Happy Double Anniversary! Blasting caps!

The brave third cousin of my brave (now deceased) niece Lisa just wrote a surprising article in commemoration of the 64the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima (three days ago) and Nagasaki (today). Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame), as you probably know, at great risk to himself and his family, knocked over the first big domino that eventually led to the fall of Richard Nixon.

Ellsberg doubts that even one percent of Americans have an understanding of the difference in explosive force between a Hiroshima-size atom bomb and a hydrogen bomb.

Here's an excerpt:

Every one of our many thousands of H-bombs, the thermonuclear fusion bombs that arm our strategic forces, requires a Nagasaki-type A-bomb as its detonator. (I doubt that one American in a hundred knows that simple fact, and thus has a clear understanding of the difference between A- and H-bombs, or of the reality of the thermonuclear arsenals of the last 50 years.

Our popular image of nuclear war--from the familiar pictures of the devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima--is grotesquely misleading. Those pictures show us only what happens to humans and buildings when they are hit by what is now just the detonating cap for a modern nuclear weapon.

Posted on Aug 5, 2009
By Daniel Ellsberg

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1 comment:

  1. Hi there, Jeff.

    I got your email about your latest blog, and your comments about the technology behind nuclear weapons are well taken.

    The US has "dumbed down" in the sciences dramatically in the last 40 years. Fewer people than ever understand nuclear fission and fusion principles, and the contrast between the energy produced by a relatively low energy nuclear explosion, fission, and an extremely high energy one, fusion. The ability to comprehend the destruction of a 100 megaton bomb that has the energy production of 500 "Fat Man" or 700 "Little Boy" nuclear fission weapons dropped on Japan is beyond almost everyone. "Little Boy" killed 140,000 people, and had it been dropped on a more populous city, like Tokyo, the death toll would have been far higher. A 100 megaton nuclear fusion weapon, detonated 2,000 feet above Tokyo, would kill around 8 million people, a recreation of the Holocaust in less than a second.

    And we have thousands of these suckers here in the US! Thousands? We could kill a billion people with a hundred.

    The problem is the numbers. They are so huge, they become incomprehensible, dehumanized. If your neighbor dies in a car accident, it has more immediate emotional impact than a million people in Tokyo for most Americans.

    I wouldn't know where to begin with consciousness-raising. But somebody has to do it, so thanks for being the one.