Saturday, April 5, 2008

Nuclear weaponry

"Russell-Einstein Manifesto"

A Plea for Nuclear Arms Control

July 9, 1955

Perry W. Bridgman
Max Born
Frederic Joliot-Curie
Albert Einstein
Leopold Infeld
Herman J. Muller
Linus Pauling
Cecil F. Powell
Joseph Rotblat
Bertrand Russell
Hideki Yukawa

"Here, then, is the problem," the Manifesto stated, "which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war."

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto makes the following points:

1.) Scientists have special responsibilities to awaken the public to the technological threats, particularly nuclear threats, confronting humanity.

2.) Those scientists with the greatest knowledge of the situation appear to be the most concerned.

3.) Nuclear weapons endanger our largest cities and threaten the future of humanity.

4.) In the circumstance of prevailing nuclear threat, humankind must put aside its differences and confront this overriding problem.

5.) The prohibition of modern weapons is not a sufficient solution to the threat; war as an institution must be abolished.

6.) Nonetheless, as a first step the nuclear weapons states should renounce these weapons.

7.) The choice before humanity is to find peaceful means of settling conflicts or to face "universal death."

"There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death."

"The Russell-Einstein Manifesto"

I was doing some research on ancient metallurgy, especially in India, and discovered an interesting statement: "...none of the Rajput cannons were ever used to confront the British who succeeded in conquering the sub-continent without ever having to fight against the country's best equipped armies, thus demonstrating that technological progress is not an end in itself." [Rajput were Hindus of the warrior caste dating back to the 7th century. "Rajput" is a Sanskrit word meaning "son of a king (rajputra)" and the dominant people of Rajputana--Rajasthan. The emphasis is on the phrase "...demonstrating that technological progress is not an end in itself." Development of nuclear weapons and storing a pile of the weapons to detour hostile nations may be futile for a nation may be brought to its knees by lesser skillful or sophisticated technologies.

The old bromide "might makes right" is becoming antiquated and doesn't fit well into a mature species that mankind will eventually reach. Having the biggest stick [nuclear weapons] doesn't appear to persuade or subjugate terrorists. Maybe North Korea, but that may well be unfound hysteria on the communist regime. "First strike" capability is real and awesome. But, that had better be based on better intelligence than currently demonstrated; a truly thinking administration that suppresses personal agendas.

"The B61 is a tactical thermonuclear gravity bomb which can be carried aboard a variety of strategic and tactical aircraft (including the B-52 and B-2A bombers and the F-16 fighter). First deployed in 1968, an estimated 3,000 weapons in nine different versions (designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory) were ultimately built, with yields ranging from 0.3-300 kilotons. Seven of these versions remain operational, including the B61-11, deployed in 1997."

I suppose one has to draw the line somewhere...when do nuclear weapons verge on the ridiculous--such as the B61?

"It is scientifically and technically possible to build an earth penetrating device that could bury a B617 warhead 30 meters into concrete, or 150 meters into earth, before detonating it. The device (based on knowledge and technology that are available since 50 years) would however be large and cumbersome. Better penetrating materials, components able to withstand larger stresses, higher impact velocities, and/or high explosive driven penetration aids, can only marginally improve the device. It is concluded that the robust nuclear earth penetrating (RNEP) program may be as much motivated by the development of new technology directly applicable to next generation nuclear weapons, and by the political necessity to periodically reassess the role and utility of nuclear weapons, than by the perceived military need for a weapon able to destroy deeply buried targets. Funding for a nuclear “bunker buster” warhead has been dropped from the U.S. Energy Department’s 2006 budget, according to information released on October 26, 2005. However, like other major political issues, the project of earth penetrating warheads is a recurring subject, which has to be assessed in the context of an evolving technological and strategic environment, that is becoming particularly complex because of the advent of fourth generation nuclear weapons and new nuclear weapon States."


"The B61 (Mk-61) Bomb"

Secrets of society? Who knows and even scarier, a thermonuclear weapon that has fallen from the limelight. Anyone remember the "cobalt bomb". This was proposed by Leo Szilard and was supposed to be the ultimate "doomsday" weapon virtually destroying everything on Earth. Not very practical from a "winner take all" strategy, but it did theoretically establish some fear. Below is a link to a good explanation of regular thermonuclear weapons including the "Co-60" bomb.

"The Never-Tested Doomsday Bomb"

The "neutron bomb":

"In strategic terms, the neutron bomb has a theoretical deterrent effect: discouraging an armored ground assault by arousing the fear of neutron bomb counterattack. The bomb would disable enemy tank crews in minutes, and those exposed would die within days."

It appears that the basic targets are ground troops and armored vehicles that would normally be resistant to a conventional thermonuclear weapon generating heat and initial blast. But this weapon can produce huge quantities of neutrons which are absorbed by the armored vehicles. Understand that the M-1 tank is partially constructed of depleted uranium and with a heavy bombardment of neutrons fission would ensure that the vehicle would become radioactive. Still a nasty weapon and certainly confined to conventional warfare which may become nonexistent.

