Deafness at Doomsday

17

TO our great peril, the scientific community has had little success in recent years influencing policy on global security. Perhaps this is because the best scientists today are not directly responsible for the very weapons that threaten our safety, and are therefore no longer the high priests of destruction, to be consulted as oracles as they were after World War II.

 


The problems scientists confront today are actually much harder than they were at the dawn of the nuclear age, and their successes more heartily earned. This is why it is so distressing that even Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living scientist, gets more attention for his views on space aliens than his views on nuclear weapons.Scientists’ voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren’t being heard.

Indeed, it was Albert Einstein’s letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, warning of the possibility that Hitler might develop a nuclear weapon, that quickly prompted the start of the Manhattan Project, the largest scientific wartime project in history. Then, in 1945, the same group of physicists who had created the atomic bomb founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to warn of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and to promote international cooperation to avoid nuclear war. As Einstein said in May 1946, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

The men who built the bomb had enormous prestige as the greatest physics minds of the time. They included Nobel laureates, past and future, like Hans A. Bethe, Richard P. Feynman, Enrico Fermi, Ernest O. Lawrence and Isidor Isaac Rabi.

In June 1946, for instance, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had helped lead the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, N.M., argued that atomic energy should be placed under civilian rather than military control. Within two months President Harry S. Truman signed a law doing so, effective January 1947.

Today, nine nuclear states have stockpiled perhaps 20,000 nuclear weapons, many of which dwarf the weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet proliferation is as alarming as ever, even though President Obama signed, and Congress ratified, the new strategic arms-reduction treaty in 2010. Iran’s nuclear program could lead to conflict. So could the animosity between India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear weapons.

The United States is complicit, because whatever our leaders may say, our actions suggest that we have no real intention to disarm. The United Nations adopted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would ban countries from testing nuclear weapons, in 1996. But it has not come into force; the Senate rejected ratification in 1999, and while President Obama has promised to obtain ratification, he has not shown enough urgency in doing so.

Written By: LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS
continue to source article at nytimes.com

17 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Lawrence, you’ve made my day.

    I know that when you say “we’re fucked” it’s not for this relatively parochial and eminently avoidable reason, but if we ain’t careful it may well turn out to be.

    We could end up jumping the gun on what’s inevitable, and that would be very silly of us indeed, given our sheer good fortune to be here at all.

    Deep, yet ironic, sigh!

    I’m English don’t you know.

  2. I am confused- total nuclear disarmament is impossible and if it were started, would leave the way clear for blackmail by rogue states, surely? Iran & N Korea would be delighted. Israel would refuse to play and who could blame them?
    Idealistic, unrealistic and potentially disastrous

  3. In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

    Thank you Lawrence, you’ve made my day.

    I know that when you say “we’re fucked” it’s not for this relatively parochial and eminently avoidable reason, but if we ain’t careful it may well turn out to be.

    We could end up jumping the gun on what’s inevitable, and that would be very silly of us indeed, given our sheer good fortune to be here at all.

    Deep, yet ironic, sigh!

    Could you expand/explain please, Stafford?

  4. As a citizen of a nation state that hasn’t signed both NPT & CTBT, India I have always argued for unilateral disarmament. But I am one of the few who take this stance. We have been taught in school the pitfalls of CTBT & NPT, why we haven’t signed/ratified them. And of the great injustice that is UN security council which is both undemocratic & not a true representation of the world.

    In its 60 years of existence India has fought 3 major wars with Pakistan & 1 with China. So, most Indians would argue against unilateralism simple due to deterrence value. The only way we can achieve a nuclear-weapons free world is when countries like US, France & UK give up their weapons unilaterally and lead by example. If countries that are thousands of miles away from their old(Soviet) & new(Iran) enemies, how could you argue for countries like India & Israel, to relinquish the only reasonable deterrence they have?

  5. In reply to #4 by kbala:

    The only way we can achieve a nuclear-weapons free world is when countries like US, France & UK give up their weapons unilaterally and lead by example. If countries that are thousands of miles away from their old(Soviet) & new(Iran) enemies, how could you argue for countries like India & Israel, to relinquish the only reasonable deterrence they have?

    I’ve always thought a good way into this for the UK, is to share our nuclear weapons with say, two other members of the Commonwealth – for example one of Australia/New Zealand/Canada on the one hand plus an emerging nation say Guyana/Bangladesh or Sri Lanka on the other. Use of the weapons could only be possible if all 3 countries agreed. Effectively, this would put the non-use of our nuclear weapons beyond doubt. Over time, members of the joint command could be changed and new countries bought in and the UK’s nuclear umbrella could expand to cover all members of the Commonwealth. Maybe, under such an arrangement, India and Pakistan would be prepared to hand over their weapons to this joint command as well.

  6. In reply to #3 by Nodhimmi:

    In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:Thank you Lawrence, you’ve made my day.I know that when you say “we’re fucked” it’s not for this relatively parochial and eminently avoidable reason, but if we ain’t careful it may well turn out to be.We could end up jumping the gun on what’s inevitable, and that would be very silly of us indeed, given our sheer good fortune to be here at all.Deep, yet ironic, sigh!Could you expand/explain please, Stafford?

    Lawrence Krauss gave a talk a few years ago in which he touched on the fate of life on this planet in something like thirty billion years time, and according to him he’d asked Elisabeth Cornwell to suggest a title for his address, and she’d said why not call it “We’re Fucked”.

    I was getting at the idea that if we’re not careful our demise could be brought about a lot sooner than that by our own hands, a thought which had cheered me up no end, or in other words had “made my day”.

    Apropos of “our sheer good fortune to be here at all” evolution might not have gone the way it did, since at base it comes about by means of cumulative non random survival of randomly varying self replicating information: the kind of description latched on to by Creationists and the like as being dehumanizing, but it is nontheless true.

    In light of which, I think “a deep, yet ironic, sigh” is in order, don’t you

  7. In reply to #2 by Nodhimmi:

    I am confused- total nuclear disarmament is impossible and if it were started, would leave the way clear for blackmail by rogue states, surely? Iran & N Korea would be delighted. Israel would refuse to play and who could blame them?
    Idealistic, unrealistic and potentially disastrous

    Sorry Nodhimmi, I don’t see your point?

    Total nuclear disarmament may be impossible but it has certainly started. That’s what the NPT is all about – or should be;

    1. Non-Proliferation
    2. Disarmament
    3. Peaceful Use

    There are 22,000 nuclear weapons presently on the planet. Bilateral START talks have been ratified and, one presumes, are being implemented and will take us up to 2020 at least.

    How, whilst disarmament is going on, could a ‘rogue state’ blackmail anyone?

    Of the three countries you mention, Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, and North Korea may have about ten low yield bombs. Israel possibly between a few tens and a few hundred warheads.

    To put this in perspective after successful START talks both the USA and the Russian Federation will be able to deploy (that means on planes, on ships, on subs, in silos – ready to go, ready to launch, ready to fire, lock’n’load and all that stuff) a maximum of 1,550 warheads each.

    Do we really believe that the moment Imadinnerjacket gets a weapon, if he ever does, he will put it on a missile and launch it at straight at Israel?

    Do we really believe that if a ‘rogue state’ such as North Korea sold a weapon to a terrorist organisation who then say, exploded it in London, that the British would launch a nuclear strike on the 3.5 million people in Pyongyang?

    The only thing that is potentially idealistic, unrealistic, and potentially suicidal would be not to pursue total nuclear disarmament.

    In this you can only achieve what you can achieve. START is a start but movement elsewhere is achievable, and necessary, too.

    We could have an opportunity soon here in the UK following Scottish devolution (and coupled with the phenomenal expense of Britain’s ‘Stick-On Hairy Chest’) which may, in a bizarre way, give the UK leverage elsewhere.

    Israel becoming part of the Non Proliferation Treaty would be a start, and would remove, at the stroke of a pen, numerous Iranian objections to NPT protocols, as Israel would be subject to them, too.

    Anvil.

  8. In reply to #7 by Stafford Gordon:

    In reply to #3 by Nodhimmi:

    In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:Thank you Lawrence, you’ve made my day.I know that when you say “we’re fucked” it’s not for this relatively parochial and eminently avoidable reason, but if we ain’t careful it may well turn out to be.We could end up jumping the gun on what’s inevitable, and that would be very silly of us indeed, given our sheer good fortune to be here at all.Deep, yet ironic, sigh!Could you expand/explain please, Stafford?

    Lawrence Krauss gave a talk a few years ago in which he touched on the fate of life on this planet in something like thirty billion years time, and according to him he’d asked Elisabeth Cornwell to suggest a title for his address, and she’d said why not call it “We’re Fucked”.

    I was getting at the idea that if we’re not careful our demise could be brought about a lot sooner than that by our own hands, a thought which had cheered me up no end, or in other words had “made my day”.

    Apropos of “our sheer good fortune to be here at all” evolution might not have gone the way it did, since at base it comes about by means of cumulative non random survival of randomly varying self replicating information: the kind of description latched on to by Creationists and the like as being dehumanizing, but it is nontheless true.

