was at Arzamas-16 that Sakharov began his political changes about nuclear proliferation.

"The Metamorphosis of Andrei Sakharov: The inventor of the Soviet hydrogen bomb became an advocate of peace and human rights. What led him to his fateful decision?"

No comments: