Scientists don’t know:
Not long ago I blundered across something about nuclear bombs.  Then I read an article by the editor of HARVARD MAGAZINE, which ought to mean it was done with access to minds more prepared in the field than my own.  (Craig Lambert Nuclear Weapons or Democracy HARVARD MAGAZINE vol. 116 no. 4 March – April 2014 page 47) The article suggests we need to eliminate our nuclear stockpile because it puts so much power in the hands of a single person.  Don’t forget, the next president may well be someone you neither love nor trust whatever you think about the current incumbent.

Opposition to the very existence of nuclear weapons is something I have long heard and feel quite comfortable with.  I hoped that this recent article would enlighten me.  Alas the writer did not mention and presumably did not know what I am about to say: 

The atomic weight of oxygen is 16 and the atomic weight of lithium is about 7.  An oxygen atom combines with two hydrogens to make water, adding 8 units to each hydrogen, while lithium hydride adds seven units.  Lithium hydride is stable (but don’t let moisture near it)and can be machined and casted.  Water sloshes, leaks and is very corrosive.  So it seemed like a good idea to make a hydrogen bomb from lithium hydride rather than heavy water.  (Castle Bravo test.)  The yield was three times what they expected. 

Hmm.  These were high status physicists, best of the best of the best and all that sort of thing.  And they were clueless.   All right.  I might not have predicted that before the event.  But it certainly gives me no reason to have more faith in scientists.

I think basic prudence requires that before trying something somebody, particularly a public servant, needs to ask, “Are you sure this is perfectly safe, and can you prove it?”  That would mean that the atom bomb would still be off limits. 

But I find it hard to believe that such a clown act should have escaped the attention of somebody who really distrusts nuclear weapons.  But there it is.  That’s state of the art in communication and scholarship.  I’m sorry but for anything important you are going to have to use your mind.  And that is true for my abiding topic. 

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