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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 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . You may share this magazine with your friends under the . . condition that the magazine remain complete and intact, . . with no editing, revisions or modifications of any kind, . . and including this opening section and statement. . . If you like the magazine, the Sysop and I would appre- . . ciate it if you would let your friends know where they . . can log in to find the magazine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (c) 1986 THIS ISSUE: 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 objectively. 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 earth. 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 submarines.) 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 fallout. 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 attraction. 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 cease. 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 over.) 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. UNTIL NEXT TIME 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.