So it makes sense that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began here, too, 75 years ago Wednesday.
“What?” you may ask. “Is this not about the clock?” The Bulletin suffers — whoops, benefits — from perhaps the most wag-the-dog publicity gimmick ever created, its “Doomsday Clock.” Originated in 1947 as a way to graphically convey just how close our world is to nuclear disaster, its hands seem to be forever marching closer and closer toward the midnight of Armageddon while, in classic Zeno's paradox fashion, never actually getting there.
An effective PR tool, but one so overpowering that you can be forgiven for not quite realizing there is a magazine behind the clock. I didn’t, and my father was an atomic scientist. (Though not the kind who read the Bulletin. We had stacks of Scientific Americans at home, and of course Science, which he once wrote for. But my dad was in the Naval Reserve, and designed nuclear reactors for the government, and I'm sure the Bulletin struck him as too Bolshie a publication to be seen reading).
is available online, and a delightful treat, showcasing past articles written by famous figures from Richard Nixon to Albert Einstein.
Nixon pooh-poohs international cooperation as only an old Red-baiter can, writing in 1960, “The road to war is paved with agreements based solely on mutual trust.”
While Einstein lurches the other way, putting more hope in global action in the face of crisis than might be seemly in a refugee from Nazi Germany. Writing in 1950, he’d like “a supra-national judicial and executive body ... set up empowered to decide questions of immediate concern to the security of the nations.”
Don’t miss Hans Bethe’s 1946 “Can air or water be exploded?” Bethe was the guy, while the Manhattan Project was racing ahead, to clear his throat, raise a finger, and observe, “You know, one of us fellows should make double sure that we aren’t going to set fire to the atmosphere and destroy the planet when we try this.”
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