Credible nuclear deterrence effects, debunking dogmatic "disarm or be annihilated" enemy propaganda. Realistic effects and credible nuclear weapon capabilities for deterring or stopping aggressive invasions and attacks which could escalate into major conventional or nuclear wars.

Monday, May 01, 2006

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.

3 Comments:

At 2:17 pm, Blogger nige said...

Copy of a comment to Motl's blog:

http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/04/pandoras-box.html

nigel said...
Quantoken,

It's not just saving 500,000 lives. The air bursts produced no real fallout, because no soil got mixed with the fireball soon after detonation.

U.S. Congressional Hearings before the Special Subcommittee on Radiation of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, The Nature of Radioactive Fallout and Its Effects on Man, 27 May - 3 June 1957, pages 105-112:

Dr William W. Kellogg (born 1917), RAND Corp: ‘In the case of the surface burst, large quantities of surface material are broken up, melted, and even vaporized, and some of this material comes in intimate contact with the radioactive fission products. ...

‘In the case of an air burst in which the white-hot fireball never reaches the surface, the radioactive fission products never come into close contact with the surface material; they remain as an exceedingly fine aerosol. At first sight this might be thought to be an oversimplification, since there have been many cases in which the fireball never touched the ground, but the surface material was observed to have been sucked up into the rising atomic cloud. Actually, however, in such cases a survey of the area has shown that there has been a negligible amount of radioactive material on the ground. Though tons of sand and dust may have been raised by the explosion, they apparently did not become contaminated by fission products.

‘The explanation for this curious fact probably lies in a detailed consideration of the way in which the surface material is sucked up into the fireball of an air burst. [Another contributory factor is that by the time the dust in the updraft stem eventually reaches the fireball, it has cooled below the solidification temperature of the fission products.] Within a few seconds from burst time, the circulation in the atomic fireball develops a toroidal form, with an updraft in the middle and downdraft around the outside. Most of the fission products are then confined to a doughnut-shaped region, and may be thought of as constituting a smoke ring. When the surface debris is carried into the fireball a few seconds after the detonation, it passes up along the axis of the cloud, through the middle, and can often be seen to cascade back down around the outside of the cloud. In its passage through the cloud, it has passed around the radioactive smoke ring but has never mixed with it. (Reference: Kellogg, W. W., R. R. Rapp, and S. M. Greenfield: Close-In Fallout, Journal of Meteorology, vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 1-8, 1957.)

I don't think Pandora was a bad girl. You can't keep the nuclear genie all bottled up just because many people are childish and lunatics. Over 2 million tons of conventional bombs were dropped during WWII, so the two 20 thousand ton equivalent nuclear bombs weren't significant in the total carnage of the war.

Do you really believe that if America had not used the bomb in WWII, then Stalin would have followed suite? There was a book Stalin and the Bomb, by David Holloway which quotes Andrei Sakharov's reasons why anything like that would have been taken by Stalin to mean that America is (1) militarily weak-minded, (2) or saving the atomic weapons to use them all in a surprise attack against Russia, or even (3) giving communists the honor of using them first in a war.

The U.S.S.R. always took advantage of any "weakness" shown by America, utilising the communist mixture of paranoia, hypocrisy and greed, mixed together with efficient propaganda and ruthless action.

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.

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).

 
At 6:14 pm, Blogger nige said...

Copy of a comment to

http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.com/2006/11/direct-route.html

Hi Kea,

Lubos Motl is right about the climate change manure because what the doom-sayers of climate change forget is that we're running out of fossile fuels anyhow!

Before the world is wrecked completely by global warming, we'll have run out of oil, coal, gas (North Sea oil is far more expensive than Arabic supplies because of the costs of oil rigs in the North Sea, and gas - "vapour" I suppose to USA readers to avoid confusion with gas(oline) - is seriously more expensive now that the market is opened up to Europe by a new gas pipeline, and if I buy a new home I'm getting all-electric heating, not the traditional piped gas heating currently used in most of the UK).

To combat global warming, go nuclear. Nuclear is clean, safe, and it is EVEN ECONOMICAL if you lower radioactive pollution horseshit propaganda and shoot crackpots who claim radiation is lethal.

Those people don't understand background radiation, or the effect of higher altitudes, air travel, etc on radiation exposure.

They think "natural" radiation is safe and "artificial" radiation from nuclear power is totally different.

The Health Physicists who work in the nuclear industry are a load of gormless, feeble, patronising fools who couldn't explain anything to anybody without making it sound like condescending pro-nuclear propaganda, which is why the situation continues.

They have no idea that physics and maths are well known, and that people can by and large understand radiation. They perpetuate the myths.

The FIRST thing physicists in the f***ing nuclear industry should put on their posters is the fact that on the Moon the natural radiation is 50 times higher than on earth, 1 mR/hr on Moon compared to 0.02 mR/hr on Earth (the earth's atomsphere shields most of the background radiation, which is 99% protons and alpha particles).

Then they should give the ACTUAL (not relative!) natural dose rates in different cities with different bedrocks and altitudes above sea level! The thorium rich beach sands of Brazil and India are more radioactive than 90% of the "nuclear waste" from the nuclear industry!

It is a wide range!!! Then, finally, they should show the lies about low level radiation by plotting the mortality in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other long-term reliable studies as a function of dose.

It is true that massive doses severely increase leukemia rates, but it is a lie that small doese do so in proportion, or that other cancers are increases in the same way. Leukemia is a special problem, because the bone marrow is very susceptible to ionising radiation.

