[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
                      E S T A B  - L O I D
                Issue #3                   2-1-86
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                The Establishment BBS (894-6526)
                owned and operated by Thane Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1986
     My own interest in this week's topic had always been rather 
low until about a yearor so ago. The first reports on nuclear 
winter were coming out. At about the same time, blind hatred for 
the Soviet Union and anything Soviet was reaching a peak. On 
another BBS (Lightning One) several users were talking about how 
terrific and exciting it would be to blow Moscow off the map, and 
were talking about how wonderful it is that we have bombs today 
that have more explosive power in a single weapon than all the 
power expended in World War II.
     This got me to thinking. In a way it struck me as being an 
extension of a child's fascination for playing guns, or comments 
such as, "You should really go see that movie. It's so bloody!"
     Right about this same time I saw the movie, "Testament" for 
the first time, which brought it home all the more. Then came the 
British movie, "Threads," and the documentary, "The 8th Day," and 
still another program that had various scientists (both American 
and Soviet) talking about the subject.
     I had been talking with a publisher in New York about doing 
a book on electronics for jr and sr high students. As yet we've 
never been quite able to come up with a decent table of contents 
on this project, but it *did* get me on a first name basis with 
their senior editor. I called him one morning to see about doing 
a book tentatively titled, "Nuclear War - Nuclear Winter." He 
jumped at the idea. That book is now under contract, with a 
quickly approaching deadline.
     In a way, all of you are a test audience. The article here, 
plus maybe a few more on the same topic (if you'll allow me to do 
it and show the interest) will help me to coordinate my own 
thoughts. Your responses and input - including your personal 
opinions - are important. Your questions on the topic are even 
more important since these will both get me to research the 
answers and let me know what exactly *you* want to know.
     Don't be afraid to be critical.
     This isn't necessarily a depressing topic. In some ways it's 
about the most heartening thing that has come about in quite a 
few years. As you read on, try to drop your emotions and view it 
     As always, you're welcome to capture this to diskette or to 
your printer. (This is a good idea, really, since it gives you 
time to actually read, rather than just scan.) Share it with your 
friends, parents, teachers, or whoever. (I'd appreciate it if 
you'd let me know their reactions, too.)

                  NUCLEAR WAR - NUCLEAR WINTER
                            (part 1)
                         A Brief History
     At the turn of this century scientists were just beginning 
to study radioactive elements. A World's Fair back then had a 
very popular exhibit - "Come and See Your Bones." Radium was 
considered by some to be a cure-all, with ads cropping up in 
magazines across the world promising that a radium containing 
solution could cure arthritis, baldness, impotence and a variety 
of human ills.
     Just after World War I ("The War to End All Wars") Albert 
Einstein became a big name in science. His research, combined 
with the research of other scientists such as Roentgen, lead to
the idea that an atomic chain reaction was possible if enough 
excess neutrons could be forced to collide with the nucleus, the 
element would become unstable, would then split and emit even 
more neutrons. These in turn would strike the nuclei of other 
atoms, cause them to split, emit more neutrons - and a chain 
reaction would be set up.
     Some scientists predicted that this chain reaction would be 
slow enough to control easily. It was seen as another cure-all. 
Predictions were made that by 1950 electric power would be so 
inexpensive that it couldn't be effectively metered. 
     Others saw it as the possible "beginning of the end." As it 
turned out, the chain reaction was not only possible but 
inevitable. A radioactive material, the most well known being 
uranium, when concentrated into a pure mass would give off 
neutrons and other sub-atomic particles without any coaxing. Once 
enough of the material was gathered together in one place, the 
chunk of material would begin a chain reaction all on its own. 
This amount of material is called "critical mass."
     Below critical mass, the substance is dangerous only for the 
radiation it emits. At or above critical mass, chain reaction 
begins and - B O O M ! ! !
     The project in America that researched this as a weapon was 
the Manhatten Project. The location was New Mexico. Time - 
towards the end of World War II. The bombs developed here were 
the most powerful anyone had ever seen before. Instead of being 
rated in tons of explosive power, they were rated in kilotons.
     Two were dropped on Japan. Even those who had designed the 
bombs had no idea of the total overall effects. They didn't find 
out until sometime after. It had been planned that the pilots and 
crew would observe and photograph the effects. But within seconds 
the ground was hidden behind the flash, the firestorms and the 
flying debris.
