The mornings of 6 and 9 August 1945. The only nuclear weapons ever used against human beings. In 1945 only one country had nuclear weapons, so the other side could not have responded with its own nuclear weapons. By 1950, that had changed -- superpower enemies both had fission bombs, then thermonuclear fusion bombs, and the long-range bomber aircraft, intercontinental ballistic missiles and missile-launching submarines to deliver them with precision. Although political alignments have changed since the Soviet Union vanished, hostile nations -- more than before -- have achieved atomic bombs. India and Pakistan have atomic bombs. According to the whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, Israel possesses about 400 fission bombs, and of course an excellent Air Force to deliver them throughout the region. Israel has conducted successful air-based combat missions as far away as Uganda and Iraq.
Last year on this sad anniversary -- the 60th -- I posted a personal memoir about an odd job opportunity I was once offered: To learn all about the inner guts of fission and fusion bombs for the U.S. government. And I wrote other stuff about America's development of the first atomic bombs, and how this technology has evolved and proliferated in the sixty years since Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As Ry Cooder sang:
Goin' back now to Okinawa
Sorry baby but I can't take you ...
Back in the days of World War Two
Fought against the Japanese just like me and you
Everybody's talkin' 'bout World War Three
Okinawa's just the place where I want to beeeeeeee
I wish to remind all readers that Planet Vleeptron has no nuclear weapons. The High Non-Junk Science Council knows all about them and how to build them, but just doesn't. We use the money to build universities and community colleges and new public schools instead.
In the movie "Colossus: The Forbin Project," America's new defense supercomputer is given control over America's intercontinental ballistic missiles. Then, to everyone's shock, the computer begins to boss humans around with the computer's grand ideas for world peace.
"I bring you peace," the computer tells the world television audience. "It may be the peace of prosperity and plenty. Or the peace of unburied dead."
You may wish to spend an hour or two this week commemorating this sad anniversary, somewhere quiet, a natural place, a place in a mountain forest. Japanese and visitors from around the world will have gathered at the Cenotaph at Ground Zero in Hiroshima, where a giant bronze (I think) bell will toll the instant the bomb detonated.
No one could comprehend what had happened at first -- only one enemy bomber had been seen in the sky, but a city was suddenly flattened, evaporated. One of Japan's leading physicists flew immediately to Hiroshima in a little single-engine plane. He had a suspicion of what had happened, and brought one of those toy electroscopes -- a sealed glass globe with two strips of metal foil to detect the presence of static electricity. When he stepped out of the plane, the foil strips flew apart more fiercely than he'd ever seen in his laboratory. Now he knew what had happened, he knew what force had been unleashed on the world.
In his first campaign to become president, Ronald Reagan said he believed nuclear proliferation wasn't an important issue for America to concern itself with, it was none of America's business.
Do you feel more comfortable that Israel has 400 atomic bombs than Iran's apparent threats to develop atomic bombs? Do you worry about Iran's bomb, but sleep peacefully about Israel's bombs? Do you sleep peacefully because the United States has thousands of hydrogen bombs and delivery systems to send them anywhere in the world? Do France's hydrogen bombs worry you or comfort you? The UK's? China's? North Korea's plans for nuclear weapons and Pacific rim missiles?
Do you believe a country can possess nuclear weapons in a responsible, accountable, safe, adult, peace-loving way? Possess a nuclear arsenal and delivery systems, but go forever without ever using them?
It's not about Politics exactly.
It's about Fear, and Rage, and Revenge, and Paranoia. Apartheid South Africa developed atomic bombs as its last-ditch attempt to keep control from black Africans and their aspirations to take back representative political power in their lands.
And Folly. We have nuclear weapons, and we're running a world with goofy, stupid, psycho, and occasionally drunken leaders, some of whom believe they're hearing and obeying the Voice of God.
Frank Drake's equation (1961) to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations in our Milky Way / Melkweg Galaxy
N(c) = N x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x fL
has one last term, fL, which we can only guess at. Once a civilization invents radio technology, which would allow them to communicate with other civilizations, how long, on average, will a radio-achieving civilization last?
On Earth, we invented radio around 1900. We dropped atomic bombs on our own cities 45 years later, and invented and tested hydrogen bombs five years after that. So far Earth is the only advanced technological civilization we know, so we can only extrapolate from our one example, and it's not a very optimistic extrapolation.
When the Aliens finally play the golden audio CD of Earth Sounds they find in our Voyager space probe, when they hear our Johann Sebastian Bach, will we still exist to receive their message of thrill and pleasure at the Beauty we once created?