Month: April 2013

Reagan and Gorbachev

Shooting down the Star Wars myth

It has been 30 years since US President Ronald Reagan called for development of a missile defense system that was supposed to make nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) launched by Reagan's famous "Star Wars" speech in March 1983 has survived to the present day, but with ever-lower expectations. Long gone is the vision of a missile defense system that could "counter the awesome Soviet missile threat." That has been replaced with the hope that a few dozen interceptors with a spotty test record will protect the United States from an attack by a few nonexistent missiles from North Korea or Iran. What has not changed is the controversy that surrounds missile defense and its role in the nuclear age.

Iran

Iran centrifuge magnet story technically questionable

 Article HighlightsBased on an Institute for Science and International Security report, the Washington Post recently claimed that Iranian agents tried to buy 100,000 highly specialized, ring-shaped magnets allegedly intended for centrifuge machines, supposedly signaling a major expansion of Iran's nuclear program.The magnets in question are not highly specialized and have many uses besides centrifuges; for example, such ceramic ring magnets have been used in loudspeakers for more than half a century.On an issue as important as Iran's nuclear program, analysts and reporters should not jump to conclusions that are unsupported by evidence.

Your money or your life?

Your money or your life?

When I moved to a neighborhood known as the “murder capital” of New York City, I figured it was only a matter of time before someone held a knife to my throat and demanded my wallet. I would hand it over, of course. It’s only money, right? But it didn’t happen like I thought it would. I left a Christmas party late one night and heard someone running behind me as I approached a subway entrance. When I whirled to look, I was struck with a heavy object. I tumbled down the staircase and scrambled to my feet — still in possession of 30 cents and two subway tokens.

China moves cautiously ahead on nuclear energy

China moves cautiously ahead on nuclear energy

From 2005 to 2011, China rapidly developed its nuclear power capacity. In 2010 alone, it began operations at two new reactors and broke ground on 10 more, accounting for more than 60 percent of new reactor construction worldwide and making the Chinese nuclear industry by far the fastest-growing in the world. By the end of 2010, China had 14 nuclear reactors in operation with a total capacity of about 11 gigawatts electric, or GWe.

Who would use chemical weapons?

Who would use chemical weapons?

The combatants in Syria are pointing fingers at each other. Syrian officials claim that the rebels used chemical weapons in a March 19th attack against Khan al-Assal, a town near Aleppo; the rebels say the Syrian government was the culprit. Whichever is the case, at least 25 people died and many others were wounded in the assault. The UN has decided to investigate: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, a former weapons monitor for the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), to lead the investigation.

Science, art, and the legacy of Martyl

Martyl Langsdorf, the artist who created the Doomsday Clock, died on March 26th at the age of 96 in Chicago. Known to many friends and fans simply as Martyl, she was a petite and vivacious woman who had an outsize influence on public consciousness about nuclear weapons through her design of the clock that first graced the cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, and continues to be used today.

Interview with Siegfried Hecker: North Korea complicates the long-term picture

Interview with Siegfried Hecker: North Korea complicates the long-term picture

Pronouncements from Pyongyang during the past few weeks have been ominous, among other things threatening the United States and South Korea with preemptive nuclear attacks. North Korea announced on April 2 that it would restart its nuclear facilities, including its 5-megawatt nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, north of the capital, which had been disabled and mothballed since an agreement in October 2007.

Lessons not learned: Insider threats in pathogen research

Lessons not learned: Insider threats in pathogen research

In the classic film Dr. Strangelove, Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper was the ultimate insider threat. As the nuclear-armed B-52s that Ripper unilaterally dispatched proceeded toward their Soviet targets, the American president confronted Air Force Gen. Buck Turgidson in exasperation: “When you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring.” To which Turgidson replied, “Well, I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.”

Shooting down the Star Wars myth

Shooting down the Star Wars myth

It has been 30 years since US President Ronald Reagan called for development of a missile defense system that was supposed to make nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) launched by Reagan’s famous “Star Wars” speech in March 1983 has survived to the present day, but with ever-lower expectations.

Martyl: A time and a name to remember

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