    In light of which, I think “a deep, yet ironic, sigh” is in order, don’t you

    OK, now it’s a lot clearer!

    Very surprised by LK’s “30 billion years time” comment. Did he really say 30 billion (or 30 million)?
    No disagreement regarding humanity’s intense desire to eradicate itself but 30 years is closer to the mark; surviving even 300 yrs looks implausible to me!

  9. In reply to #8 by Anvil:

    In reply to #2 by Nodhimmi:

    I am confused- total nuclear disarmament is impossible and if it were started, would leave the way clear for blackmail by rogue states, surely? Iran & N Korea would be delighted. Israel would refuse to play and who could blame them?
    Idealistic, unrealistic and potentially disastrous

    Sorry Nodhimmi, I don’t see your point?

    Total nuclear disarmament may be impossible but it has certainly started. That’s what the NPT is all about – or should be;

    Non-Proliferation
    Disarmament
    Peaceful Use

    There are 22,000 nuclear weapons presently on the planet. Bilateral START talks have been ratified and, one presumes, are being implemented and will take us up to 2020 at least.

    How, whilst disarmament is going on, could a ‘rogue state’ blackmail anyone?

    Of the three countries you mention, Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, and North Korea may have about ten low yield bombs. Israel possibly between a few tens and a few hundred warheads.

    To put this in perspective after successful START talks both the USA and the Russian Federation will be able to deploy (that means on planes, on ships, on subs, in silos – ready to go, ready to launch, ready to fire, lock’n’load and all that stuff) a maximum of 1,550 warheads each.

    Do we really believe that the moment Imadinnerjacket gets a weapon, if he ever does, he will put it on a missile and launch it at straight at Israel?

    Do we really believe that if a ‘rogue state’ such as North Korea sold a weapon to a terrorist organisation who then say, exploded it in London, that the British would launch a nuclear strike on the 3.5 million people in Pyongyang?

    The only thing that is potentially idealistic, unrealistic, and potentially suicidal would be not to pursue total nuclear disarmament.

    In this you can only achieve what you can achieve. START is a start but movement elsewhere is achievable, and necessary, too.

    We could have an opportunity soon here in the UK following Scottish devolution (and coupled with the phenomenal expense of Britain’s ‘Stick-On Hairy Chest’) which may, in a bizarre way, give the UK leverage elsewhere.

    Israel becoming part of the Non Proliferation Treaty would be a start, and would remove, at the stroke of a pen, numerous Iranian objections to NPT protocols, as Israel would be subject to them, too.

    Anvil.

    OK, where to START… (sorry, never can resist the obvious!)
    NPT is making progress, albeit at glacial speed (initiated in 1968); the various START agreements have gone nowhere much, as they exclude ‘stockpiled’ armaments and besides are bi-lateral only.
    For all the talk of nuclear Armageddon, as we know these weapons have been used twice and not since 1945. World Wars 3, 4…. MAY have been avoided by their presence, who knows?
    Currently the risk factors have increased dramatically; of these, radical Islam is most dangerous, IMO.
    Not since the kamikaze have we faced an enemy willing, indeed anxious to die for their beliefs and unlike the ‘divine wind’ they number in the millions.
    Nuclear disarmament can’t be achieved by force and there seems no prospect of what I loosely termed rogue states agreeing. Thus if Israel disarmed the immediate response of Arab/Islamic states will be increased pressure to eliminate it- as stated in the Charters of Hamas & Palestinian Authority, aided by Iran.
    Should Iran get the bomb the situation looks even more desperate. What notice is Iran taking of the NPT?

    According to Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman, the “NPT has one giant loophole”: Article IV gives each non-nuclear weapon state the ‘inalienable right’ to pursue nuclear energy for the generation of power.[5] A “number of high-ranking officials, even within the United Nations, have argued that they can do little to stop states using nuclear reactors to produce nuclear weapons”
    [Wikipedia, NPT]

    So yes, disarmament is highly desirable but the risk involved is incalculable. As for your “Do we believe” scenarios, what we choose to believe is irrelevant. I believe there is a high probability that Iran would pass the technology to its Islamist fanatics; if as you postulate, a terrorist organisation used a weapon on a western city, who can say what would or would not happen.
    For interest’s sake it has been studied-
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2142634/Join-Forces-Staff-College-taught-officers-wage-Hiroshima-style-war-Muslims.html-
    and more recently the Tom Tancredo controversy-

    So my contention that ‘total disarmament is a great danger’ (which can apply only voluntarily) stands.
    As for Iranian objections, they are valid only when viewed through the lens of Islamic extremism and Jew hatred.