     In 1952 the first hydrogen bomb was exploded. Although this 
bomb was small compared to present day nuclear devices, it still 
vaporized a large chunk of the island on which it was dropped.
     It didn't take the Soviet Union long to develop weapons of 
their own, and the arms race was officially ON!
     Since then over 1400 warheads have been tested. The 
stockpile of nuclear weapons has increased tremendously, as has 
the power and accuracy of these weapons.
     The total explosive force expended during World War II was 
the equivalent of 3 megatons - or 3 million tons of TNT. The 
existing stockpile of nuclear weapons is estimated to be the 
equivalent of 18,000 megatons. This breaks down to being about 
400 tons of explosive power for every man, woman and child on 
     The United States alone is building about 10 new warheads 
every day. Each of these roughly twice the power of all of World 
War II. A single, average submarine has enough power to 
annihilate 100 Soviet cities. (At present count, we have 37 such 
     Calculations show that less than 1% of the existing weapons 
could destroy every large or medium-sized city in the world. Add 
in the known and predictable aftereffects of radiation, fallout, 
fire, social and economic breakdown, and the actual destructive 
power becomes even higher.
     All this was frightening enough for the United States and 
the Soviets to get together in an effort towards disarmament, or 
at least a slow down in the number of new weapons being built. 
                    Dinosaurs and an Ice Age
     Through all this, politicians and military leaders talked of 
"first strike capability" and "total retaliation capability." The 
first term describes a condition where the attacker strikes with 
enough force to make the enemy incapable of retaliation. The 
second describes the ability to counterattack, no matter how 
devastating the first attack is. Both the United States and the 
Soviet Union easily possess both capabilities.
     Still, the philosophy of studying the effects of nuclear war 
dealt with the effects of single warheads. Graphs were made to 
show how various weapons would affect various targets. Wind speed 
and direction were taken into account to show the path of the 
     Meanwhile, another branch of science was sending the Mariner 
probes to study Mars. To their disappointment, photos from 
Mariner 9 (1971) of the surface were impossible, due to a planet-
wide dust storm. Special instruments on board measured a sizeable 
drop in the surface temperature, caused by the sunlight being 
blocked out. In 1976 Viking showed that the effects of the 
temperature drop were still measurable.
     Science had a seemingly unrelated and unanswered question - 
what happened to the dinosaurs? Previous findings seemed to 
indicate that their extinction was brought about by an ice age. 
The problem was in trying to find what could possibly cause our 
planet to be thrown into such an ice age so suddenly.
     One theory was that a huge meteor or comet had crashed into 
the earth, sending up a massive cloud of dust and debris. It was 
difficult for most to accept this theory. For one thing, if such 
a meteor hit the earth, there should be some sign of it - right? 
A relatively small chunk of meteorite hit in northern Arizona. 
The crater is not only still there, it has become a major tourist 
     Several possible striking points have been suggested - the 
Bay of Biscay near France and Spain, for example. This didn't 
solve all the problems, however. Even if such a collision had 
occurred, and even if a land mass the size of the Bay of Biscay 
was tossed into the air, how could it cause an ice age?
     Ideas were tossed back and forth by scientists such as Carl 
Sagan and Brian Toon. Almost as if by fate, Mt. St. Helens 
erupted in 1980, just a few hundred miles away. Before it was 
over, 1/4 cubic mile of dust was tossed into the air. Some towns 
downwind remained completely dark for days. 
     In 1982 a volcano in Mexico blew. This time scientists were 
able to photograph and track the eruption by satellite. It took 
only 3 weeks for the dust cloud to circle the earth.
     These studies showed exactly how the dust could have been 
distributed, and how long it would take. As things often are in 
science, these findings generated new studies
     A layer of meteoritic particles 1 cm thick was found in 
rocks all over the world dating 65 million years - just about 
right for the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Studies of the 
rings in trees showed frost damage in a perfect accordance with 
large volcanic eruptions. These things proved that large surface 
explosions - even fairly small ones - can affect the climate all 
over the world.
                         Nuclear Winter
     The effects of an all-out nuclear war began to be studied, 
rather than just the effects of single warheads. All the 
information gathered was fed into a computer. The TAPS model was 
developed, named after the four scientists who originated it 
(Turko, Ackerman, Pimentel (?), and Sagan). 
     This model indicated that a number of things would happen in 
a major nuclear exchange.
