Saturday, July 16, 2005



Trinity

trinity

Sixty years ago today, on July 16th, 1945, at 5:29 am, the world's first nuclear test was conducted: Trinity. It was the birth of nuclear terror. With it, we went from an age where wars merely killed a lot of people, to an age where they could threaten civilisation or the future of humanity.

Nothing of Trinity's like had ever been seen before. The watching scientists were shocked, awed, and appalled at what they witnessed. Some were justly proud of their technological achievement, and saw beauty in the flash and the fireball. Others were aware of what they had unleashed and what it threatened. Kenneth Bainbridge, the test director, summed it up simply: "Now we are all sons of bitches". Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project's director, was more grandiose, uttering the memorable quote from the Bhagavad Gita:

I am become Death, The Destroyer of Worlds.

Fortunately, he was wrong about the latter part. The weapons he helped design have been used exactly twice, killing hundreds of thousands of people - and they have never been used since.

14 comments:

Indeed. And they still hover about in the back of one's mind, as does the awful thought that any major city you walk in is, at any time, an hour away from utter annihilation.

This anniversary is all the more reason to redouble efforts to get all nuclear powers to cut back their warheads to a bare minimum, if not destroy them all. America has over 4000 - insane. Russia has a slightly smaller amount. There is no excuse for these numbers, no excuse for any country to threaten the existence of our planet for its security. Over here in America, people as influential as Robert McNamara have been angrily denouncing the myth of nuclear safety. This must continue until some sanity prevails.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/16/2005 03:50:00 AM

Indeed. And they still hover about in the back of one's mind, as does the awful thought that any major city you walk in is, at any time, an hour away from utter annihilation.

This anniversary is all the more reason to redouble efforts to get all nuclear powers to cut back their warheads to a bare minimum, if not destroy them all. America has over 4000 - insane. Russia has a slightly smaller amount. There is no excuse for these numbers, no excuse for any country to threaten the existence of our planet for its security. Over here in America, people as influential as Robert McNamara have been angrily denouncing the myth of nuclear safety. This must continue until some sanity prevails.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/16/2005 03:54:00 AM

The problem with technology is htat if you dont do it some one else will do it.
this is true about nukes and GE, stem cell research and so forth just as it is true of electricity and using cars etc.
no single country can stop the march of technology and any attempt to do so will probably only result in disaster for them UNLESS they convince EVERYONE else to join them.

If the US and europe and so forth refuse to have any powerful weapons for the next 100 years then the next strongest country (lets say israel or somthing) will become the strongest/dominant country in the world and if htey do it then someone else waits in the wings...

Posted by Anonymous : 7/16/2005 11:05:00 AM

Richard Feynmann:

—————
After [the first Trinity test] went off, there was tremendous excitement at Los Alamos. Everybody had parties, we all ran around. I sat on the end of a jeep and beat drums and so on. But one man, I remember, Bob Wilson, was just sitting there moping.

I said, "What are you moping about?"

He said, "It's a terrible thing that we made."

I said, "But you started it. You got us into it."

You see, what happened to me — what happened to the rest of us — is we started for a good reason, then you're working very hard to accomplish something and it's a pleasure, it's excitement. And you stop thinking, you know; you just stop. Bob Wilson was the only one who was still thinking about it at that moment.

I returned to civilization shortly after that and went to Cornell to teach, and my first impression was a very strange one. I can't understand it any more, but I felt very strongly then. I sat in a restaurant in New York, for example, and I looked out at the buildings and I began to think, you know, about how much the radius of the Hiroshima bomb damage was and so for ... How far from here was 34th Street? ... All those buildings, all smashed — and so on. And I would go along and I would see people building a bridge, or they'd be making a new road, and I thought, they're crazy, they just don't understand, they don't understand. Why are they making new things? It's so useless.

But, fortunately, it's been useless for almost forty years now, hasn't it? So I've been wrong about it being useless making bridges and I'm glad those other people had the sense to go ahead.

—————
[wth? I can use HTML ... but not <blockquote>, and not even <p> ???]

