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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quick links

The 1986 revision of Dolan's FM 101-31-1, Nuclear Weapons Employment, Volume 1 is available as a PDF file (linked here).

One groupthink delusion is that fallout casualties are inevitable. In reality, fallout isn't inevitable. Apart from the use of air bursts or high altitude bursts which eliminate blast and thermal damage altogether, there is also the option of replacing the natural uranium pusher inside a thermonuclear weapon with one made from lead or tungsten, as was done successfully in the 5% fission 95% fusion Navajo test in 1956. If blast, thermal and thermal collateral damage effects are to be eliminated, the use of low fission yield, relatively clean enhanced neutron weapons as deterrents is possible. The neutron induced activity is trivial compared to natural background radiation as shown at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Exaggerating weapons effects in the 1920s and 1930s four three disagreeable results:

(1) Disarmament of peace loving states
(2) Secret armament of dictatorships, followed eventually by open intimidation of disarmed states
(3) Lack of motivation for countermeasures, thus increasing vulnerability to terrorist states
(4) Appeasement of terrorist states which have secretly armed, encouraging them to be ever more aggressive to gain more and more, until eventually democracies have backed as far as they are able and ae forced to fight with their backs to the wall, under the most unfavorable and most desperate possible conditions.

In 1914, exaggeration of conventional shelling effects and ignoring simple trench countermeasures led Germany to start World War I with the first declaration of the war, in the mistaken belief that modern technology would have the war short. In fact, simple trenches provided enough protection to prevent high explosive shelling from achieving a knockout blow, while simple masks prevented poison gas from overcoming the trenches. The war was drawn out by the success of the countermeasures in reducing casualty rates, so that ongoing munitions outputs (rather than pre-war weapons stockpiles) were the controlling factor. If any of the allies had published and promoted a clear analysis of the success of trenches in the American Civil War and the implications for any future European war, World War I may have been averted since the German generals would have been constrained by the munitions production problems of the two sides during a long war, as opposed to unfounded beliefs that a knockout blow was possible with their stockpile.

By debunking popular myths, the facts about countermeasures against terrorist threats may be able to overcome the political prejudices which historically encouraged the aggressors behind both World Wars. William L. Laurence (1888-1977), the eyewitness of the Nagasaki nuclear attack and the Science Editor of the New York Times from 1956-64, watched the Trinity nuclear test on Monday 16 July 1945 from Compania Hill, 20 miles to the north-west, beside the physicist Richard P. Feynman and vividly describes the experience in his book Men and Atoms (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1961, pp. 117-20):

"A huge cloud rose from the ground and followed the trail of the great sun. ... All through the very short but long-seeming interval not a sound was heard. I could see the silhouettes of human forms motionless in little groups ...

"Then out of the great silence came a mighty thunder. For a brief interval the phenomena we had seen as light repeated itself in terms of sound. ... The big boom came about a hundred seconds after the great flash ...

"It brought the silent, motionless silhouettes to life, gave them a voice. A loud cry filled the air. The little groups that had hitherto stood rooted to the earth like desert plants broke into a dance ...

"Later that Monday morning, at the breakfast table in the pleasant dining room of the Los Alamos Lodge, the silence was broken by Dr George B. Kistiakowsky of Harvard. ... 'This was the nearest to doomsday one can possibly imagine,' he said. 'I am sure', he added after a pause, as though speaking to no one in particular, 'that at the end of world - in the last millisecond of the earth's existence - the last man will see something very similar to what we have seen.'

"And out of the silence that ensued I heard another voice - my own ... 'Possibly so', I said, 'but it is also possible that if the first man could have been present at the moment of Creation when God said, Let there be light, he might have seen something very similar to what we have seen. ...

"That afternoon I encountered the late Dr Lawrence, one of my neighbors on the hill in the desert. 'What a day in history!' he exclaimed. 'It was like being witness to the Second Coming of Christ!' I heard myself say.

"It then came to me that both 'Oppie' and I, and likely many others in our group, had shared in a profound religious experience, having been witness to an event akin to the supernatural."

The use of nuclear bombs ended World War and their stockpile later curtailed the expansionist Soviet Union for long enough for it economically and politically collapse (with a nudge from President Reagan and associates) during the 1980s. Viewed in this light, rather than the more popular lying propaganda, nuclear weapons proved of enormous utility in making the world safer, but a reversion to the exaggerations, unilateral disarmament, and appeasement policies of 1914 or 1939 will only encourage nuclear war and make the world a more dangerous, less stable place.

PDF versions of the U.S. Army Nuclear and Chemical Agency NBC Report are available online, e.g.:

Fall/Winter 2003 issue

Fall/Winter 2004 issue (contains a vital article on EMP physics by Dr Conrad Longmire, who writes that after the EMP-instrumented 1957 Plumbbob Nevada nuclear test series, he worked out that the peak radial Compton current in low altitude tests is approximately proportional to the square root of the gamma ray dose in the air at that location - allowing EM data for surface burst cable currents to be scaled easily as a function of yield and weapon design - and he gives interesting details of precisely how he made his great discovery of the magnetic dipole EMP mechanism after Dr John Malik showed him the Fishbowl EMP data during a lecture in 1963: "In 1963, while I was giving a series of lectures on EMP theory at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory (AFWL), Malik showed me experimental data from the high altitude tests. For STARFISH (the first event) the signal received overdrove the recording equipment, so that neither the amplitude nor true waveform could be determined. For the later events KINGFISH and BLUEGILL fairly good recordings were made, although somewhat lacking in rise rate. They showed pulses of a single sign with duration of the order of a microsecond; the following negative phase (necessary for a radiated signal) was too long and too low in amplitude to be read well. The puzzle presented by this data came with its own clue: the duration of the pulses was comparable with the gyro-period of Compton electrons in the geomagnetic field. Within a few hours, I knew the answer. The magnetic deflection of the initially radial flux of Compton electrons would produce a current transverse to the radial direction. This current (unlike the radial current) could generate a signal propagating in the radial direction. Since such signals generated at various radial distances would all travel at the same speed as the gammas, they would all add in phase, creating a pulse with larger amplitude but the same duration.")

Spring/Summer 2004 issue

Spring/Summer 2005 issue (containing articles on the Trinity test part 1 and countering proliferation)

Fall/Winter 2005 issue (containing articles on the Trinity test part 2 and the justification used for the Cold War assured destruction deterrence policy)

Spring/Summer 2006 issue (containing articles on the Trinity test part 3 and Cold War nuclear weapons testing)


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