Please Do Not Ride, Feed Or Stable The Nightmares

I presume everyone has occasional nightmares. Last night before I went to bed I read another chapter or two in a truly annoying book. I bought the book (used, of course) because it is by a Nobel laureate, has the word “Universe” in the title, is not too old (2005), and promises to deal with emergent phenomena on large and intermediate scales, in other words, some of the least perfectly understood matters in physics today. Being an award-winning physicist of a certain age, the author, not surprisingly, worked at Los Alamos on various “nuclear-weapon-related program activities” (as I believe someone in the GeeDubya Bush administration phrased it). Being who he apparently is, the author seems a bloody annoying human being; that’s why I will not reward his vanity googling with a citation. Besides, trust me: you don’t want to read this book, even though its advertised content has some value.

In any case, last night’s nightmare hearkened back to my childhood, sort of: it was a dream, not about being under a nuclear attack (as I used to dream occasionally as a child), but about being forced very much against my will to participate in the creation of new nuclear weapons. This strange dream was probably triggered by a combination of reading that book at bedtime and my unfortunate birthdate on the third anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of WWII. In any case, if I am insufferably cranky today, you can chalk it up to the dream. (Or not… I can be cranky just about any day!)

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  • MandT  On Thursday March 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Just as appalling are those documentaries of former agents, doctors and scientists, who with perfect knowledge of radiation, allowed radiation drift to engulf communities, schools and other civilian entities. Those that still live are proud of their ‘patriotic’ work. I will never be convinced that Nagasaki and Hiroshima were necessary. These horrendous weapons and the evil they caused are evil resting on the soul of Harry Truman and the Pentagon.

    • Steve  On Thursday March 29, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      MandT, not to disagree with your assessment of Truman and the Pentagon, but I believe the responsibility for the results of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings should rightfully be assigned much more broadly, and probably not as deeply as you may think. “[S]cientists” may have had “perfect knowledge” of the size of explosions the early atomic weapons could make, but their knowledge of the effects of radiation on the entire population of a city could not have been known before a city was A-bombed. One could argue that they should have forborne, after Hiroshima, the bombing of Nagasaki, but the bombings were only three days apart. I am not defending the use of atomic weapons at all; IMHO they never should have been used. But the horrifying facts that would have led our leaders to refrain were not yet available to them.

      I consider it a veritable miracle that no president since then has ordered the use of nuclear weapons, not even George W. Bush… indeed, not even Barack Obama, who seems to inflict violence with surprising coldness. The First Age of Nuclear Warfare was over with almost as soon as it began, a truly amazing course of events by most human standards. At the time, IMHO, our leaders had an excuse. Now we have no excuse: we know precisely what those weapons do. Will we continue to recoil in legitimate horror from the prospect of renewed nuclear war? Or will we continue threatening every nation that might possibly create nuclear weapons, threatening them with a fate that practically guarantees that they will create them?

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