Particularly, high-LET (linear energy transfer) radiations like alpha and beta and also soft x-rays (which cause ionisation by the photoelectric effect) inside the body increase cancer risks, NOT low-LET radiation like gamma rays (unless the dose is really massive).

People should be aware that the more penetrating the radiation is, the less of it gets stopped by soft tissue in the body, so the LOWER the absorbed dose per unit of fluence!

The real dangers from low level radiation are from ingesting or inhaling soluble alpha and beta emitters, like radium and strontium-90 respectively, which get deposited in bone and can cause leukemia. Radon gas from the decay of radium is also a massive natural hazard, killing far more people than all the hundreds of megatons of 1950s nuclear tests or Chernobyl.

Chernobyl showed that iodine-131 causes a short term problem (half like 8 days) after an explosion, because it gets concentrated in milk and then in kid's thyroid glands and can cause lumps (mostly benign). The answer is simple: for the few weeks while milk is contaminated, either put it through an ion-exchanger to remove the iodine-131, or switch to using powdered milk or simply put the cattle in winter barns eating winter feed like hay so that they don't eat contaminated grass! Problem sorted!

See http://glasstone.blogspot.com/2006/04/fallout-prediction-and-common-sense-in.html for more info on this!

Regards Hiroshima and Nagasaki long-term radiation effects cover-up, see links on http://www.rerf.or.jp/top/introe.htm:

Fewer than 1% of victims died due to cancer caused by radiation!!!!!

The maximum leukemia rate occurred in 1952 and ever since has been declining. There were no genetic effects above the normal rate in offspring of even highly irradiated survivors and cancer risks were carefully studied:

'The Life Span Study (LSS) population consists of about 120,000 persons who were selected on the basis of data from the 1950 Japanese National Census. This population includes ... atomic-bomb survivors living in Hiroshima or Nagasaki and nonexposed controls. ... all persons in the Master Sample who were located less than 2,500 meters from the hypocenter ATB were included in the LSS sample, with about 28,000 persons exposed at less than 2,000 meters serving as the core. Equal numbers of persons who had been located 2,500-9,999 meters from hypocenter ... were selected to match the core group by age and sex. ... As of 1995, more than 50% of LSS cohort members are still alive. As of the end of 1990, almost 38,000 deaths have occurred in this group, including about 8,000 cancer deaths among the 87,000 survivors. Approximately 430 of these cancer deaths are estimated to be attributable to radiation.'

More here.

Sorry to go on, but all this environmental crackpottery just drives me nuts.

Best,
nc

 
At 10:10 am, Blogger nige said...

Nuclear winter has quite an interesting history. It started off with the comet impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. The comet forms a fireball when it collides with the atmosphere, and the thermal radiation is supposed to ignite enough tropical vegetation to produce a thick smoke cloud, freezing the ground and killing off many species.

The best soot to absorb solar radiation is that from burning oil, and Saddam tested this by igniting all of Kuwait's oil wells after the first Gulf War. Massive clouds of soot were produced, but the temperature drop was far less than "nuclear winter" calculations predicted occurred in the affected areas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter#Kuwait_wells_in_the_first_Gulf_War

The idea that a dark smoke layer will stop heat energy reaching the ground is naive because by conservation of energy, the dark smoke must heat up when it absorbs sunlight, and since it is dark in colour it is as good at radiating heat as absorbing it. So it passes the heat energy downwards as the whole cloud heats up, and when the bottom of the cloud has reached a temperature equilibrium with the top, it radiates heat down to the ground, preventing the dramatic sustained cooling.

Although there is a small drop in temperature at first, as when clouds obscure the sun, all the soot cloud will do in the long run is to reduce the daily temperature variation of the air from day to night, so that the temperature all day and all night will be fairly steady and close to the average of the normal daytime and nighttime temperatures.

The dinosaur extinction evidence, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicxulub_Crater, might be better explained by the direct effects of the comet impact: the air blast wave and thermal radiation effects on dinosaurs, and the kilometers-high tsunami. At the time the comet struck Chicxulub in Mexico with 100 TT (100,000,000 megatons or 100 million million tons) energy 65 million years ago, the continents were all located in the same area, see the map at http://www.dinotreker.com/cretaceousearth.html and would all have suffered severe damage from the size of the explosion. Most dinosaur fossils found are relatively close to the impact site on the world map 65 million years ago.

Another issue is that some proportion of the rock in the crater was calcium carbonate, which releases CO2 when heated in a fireball. If there was enough of it, the climatic effects would have been due to excessive heating, not cooling.

The "nuclear winter" idea relies on soot, not dust such as fallout (which is only about 1% of the crater mass, the remainder being fallback of rock and crater ejecta which lands within a few minutes). So it is basically an extension of the massive firestorms theory, which has many issues because modern cities don't contain enough flammable material per square kilometre to start a firestorm even when using thousands of incendiaries. In cases such as Hiroshima, the heavy fuel loading of the target area created a smoke cloud which carried up a lot of moisture that condensed in the cool air at high altitudes, bringing the soot back promptly to earth as a black rain.

Because this kind of thing is completely ignored by "nuclear winter" calculations, the whole "nuclear winter" physics looks artificial to me. In 1990, after several studies showed that TTAPS (Sagan et al.) had exaggerated the problem massively by their assumptions of a 1-dimensional model and so on, TTAPS wrote another paper in Science, where they sneakily modified the baseline nuclear targetting assumptions so that virtually all the targets were oil refineries. This enabled them to claim that a moderate cooling was still credible. However, the Kuwait burning oil wells experience a few years later did nothing to substantiate their ideas. Sagan did eventually concede there were faulty assumptions in the "nuclear winter" model, although some of his collaborators continue to write about it.

 

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