Assistant Professor Luboš Motl and Big Bangs
U.S. Army photos of Hiroshima, taken November 1945.
In a controlled sample of 36,500 irradiated survivors, only 89 people actually got leukemia over a 40 year period, above the number in the unexposed control group. (Published in Radiation Research volume 146:1-27, 1996.)
'If you feel offended by my US policy criticism I can understand this and perhaps I overdid it. It is the kind of reaction of disappointed love which is especially strong with people you feel very close to (the most intense arguments are often within the same family). Of course I did not forget the pivotal US contribution to the liberation of Europe from the Nazis and fascism. ... To be compared to somebody like Motl who uses photos of bombers with nuclear weapons and who can hardly await the “nuking” of Iran (it makes me vomit looking at this) really hurts.' - Quantum Field Theorist, Professor Bert Schroer. (Not Even Wrong weblog, April 30th, 2006 at 8:48 am.)
Harvard physicist (well, 'string theorist'), Assistant Professor Luboš Motl now writes in a blog posting headed Pandora's box:
'What is the message? The message is that what you get from Pandora's box depends on the timing and other circumstances. Pandora's nuclear box was first opened in Summer 1945, and although the obvious consequences looked horrific, most historians and others agree that the nuclear bombs saved a lot of lives. Nuclear weapons give people a certain additional power and the power can lead both to clearly bad as well as relatively good outcomes, in comparison with the non-nuclear alternatives.
'I think that this was essentially the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The White House would be mad if they declared the nuclear weapons to be forever unusable. I've been always amazed how many nuclear heads have been produced despite the tiny probability that someone would like to use a significant portion of them. When I was a kid, we would hear about the disastrous consequences of nuclear weapons all the time. Life on Earth would end, and all this stuff. I no longer believe these alarmist ideas; they look kind of childish and irrational to me. Life on Earth did not end with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, even life in Japan did not end; on the contrary, Japan started one of its most optimistic historical periods. The higher the moral standards of the main nuclear powers are, the better outcome one can expect from a possible nuclear confrontation.
'A necessary condition for the hundreds of thousands of Hiroshimas in the currently existing warheads to destroy life is that they're controlled by a lunatic such as Mahnoud Ahmadinejad or the leaders of Sudan. And one of the tasks for responsible politicians is to guarantee that such a thing won't happen.
'Figure 1: In fact, it's a task for both of them.
'In the real world, there are many other sources of evil, instability, and numerous threats, and there are easy-to-imagine circumstances in which the nuclear weapons could become helpful for a more civilized party in a certain conflict. Yes, I still prefer a future without nuclear confrontations, but the price to pay for such a future can't be infinite.'
I'd like to point out to Motl that World War II involved the one nuclear Hiroshima (plus Nagasaki of course) of 12 kilotons, and 167 non-nuclear Hiroshima's if you calculate by energy comparison alone (2 million tons, or two megatons of non-nuclear bombs were dropped on cities and factories in World War II). How did one small nuclear bomb succeed in bringing peace?
(a) 8 August 1945: Hiroshima (1st nuclear bomb dropped on 6 August) has convinced Stalin that America will win the war soon. So Stalin quickly declares war on Japan, to be counted as a victor and enjoy the spoils of war.
(b) 9 August: Nagasaki (2nd nuclear bomb) convinces Japan that Hiroshima was not a once-off. Hiroshima did nothing compared to the firebombing of Tokyo.
In WWII a total of 2 megatons of conventional bombs were dropped, equal to 167 Hiroshima’s in energy equivalent. So why go on about the horrific effects of a nuclear weapon, which unlike the far greater destruction from conventional bombs, actually did what it said on the tin and ended the war?
In fact, if you take account of the fact that the damage range scales as the cube-root of the energy release, then in terms of the amount of area damage, then the 2 megatons of conventional bombs (about 20 million conventional bombs of an average of 100 kg) caused 20,000,000 x (0.100/12,000)2/3 = 8,220 times the actual damage in Hiroshima.
Even if a 2 megaton bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, the 2 megatons of conventional damage of WWII is equivalent to 271 of such 2-megaton bombs, assuming no overlap in damage areas.
This is because the same amount of explosive, divided into a large number of small bombs, is more efficient at causing destruction. Most of the energy is wasted as close-in overkill in big bombs. So conventional weapons are far more effective than nuclear ones.
Forget about a small long-delayed rise in cancers from prompt and delayed (fallout and neutron induced) radioactivity, that is trivial compared to the effects of conventional weapons:
There wasn’t any fallout in Hiroshima and Nagasaki because they were air bursts. The total amount of local deposited activity was just 0.02% measured in Nagasaki, according to Glasstone, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons 1957. The neutron induced activity at ground zero didn’t produce residual doses that would cause radiation sickness.
When you hear about the black rain due to the firestorm at Hiroshima, remember that resulted from the firestorm which got going 30 minutes later. By that time, the mushroom cloud had been blown downwind. So the fallout was trivial. American and British observers surveyed the very low levels of fallout and neutron induced activity on 9 September. In a controlled sample of 36,500 survivors, 89 people got leukemia over a 40 year period, above the number in the unexposed control group. (Published in Radiation Research volume 146:1-27, 1996.)
Over 40 years, in 36,500 survivors monitored, there were 176 leukemia deaths which is 89 more than the control (unexposed) group got naturally. There were 4,687 other cancer deaths, but that was merely 339 above the number in the control (unexposed) group, so this is statistically a much smaller rise than the leukemia result.
Natural leukemia rates, which are very low in any case, were increased by 51 % in the irradiated survivors, but other cancers were merely increased by just 7 %.
Adding all the cancers together, the total was 4,863 cancers (mainly natural), which is just 428 more than the unexposed control group. Hence, the total increase over the natural cancer rate was 9 %, spread over 40 years. (Compare these scientific facts to popular fiction in newspapers and widely published political books 'explaining' the horrific effects of nuclear weapons compared to other weapons, which claims there were 100,000 or 200,000 cancers. The real figure is 428.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_casualties_by_country says 62 million died in World War II.
The bomb stopped it. Because of the “overkill” close to the detonation, collateral damage is reduced. By conservation of energy, the blast can’t do work in demolishing buildings and not lose energy in the process.
“Overkill” reduces the number of fatalities by concentrating most of the energy close to the explosion.
Hiroshima set off a firestorm because the man in charge on Tinian, Colonel Tibbets, had learned while bombing Europe earlier in the war that the only way to make an impact is to focus on dry wooden houses - for example the medieval area of Hamburg was old 4-6 storey wooden houses and was ignited. I don’t see cities built like that these days, do you?
The anti-nuclear hysteria is bad for three reasons: (1) it drives fraudulent anti-physics or at least generally anti-nuclear (pro-ignorance) public feeling about the knowledge of the facts of nuclear energy, (2) it ridicules civil defence which would be particularly effective in a terrorist attack or a limited war, at least to minimise casualties from burns, glass and debris and fallout, and (3) it puts a nasty stigma on the big bang cosmology, reducing public interest in the big bang (which is totally absurd, if you see supernovae and compare the energy release to Hiroshima, you see how crazy anti-nuclear fanatism is).
Previous posts on this blog relating to Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be found here (depletion of blast energy due to damage done at Hiroshima and Nagasaki), here (blast cause of fires in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and here (thermal radiation ignition in Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
More information on leukemia and other cancers from radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: http://www.rerf.or.jp/eigo/faqs/faqse.htm#faq2.