Posted by Anonymous : 7/16/2005 11:38:00 AM

Of course, without the Manhattan project, we wouldn't know the age of the earth, we wouldn't understand the fusion process that powers stars, we wouldn't be producing a host of isotopes useful in medicine and science, etc. All science and technology is a double edged sword, from the first pointed stick and chipped flint handaxe onwards. Bemoaning the fact that the handaxe kills ignores the fact that it gains food, cuts wood and fibre for building shelters, etc, and so is true for all science and technology. It is not the existence of these weapons, nor the ideas and science behind them that is the terror, it is the irrationality of the political culture behind them that is the terror. There's nothing wrong with nuclear energy, its just a thing. Its what we do with it that matters - More died in Dresden, under conventional incendiary explosives, than did in Nagasaki or Hiroshima, but all were on the same order of magnitude, the same scale of brutality. Don't worry about the tools, worry about the minds behind them.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 7/16/2005 03:34:00 PM

I love Feynman. He's a rock star

Posted by Xavier : 7/16/2005 04:28:00 PM

Didn't Nukes result in peace for the last 60 years? And nuking the Japs not only saved countless Allied AND Japanese lives but sent a meassage to the Russians. Yes it would be good to live in a world free of war and conflict but it aint gonna happen - and the genies been let out of the nuclear bottle - so if you have to carry a big stick you might as well make it the biggest bastard available

Posted by Anonymous : 7/16/2005 07:15:00 PM

We've had peace in the last 60 years? When? I'm sure they'll be really pleased to hear that in Korea, and Vietnam, and Laos, and Nicaragua, Somalia, Rwanda, Ireland, Israel...

The thing is, when you make a weapon that guarantees mutual destruction, you can't use it. Rendering it utterly useless. Unless you have a suicide bomber mentality, of course. Suitcase nuke, anyone?

Posted by Ghet : 7/16/2005 09:58:00 PM

Of course you can't use it - MAD nd the deterrence factor is what secured peace since WW2 - where peace means the absence of wholesale war experienced between 1914-1918 and 1939 - 1945.

The other conflicts you mention have largely been localised civil conflicts - not a global conflict...and US intervention in Korea and Vietnam largely arresting the domino effect in SE Asia - Communisim truly became a spectre haunting the region through to the 1970s

Posted by Anonymous : 7/17/2005 06:44:00 AM

there's two ways to look at that one. the first is that the presence of ever larger numbers of nukes did prevent a very, very big war betwen the great powers. some say churchill was mad keen to continue the push thru germany and just keep on shooting all the way to Moscow....

this point of view overlooks very near misses like the cuban missile crisis though. in reality it was just great brinksmanship and good luck that prevented the nuclear war.

the second point of view is it just moved the deaths away from major stand-up conflicts into 60 years of petty 'scrub wars' in the third world (as ghet pints out). and that ignores the major conflict like vietnam/afghanistan.

they reckon when sukarno massacred the communists in indonesia something like 20k died. and wasn't ethiopia funded by rival sides of the cold war?

Posted by Anonymous : 7/17/2005 09:19:00 AM

I read a book by a general about what would happen in a world war. His story involved a pretty short war involving a exchange of nukes (ie about 3 or 4 of them ) followed by people seeing some sense.

>the second point of view is it just moved the deaths away from major stand-up conflicts

are we going to argue that the wars of hte last 60 years caused more deaths than the wars of the previous 60 years adjsuted for population?

I doubt it - even given the fact that we now have a few nastier non-MAD weapons.

The force leading towards greater civilian deaths is probably the increaced legitimacy of guerila style war.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/17/2005 09:56:00 AM

>are we going to argue that the wars of hte last 60 years caused more deaths than the wars of the previous 60 years adjsuted for population?

nah, the argument is more that because of the threat of nukes, the wars that might have been were 'sub-contracted' to the third world. hence the guerrilla warfare you're talking about. which is great if you live in a superpower, not so great if you lived in sub-saharan africa.

and i've heard that mention of a stand-up fight going on until someone was pushed into a tactical nuclear exchange as well. but have always thought it a little too optimistic.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/17/2005 10:19:00 AM

I think there was a degree of subcontracting - but most of it was really just picking sides in wars that were going to happen anyway.
the extra atention paid towards the weaker side just allowed the war to drag on more than it would otherwise have - for example iran might have annexed iraq but for US support which made it an stalemate.

On the whole I think the third world countries subcontracted the super powers for various reasons to prop up their wars.

The real cause of the wars is often
1) various psycotic people (mini hitlers)
2)some very stupid drawing of collonial borders and
3) the belief that countries borders are permanent (this allows a state to fail and fall into anarchy and tribal warfare with no real hope of exiting).

Posted by Anonymous : 7/17/2005 10:58:00 AM

I think it was Suharto that massacred communists in Indonesia, not Sukarno.

Milou

Posted by Anonymous : 7/17/2005 12:19:00 PM