Practical nuclear questions for the presidential candidates, and the psychology of doom

By | September 7, 2016

The 2016 presidential race is unusual in many ways, but a silver lining of sorts has emerged: For the first time since Lyndon Johnson’s famous “Daisy” political ad during the 1964 presidential campaign, the control that the president of the United States wields over the US nuclear arsenal is under serious discussion.

In his introduction to the Bulletin’s September/October issue, editor John Mecklin writes: “The Bulletin is nonpartisan, but it does have an unapologetic bias toward science, expertise, and the long-term preservation of humanity.” To this end, Mecklin has assembled top nuclear experts to provide questions that both journalists and citizens can ask to better understand the US nuclear arsenal, the role of the president in its deployment and use, and how to determine the differences on nuclear policy between the two major presidential candidates.

Given the debates over whether the US should change its nuclear posture to “no first use” and the questions over whether US nuclear weapons in Turkey are secure, knowing the nuclear policy positions of potential commanders-in-chief has never been more important.

Practical nuclear questions for the presidential candidates

Introduction: Practical nuclear questions for the candidates in an unusual presidential election
John Mecklin

How many nuclear warheads does the United States need?
Frank von Hippel

Questions for the presidential candidates on nuclear terrorism, proliferation, weapons policy, and energy
Siegfried S. Hecker

Six nuclear questions for the next president
Henry Sokolski

Should the United States begin talks to ban nuclear weapons?
Zia Mian

The nuclear Google
Sharon Squassoni

All six of the US presidential articles are free-access in this issue.

The psychology of doom

The psychological effects of cyber terrorism
Michael L. Gross, Daphna Canetti, Dana R. Vashdi

The largely unacknowledged impact of climate change on mental health
Eva Gifford and Robert Gifford

The psychological power of nuclear weapons
Alex Wellerstein

Fear factor: The unseen perils of the Ebola outbreak
James M. Shultz, Benjamin M. Althouse, Florence Baingana, et al.

The dangers of radiophobia
David Ropeik    


Adam Segal: Life in the hacked world order
Interviewed by Andrew Ivers.

Other Features

It is already too late to stop the AI arms race—we must manage it instead
Edward Moore Geist

Why cooperative threat reduction still matters—especially for biological dangers
Amy E. Smithson

Financial incentives for reducing proliferation risks
Rachel A. Weise and Gretchen E. Hund

Global Forum: North Korea, nuclear weapons, and the search for a new path forward.

Hopes that Pyongyang might curtail its weapons programs due to direct pressure from Beijing have been disappointed so far—already in 2016, the North has conducted its fourth nuclear weapon test and launched a long-range ballistic missile. Against this backdrop, how can nations in the region reinvigorate a diplomatic process toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula—or, failing that, how can they best handle the security challenges posed by a nuclear North?

Editor's note
Lucien Crowder

North Korea, nuclear weapons, and the search for a new path forward
A Russian response
Andrei Lankov

North Korea, nuclear weapons, and the search for a new path forward
A South Korean response
Chung-in Moon

North Korea, nuclear weapons, and the search for a new path forward
A Chinese response
Dingli Shen

Book Review

The quest for cyber norms
Elaine Korzak
Review of Binary Bullets: The Ethics of Cyber Warfare, edited by Fritz Allhoff, Adam Henschke, and Bradley Jay Strawser

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists engages science leaders, policy makers, and the interested public on topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, the changing energy landscape, climate change, and emerging technologies. We do this through our award-winning journal, iconic Doomsday Clock, public access website, and regular set of convenings. With smart, vigorous prose, multimedia presentations, and information graphics, the Bulletin puts issues and events into context and provides fact-based debates and assessments. For more than 70 years, the Bulletin has bridged the technology divide between scientific research, foreign policy, and public engagement.

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