     There would be the obvious and known damage from the actual 
explosions. It has been predicted than about 1/4 of the populace 
would die in the first attack. Every major city would be 
destroyed in this attack. Communications and transport would 
     Clouds of radioactive dust would spread. According to the 
department of defense, an average attack on the United States by 
the Soviets would throw up enough dust to almost immediately 
cover all of the United States and most of Canada and Mexico. 
They further predict that half the population would be dead in 
the first 30 days - either from the explosions or from radiation 
related diseases. Before even the beginnings of recovery - if 
this ever happens - some sources predict that as much as 90% of 
the population will be gone.
     This is the bright side. It has been known and established 
for quite a few years. The new studies seem to indicate that it 
doesn't stop here. That cloud of radioactive dust will be tossed 
high into the stratosphere, where it will remain for many years. 
Adding to it will be millions of tons of smoke caused by the 
firestorms and other fires.
     Within a week virtually the entire northern hemisphere would 
be blanketed. Of the sunlight that now reaches the surface, 99% 
would be blocked, and either absorbed by the cloud or reflected 
back into space by it. Surface temperature would drop to -23C on 
the average, with many areas being much colder. This would 
continue for several months or longer.
     Crops would fail, with no harvest at all for 6 months to 2 
years ata minimum. (Some predict that the worldwide freeze would 
last longer enough to permanently kill off all plants.) Plankton 
in the ocean would die, which in turn will stop the food chain 
(no more fish) and the oxygen cycle (no more breathable air).
     Since the oceans will hold their heat long after the the 
land has frozen, there is a massive difference in temperature. 
Differences in temperature is what causes the winds. In this 
case, the winds along the coasts - blowing from inland and 
towards the water - would reach almost hurricane velocity and 
would remain there as long as the ocean was relatively warm.
     It used to be thought that the southern hemisphere would be 
safe. The same temperature difference that causes the coastal 
wind will create unprecendented air movement between the 
hemispheres. Within a few months, the southern hemisphere will be 
likewise covered and frozen.
     In short, within a year or so, there will be nothing alive 
anywhere on the earth except a few microbes. (Some have predicted 
that even these will die, with the earth being literally 
sterilized by radiation.)
                          The Good Side
     It sounds frightening. It IS! But this is also why the new 
findings are so nice.
     It's no longer feasible to have a nuclear war. If the 
Soviets attacked the United States (or vice versa) and we just 
sat back and did nothing at all, it wouldn't matter. The studies 
show that if just 10% of the nuclear weapons of either side are 
set off, nuclear winter sets in.
     Imagine two enemies standing in a room that neither can 
leave. (We can't leave earth, after all.) Each has a .357 in hand 
(which represents non-nuclear arms). Either one can shoot the 
other. This isn't enough power to satisfy either, so each gets a 
stick of dynamite (representing nuclear weapons here), then 20 
sticks, then 50 sticks. (At present the stockpile of nuclear 
weapons is enough to kill everything on earth about 100 times 
     Is either one likely to light up a stick of dynamite? If one 
does, the explosion will kill both the attacked and the attacker. 
It's suicide to make use of the dynamite. It can't be used 
against the enemy without killing yourself. It doesn't matter if 
the enemy lights his stick of dynamite or not - it doesn't matter 
if either of the two light 1 stick or all 50. The results are the 
still the same.
     This is essentially the situation we're in now. 
     The Soviets have done studies on their own. Their findings 
were nearly identical to those of scientists from the United 
States. For the first time in a LOONNGGG time, both sides are 
moving in the same direction - at least the scientists are. And, 
the Soviet scientists are not being squelched.
     So, instead of being disheartening, the idea of nuclear 
winter just might be the brightest prospect we've had in all too 
long. Progress may be slow. Meanwhile, the major powers are 
coming to realize that nuclear warfare simply cannot work. Not 
just because of first strike versus retaliation, but because even 
without retaliation, it's all over. 
     Your comments and questions on this week's topic are most 
welcome. In fact, I'm purposely looking for them. 
     Don't let the subject be depressing, though. As I said in 
the final part, things haven't looked this good in years. The 
chances of having a nuclear war have decreased, rather than 
increased. The SALT talks did nothing to reduce the risk. The 
present findings have. (Would YOU light that stick of dynamite?)
     So, think about it. And respond!
See ya next time!

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.