"Neutron bomb"

Hans Bethe felt "the most intense relief" that atomic weapons he helped develop had not been used since WWII – but horror that thousands more had been built.

"Hans in War and Peace"

You know...we talk about the terrible power of nuclear weapons, but none of us has ever experienced such a weapon...only by proxy. If we felt the heat, the wind, the blinding flash, the storm of debris, the radiation, we may try a bit harder to resolve this issue.

One may discuss many issues here and on different levels. Is the bulk of weaponry "defensive" or "offensive" and just to what degree of sophistication and lethality is needed to protect, destroy, persuade? Having thousands of nuclear weapons is absurd. Historically, the awesomeness of a nation's strength was measured by military might and the technologies at the military's disposal. The Hittites had the advantage of iron; the French armies were devastated by the English longbow; the Japanese brought to defeat by nuclear weapons. "Might" doesn't always make "right". There are no nations today save North Korea [and their threats are mere sabre rattling; pleas for global acceptance; ranting of an insane dictator] that pose a serious threat. The current threats are the idiotic terrorists that have lost all sense of rationality and think they can change powers by violence. They are a disgrace to their faith, ethnicity, and value of life. Their tactics of raw violence will dissolve into global jadedness and the acts will become superfluous. Surely, the citizens of this world can do a whole lot better than indulge in pettiness and the realization of a dominate regime that relishes subjugation and manipulation. That is corrupt power and cupidity at its worst. Nuclear parody is long gone. But understand this, great sums of revenue are generated during war time--commerce in a nasty way.

Here are two famous letters composed with the assistance of Leo Szilard, submitted to President Franklin D. Roosevelt regarding the production, proliferation, and use of atomic weapons.

Albert Einstein's letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, August 2, 1939

Albert Einstein
Old Grove Road
Nassau Point
Peconic, Long Island

August 2, 1939
F. D. Roosevelt,
President of the United States,
White House
Washington, D. C.


Some recent work by E.Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in a manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of this situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable - through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium,by which vast amount s of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This new phenomena would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable - though much less certain - that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, m ight very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.

Page 2

The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.
In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an inofficial capacity. His task might comprise the following:

a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium or for the United States;

b) to speed up the experimental work,which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University Laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contrib utions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial aboratories which have the necessary equipment.

I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such an early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsacker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.

Yours very truly,
(Albert Einstein)

Albert Einstein's second letter [actually the fourth] to Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 25, 1945.

Albert Einstein
112 Mercer Street
Princeton, New Jersey
March 25, 1945
The Honorable Franklin D. Roosevelt
The President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.


I am writing you to introduce Dr. L. Szilard who proposes to submit to you certain considerations and recommendations. Unusual circumstances which I shall describe further below induce me to take this action in spite of the fact that I do not know the substance of the considerations and recommendations which Dr. Szilard proposes to submit to you.

In the summer of 1939 Dr. Szilard put before me his views concerning the potential importance of uranium for national defense. He was greatly disturbed by the potentialities involved and anxious that the United States Government be advised of them as soon as possible. Dr. Szilard, who is one of the discovers of the neutron emission of uranium on which all present work on uranium is based, described to me a specific system which he devised and which he thought would make it possible to set up a chain reaction in unseparated uranium in the immediate future. Having known him for over twenty years both for his scientific work and personally, I have much confidence in his judgment and it was on the basis of his judgment as well as my own that I took the liberty to approach you in connection with this subject. You responded to my letter dated August 2, 1939 by the appointment of a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Briggs and thus started the Government's activity in this field.

The terms of secrecy under which Dr. Szilard is working at present do not permit him to give me information about his work; however, I understand that he now is greatly concerned about the lack of adequate contact between scientists who are doing this work and those members of your Cabinet who are responsible for formulating policy. In the circumstances I consider it my duty to give Dr. Szilard this introduction and I wish to express the hope that you will be able to give his presentation of the case your personal attention.

Yours very truly,
(Albert Einstein)

Further reading...

"A Critical Look at the Bush Administration Energy Department’s Nuclear Weapons Complex and the First Decade of Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship"

"E-Weapons: Directed Energy Warfare In The 21st Century"

"More Than 470 Physicists Sign Petition To Oppose U.S. Policy On Nuclear Attack"

"Nuclear Options"

"Our Hidden WMD Program/Why Bush is spending so much on nuclear weapons"

Additional materials...

See this other "Philosophy of Science Portal" blog topic:

Andrei Sakharov vs Edward Teller

An audio presentation from NPR:

"Scientists Work on New Nuclear Weapons"

Free online book:

The Nuclear Seduction: Why the Arms Race Doesn't Matter—and What Does

1 comment:

Timray said...

With so many countries moving to nuclear energy i am afraid a "dirty bomb" will leave the missles in their silos.....much cheaper to hire some thugs and hit your enemy....