  10. “Scientists’ voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren’t being heard.”

    Interesting that LK puts climate change first in his list of challenges but then veers away and devotes the rest of the piece to the nuclear doomsday challenge. Why are the most high-profile, respected, ‘celebrity’ science voices like those of Krauss, Dawkins, Tyson et al consistently doing this kind of hit-and-run act about climate change?
    Is it or isn’t it the most pressing challenge? Is it at the root of all the other challenges, driving that nuclear proliferation and the spread of pathogens? Could it be a bit too uncomfortable for them to really zero in on and say with one voice, “We’re fucked … if we continue to burn, baby, burn”? After all they do a lot of fossil-fuel flying, cruising and tooling around, criss-crossing the globe to lecture, view giant squids and appear on TV with exotic backdrops.

    Could it be that their voices aren’t being heard or are being ignored, as jet-setting Al Gore’s is being ignored, even despised, because there is a deep disconnect between the messenger and the message?

    Just asking.

  11. Hi, Nodhimmi, thanks for reply.

    OK, where to START… (sorry, never can resist the obvious!)
    NPT is making progress, albeit at glacial speed (initiated in 1968); the various START agreements have gone nowhere much, as they exclude ‘stockpiled’ armaments and besides are bi-lateral only.
    For all the talk of nuclear Armageddon, as we know these weapons have been used twice and not since 1945. World Wars 3, 4…. MAY have been avoided by their presence, who knows?
    Currently the risk factors have increased dramatically; of these, radical Islam is most dangerous, IMO.
    Not since the kamikaze have we faced an enemy willing, indeed anxious to die for their beliefs and unlike the ‘divine wind’ they number in the millions.

    The risk factors during the cold war were immense. They are nothing like they were.

    Pre START there were thousands of high yield bombs everywhere. Air Burst, Bunker Busters, Depth Charges. Systems existed to remove human ‘frailty’ from the button pushing equation. Platforms (I worked on one) would regularly launch nuclear strikes – every few days when operational.

    We were phenomenally lucky to have avoided a devastating and world changing war simply by accident.

    Nuclear disarmament can’t be achieved by force and there seems no prospect of what I loosely termed rogue states agreeing. Thus if Israel disarmed the immediate response of Arab/Islamic states will be increased pressure to eliminate it- as stated in the Charters of Hamas & Palestinian Authority, aided by Iran.
    Should Iran get the bomb the situation looks even more desperate. What notice is Iran taking of the NPT?

    Yes, I agree, force is the stupid option. And unnecessary. States though, rogue or otherwise, do give up nuclear weapons.

    Israel could not disarm tomorrow, it would take a number of years. My suggestion is that they announce a notice of intent to sign the NPT with a view to pursue Egypt’s idea of a nuclear free Middle East. This would signal intent to disarm and put tremendous pressure on Iran.

    What Arab/Islamic states would be under pressure to eliminate Israel? The PLA has not called for the elimination of Israel since the Oslo Accord and specifically amended its Charter as such – and neither Hamas nor Hezbollah have the capability to do much more than throw fireworks at Israel.

    As for Iran producing a bomb, I don’t believe for one moment that the Iranians themselves think they will ever be allowed to make one.

    As to the notice Iran is taking of the NPT, well, they are a signatory – Israel isn’t – and as such are in communication with the NPT and IAEA and have a dialogue with the world community regarding its nuclear program – Israel doesn’t. Iran knows it cannot withdraw from the NPT as this would trigger an attack on its facilities forcing it into a conflict it couldn’t win – regardless of its bluster to annihilate Israel, attack american bases and close the Straits of Hormuz.

    According to Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman, the “NPT has one giant loophole”: Article IV gives each non-nuclear weapon state the ‘inalienable right’ to pursue nuclear energy for the generation of power.[5] A “number of high-ranking officials, even within the United Nations, have argued that they can do little to stop states using nuclear reactors to produce nuclear weapons”
    [Wikipedia, NPT]

    Yes, ‘peaceful use’ is the third pillar of the NPT – and rightly so.

    Most states will not, and do not want to produce nuclear weapons. Those that do will expect the same harsh treatment that is currently being dished out to Iran. Regardless of what Netanyahu is screaming, the US seem to think the situation at least contained. In this sense they seem to be fairly effective in stopping Iran?

    North Korea, being disconnected from the world economy seems to be an outlier here.

    So yes, disarmament is highly desirable but the risk involved is incalculable.

    The ‘incalculable risk’ is to leave things as they are. There is no risk whatsoever in Israel joining the NPT. There is less risk in having a non-nuclear middle east than have a nuclear armed middle east. There is everything to gain in this strategy, and nothing to lose.

