Bombing the Test


Obama’s and Romney’s nuclear weapons policies are misguided and maybe dangerous. – Slate Magazine

This article arises from Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University that explores emerging technologies and their implications for policy and society. On Oct. 9, Future Tense will host an event on the presidential election and science and technology policy. For more information and to RSVP, visit New America’s website.

  1. Romney admitted there that the world is getting warmer and that human activity contributes to that warming. Nevertheless, he repeats the some of the misinformation that has been promulgated about climate change: that there is a lack of scientific consensus both on the extent of the human contribution and on the severity of the possible risks associated with climate change. The former is definitively out of touch with reality. The latter is less so. The severity of the effects of climate change are indeed model dependent, but no one doubts that the possible risks are huge. The question is whether one is willing to take the risks, aware of what they might be. In any case, while he doesn’t get perfect grades for this, it is markedly better than the 31,000-word Republican Party platform, which mentions climate change in only one sentence, criticizing Democrats for considering it an issue of national security.
  2. Barack Obama talks about space policy. But his plans to sponsor human space flight seem unrealistic, given both current budget constraints and disorder at NASA. Nevertheless, this is better than the 70-page Democratic Party platform, which does not mention space policy a single time.

While the candidates’ responses to our 14 questions were clearly designed to demonstrate serious consideration to science issues, the party platforms were not, and the omissions and obfuscations are glaring. The two most remarkable statements I found were in the Republican platform, which argues that our oil and natural gas reserves can provide a bounty “for many generations to come.” Even more surprising was this claim: “Experience has shown that, in caring for the land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control.”

Written By: Lawrence Krauss
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  1. Yes, but only for a very very short time, only once and do not return once lit for the next couple of hundred years.

    Nuclear plants use uranium (or it was last time I looked) rods that inherent to their radioactive properties when placed in a precise pattern would heat up via friction of the particles. This heat was used to make steam that turned turbines that turned etc. etc. Nuclear bombs actually convert mass into energy… I think?

  2. Later…learning about uploading file types. No pdf allowed yet.
    Why can’t we remove a post?

  3. JimJFox
    Even better!

    depressing to think this technology was investigated in the 60’s but abandoned due to the need for weapons grade fissile materials as the by-product of uranium fueled reactors

    We had an earlier discussion a year ago on thorium reactors, advanced gas-cooled reactors, and green energy generation – on the old site:-

    Water-cooled nuclear power plants aren’t the only option –


    Can’t we use nuclear weapons to fuel nuclear power plants?

    There is a valuable use for plutonium powering Radioisotope thermoelectric generators on space probes and rovers in places where sunlight is weak, and on Earth in inaccessible places! –

    A pellet of 238PuO2 to be used in an RTG for either the Cassini or Galileo mission. The initial output is 62 watts. The pellet glows because of the heat generated by the radioactive decay (primarily α). Photo is taken after insulating the pellet under a graphite blanket for several minutes then removing the blanket.

    Inspection of Cassini spacecraft RTGs before launch

  4. Krauss: “Neither Iran nor North Korea has nuclear warheads that can be carried by ICBMs. And why would either country use them, given that such an attack would likely result in retaliatory annihilation?
    Well, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson seems to agree, he said  if “Iran launches a nuclear warhead they can be assured that they will no longer exist”
    Krauss: “The first step in the process is for countries like the United States to be willing to take unilateral actions to dramatic reduce the size of its own obscenely large nuclear arsenal.”
    Gary Johnson also supports dismantling our nuclear arsenal as well, he has said, “Do we really need to blow up the world 23 times over, or would eight times be sufficient?”

  5. Dear ‘zen’ et al. That may be a big mistake. If, in the not too distant future, a more technologically advanced NEO asteroid detection systems – like ‘SPACEGUARD’ – could discover ‘n track a large, nicke iron asteroid heading for a close encounter with our Earth’Moon system. What are the odds of this 1off event now? Here’s a thought experiment for our cool RDF kids.What if the newly discovered ISON comet was on an orbital trajectory with Earth? We may soon, according to some astrophysicists, urgently need to design and develop robotic space-craft, fitted with nuclear devices, to detonate ‘n deflect these ‘rogues’.        

  6.   @memetical –  Here’s a thought experiment for our cool RDF kids. What if the newly discovered ISON comet was on an orbital trajectory with Earth? We may soon, according to some astrophysicists, urgently need to design and develop robotic space-craft, fitted with nuclear devices, to detonate ‘n deflect these ‘rogues’.

    I think nuclear blasts are “Hollywood space technology”, and would run a serious risk of  turning “bullets into buckshot”!

    A steady push is a more controlled option.

    Something like this:

      Laser Bees

    A New Way to Deflect a Dangerous Asteroid

    We’ve been working with a team at the University of Glasgow in Scotland to study a new technique which uses concentrated light to gently move an asteroid — a project we called “Mirror Bees”
    — using mirrors on several spacecraft swarming around an asteroid to focus sunlight onto a spot on the asteroid. As part of the initial Mirror Bees project, researchers found that lasers are more effective than mirrors and can be used from greater distances. So, now the project is called “Laser Bees.”

    The researchers at the University of Glasgow, under the leadership of Massimiliano Vasile, became interested in this approach when they set out to compare nine approaches to planetary defense. To their surprise, one of their results was that Mirror Bees would work more quickly and effectively than all but nuclear warheads. (But unlike the use of
    nuclear explosions, there would be no risk of breaking a huge asteroid into any number of equally deadly smaller asteroids, nor would the procedure face as many political and bureaucratic hurdles.)

    There is a 5minute video here which explains some systems which could be used on meteors, asteroids or comets.

    Emily Lakdawalla reviews the threat posed by meteors, from relatively small impactors to massive planet killers. She also explores three critical steps to take in defending Earth, and how we may someday deflect an asteroid that is headed our way.

  7. In the 2012-10-03  debate, it looks as though Romney wants an additional $2 trillion for the military.  He said he wanted a military second to none. It is already almost as big as all other countries combined. I wonder what Freud would have to say with his obsession with size.

    Obama made a comment about being able to make savings now the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are winding down.

    Romney wanted to wipe out Medicaid, Obamare, PBS, government bureaux…, but increase spending on the military that Pentagon announced it did not even need.

    Unfortunately, Romney did not drool during the debate.

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