Fri, 03/31/2017 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
DeMeritt 112, Refreshments BEFORE 3:30pm in DeMeritt Rm 239
Aron Bernstein, MIT

Nuclear Weapons from Beginning to End?

In January the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the “Doomsday Clock" closer to midnight, stating: "Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change."  This talk will present an objective overview of the nuclear arms race with an emphasis on the current escalating dangers. A brief sketch of how nuclear weapons work and some ironic lessons from history will be presented. Our current overkill capacity will be illustrated by the explosive power of one nuclear submarine. An examination of some possible pathways to nuclear conflict will be presented. If time permits current non-proliferation efforts such as the Iran agreement, and problems with North Korea will be included. A personal outlook about preventing future nuclear weapons use along with the vital role of education and scientists’ participation will be presented.    

Pre-lecture meeting and discussion: 2:30pm DeMeritt Rm 352     Nuclear Weapons Education Project

Today’s college students know very little about the threat of nuclear weapons and the issues surrounding those weapons. This subject has been generally thought to be a relic of the cold war and no longer relevant. This project is aimed at tackling this problem, and to educating students to become aware of this potentially existential threat. Our goal is to change this situation by introducing material about nuclear weapons into undergraduate curricula.  Since student disinterest precludes their taking a specialized course or even attending a seminar on the nuclear threat, our idea is that this topic be integrated into existing courses.  The subject would be appropriate for many fields; not only the physical and biological sciences, but also engineering, social science, and humanities.  Depending on the discipline, the subject material could include the basic science and engineering of nuclear weapons, the effects of nuclear explosions including the possibility of nuclear winter, the history of the development and use of fission and fusion weapons, and their delivery systems, non-proliferation efforts, the politics and international relations generated by these issues, as well as the moral and ethical quandaries they raise. Even one or a few lectures in an introductory course reaching a large undergraduate audience, could raise the consciousness of students on this topic and generate interest for more intensive, advanced study on the subject.  We are not advocating any specific content, point of view, or pedagogical method. Our main purpose is to stimulate objective consideration of nuclear weapons issues in curricula.  We are developing links to educational resources to help faculty members new to the topic, and we plan to set up a website. There are several highly successful courses given in various universities and we would appreciate any links to this material. In addition to teaching, this project could include special reading courses and possibly research projects that would involve students. In today's world the most relevant and productive choice of subjects would very likely be interdisciplinary, and could involve people at different universities. This project has evolved primarily from discussions among a few faculty members and we want to broaden the group. We invite you to join us in this developing project. We envision an informal network of people who, while working independently, might benefit from interacting with other interested faculty members. Please share your thoughts with us.