    As for your “Do we believe” scenarios, what we choose to believe is irrelevant. I believe there is a high probability that Iran would pass the technology to its Islamist fanatics; if as you postulate, a terrorist organisation used a weapon on a western city, who can say what would or would not happen.

    This is how strategic foreign policy is worked out. You have to start with the facts and move from there. There is a low probability that Iran would pass on a device to a third party because Iran does not possess a device.

    From this fact we can devise a policy to prevent Iran from building, or wanting to build, a device.

    So my contention that ‘total disarmament is a great danger’ (which can apply only voluntarily) stands.
    As for Iranian objections, they are valid only when viewed through the lens of Islamic extremism and Jew hatred.

    Iran has valid objections to how it is treated compared to how Israel is treated. Arabs have valid objections to how they are treated compared to how Jews are treated.

    Sorry, long post but let me just add this: It is easy to launch a nuclear strike from the US to, say, China (or the other way around) as these places are far away.

    Less easy from Tehran to Tel Aviv (988 miles). You better make sure the wind is blowing in the right direction.

    Look at few other distances:

    • Tel Aviv to West Bank – 28 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – 34 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Gaza – 45 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Amman, Jordan – 69 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Beirut – 131 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Damascus 133 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Nicosia, Cyprus – 228
    • Tel Aviv to Alexandria, Egypt – 290
    • Tel Aviv to Medina – 602 miles
    • Tel Aviv to Mecca – 797 miles

    Anvil.

  12. With all respect Dr. Krauss, people not listening is different than being deaf or deafness so as a representative of academia you mildly pissed off many disability intellectuals and science buffs, you can do that, but many will stop listening. The disability community and representations of the disability community to the general public are not favorable if only from real or imaginary human experimentation. The National Council on Disability has statistics on how many people will live a disability during their life time.

    Second, the pro science and left do not break things down for people to understand. It is a joke but also real that half the people have under average intelligence and only fox news is taking an effort to communicate. Many adults with developmental and learning disabilities would like good information, but they are not children, they need adult oriented science books and media.

    I very much enjoy Dr. Krauss lectures, he is just so bad or hung up on using disability metaphors.

  13. In reply to #14 by Vicar of Art on Earth:

    With all respect Dr. Krauss, people not listening is different than being deaf or deafness so as a representative of academia you mildly pissed off many disability intellectuals and science buffs, you can do that, but many will stop listening. The disability community and representations of the disability community to the general public are not favorable if only from real or imaginary human experimentation. The National Council on Disability has statistics on how many people will live a disability during their life time.

    Second, the pro science and left do not break things down for people to understand. It is a joke but also real that half the people have under average intelligence and only fox news is taking an effort to communicate. Many adults with developmental and learning disabilities would like good information, but they are not children, they need adult oriented science books and media.

    I very much enjoy Dr. Krauss lectures, he is just so bad or hung up on using disability metaphors. Having administored academics, the title would be more real to say “Ph.Ded” at Doomsday, as most people who are deaf are very much concerned with good communications.

  14. As a deaf reader I find Lawrence Krauss very offensive with his stupid usage of metaphor. You sir are as intelligence and narrow minded as fucking a turd. Let have some real intelligence people who are not as stupid as Mr Krauss with his usage of English language. Rant over

  15. In reply to #15 by Vicar of Art on Earth:

    In reply to #14 by Vicar of Art on Earth:

    With all respect Dr. Krauss, people not listening is different than being deaf or deafness so as a representative of academia you mildly pissed off many disability intellectuals and science buffs, you can do that, but many will stop listening. The disability community and representations of the disability community to the general public are not favorable if only from real or imaginary human experimentation. The National Council on Disability has statistics on how many people will live a disability during their life time.

    Second, the pro science and left do not break things down for people to understand. It is a joke but also real that half the people have under average intelligence and only fox news is taking an effort to communicate. Many adults with developmental and learning disabilities would like good information, but they are not children, they need adult oriented science books and media.

    I very much enjoy Dr. Krauss lectures, he is just so bad or hung up on using disability metaphors. Having administored academics, the title would be more real to say “Ph.Ded” at Doomsday, as most people who are deaf are very much concerned with good communications.

    What the hell are you people on about – you’re ranting about nothing! “Deaf to” is standard English usage in describing someone ignoring information, and has nothing to do with actual physically deaf people. In the same way we would say a statesman is blind to the problems caused by his policies, without referring in any way to the living sightless. Argument is fine, but don’t manufacture it.

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