Philip Morrison and Victor Weisskopf, "MIT and the Bomb Forty Years Later" - Compton Lecture (4/17/1985)
LOW: I'm Francis Low. And let me welcome you here tonight. And let me start by calling on Mr. Greg Mitchell of the Student Disarmament Study Group, who would like to make an announcement. Mr. Mitchell--
MITCHELL: On behalf of the MIT Students Disarmament Study Group, I'd like to bring to your attention a project we've been working on for quite a while is within hours of reaching fruition. If you're interested in speaking with your congressman about arms race issues, now's your chance. Massachusetts students, staff, and faculty will be joining with thousands from across the nation tomorrow for a day of lobbying in Washington, DC. Buses will be leaving MIT at 11:00 PM this evening.
After a day at the capital, we'll arrive back in Boston early Friday morning. The cost us $30. All the appointments have been made with senators, and representatives, and their aides for all the states in our nation. If you're interested, please see us right outside the lecture hall after this evening's activities. And after that, there'll be a reception for Massachusetts lobbyists in room 407 of the Student Center. The trip should be quite exciting and a worthwhile experience for all. So thank you.
LOW: Let me welcome you again. My name hasn't changed. So I welcome you to this year's Compton Lecture. Tonight we mark the 40th year since the explosion of the first nuclear device in the New Mexican desert. 11 present and retired MIT professors were involved in that effort at Los Alamos that culminated in that event.
Hence, the title of today's set of talks and things happening 40 years after Los Alamos MIT and the bomb. Eight of those MIT faculty members are here tonight. I would also hope to see in that title a reflection of the commitment of so many members of my team's community to doing something about the situation in which we in the world find ourselves.
These Los Alamos veterans who are here tonight have participated, in lesser or greater degree, many with great devotion in that activity. They have worked throughout these 40 years to contain the effects of their terrible invention. Their work made war obsolete, but unfortunately it did not make war impossible.
The existence of nuclear weapons poses the greatest threat since Nemesis to the survival of life on Earth. And if not life on Earth, at least the survival of our civilization, civilization as we know it. I hope that the meeting tonight will help us think fruitfully and usefully about what we can do about these terrible questions.
I have to tell you-- I'm sorry to have to tell you that Joe Wiesner will be unable to join us. Mrs. Wiesner is in the hospital. It's not life threatening. But she is confined-- she is for the moment confined, leaving the hospital today in Florida. And he had to be with her. And he sends his best wishes and regrets. So we will hear tonight from the two others scheduled speakers.
After their talk, we are also honored to have with us tonight Mr. Bajpai, who is the ambassador from India to Washington. After their talk, I will ask him for a few comments. And after that, we will open the meeting to general discussion.
The two speakers are both old friends of mine and of many of us here. I can't imagine two different people. But when I think of how I should introduce them-- I have not been given a prepared vita-- I mean, actually their vitas are so long and so distinguished, that one couldn't do much with it anyway. But as I thought about what I want to say about them, the same things come to mind, although they are extraordinarily different people,
They are both physicists. They are both distinguished physicists. They are MIT Institute professors. They are incredibly learned, humane, humanist, two wonderful people. And--
And, of course, after they've talked, you'll tell the difference. And I have no titles. They'll give you their own titles. The first then is Victor Weisskopf-- Viki--
WEISSKOPF: My friends, I don't have a special title. 40 years after, thoughts inspired by those 40 years. 40 years ago, in the early morning hours of July 16, a truck driver in New Mexico reported that he saw the sun about to rise at 4:00 AM. But then the sun decided it was too early, and went back again, and came up an hour earlier-- an hour later. And that was, of course, the historic event of the first man-made atomic explosion, which some of you saw this afternoon in the movie.
I have witnessed this event, actually, roughly at the same-- actually, exactly at the same place as Phil. I remember we both were sitting together. The description we got from the army was that we should lie down with our stomachs-- on our stomachs, with our heads away from the explosion. Of course, we wouldn't dream to do that, because we wanted to see what's going on.
So after the generals who were there had put themselves into that position--
Phil and I, and many others there, took our dark glasses-- we figured out that the intensity should be roughly 20 midday suns at that distance, and looked at it, and tried to measure the size to estimate the efficiency and so on. It was, indeed, an incredible sight and an awesome experience, which hardly is desirable in words. Imagine the landscape lit up 20 times stronger than sunlight.
And even at that distance, we felt an intense blast of heat and a roaring thunder after three quarters of a minute. And we saw this steadily ascending fireball, made a brilliant hemisphere, up into a sphere, becoming slowly white, yellow, orange, surrounded by this blue halo.
And then finally, assuming the well-known mushroom shape. And then the sun actually went up and illuminated the whole thing with the red sunlight. Suddenly a credible impression that filled all of us with awe, with pride of unique achievement, and suddenly with misgivings about the future of mankind.
A few weeks after that trial, two bombs were thrown over two cities in Japan. Whatever one may think about the wisdom of the American use of the bombs, it did end the murderous war. And most probably saved many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, on both sides.
It may have saved many more than it has destroyed. We meant so well. And we served our country. And we thought that such powerful weapons would make wars impossible. And we hoped very much that this whole thing would lead to an international administration of every thing atomic or nuclear power in weapons. And then it would be an end of the old-- the age-old human custom of organized mutual mass murder.
We went out and gave talks to civic organizations, to the people in Santa Fe, and other cities nearby. And I remember I was quoting John Donne at that time-- no man is an island entirely for himself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. And what we meant is that this will bring, finally, mankind together.
Well, we were naive and wrong. We should have known better. True enough, the existence of the bomb has kept peace for the last 40 years, at least, between the big powers. This is an unusually long period. But these powers have found only one way to maintain the state of affairs, to indulge in an ever-increasing arms race. More and more weapons were made.
And at this moment in history, I do believe that we are on a collision course. The nuclear armaments go ahead, accelerated. New types of weapons are introduced. Technical innovations that make the weapons more efficient, but any kind of arms control more difficult. [INAUDIBLE] the consequences of a potential military conflict become increasingly more [INAUDIBLE] with a total explosive power 6,000 times more than all the bombs that were exploded during the World War I.
Now this, to my mind, when only a 50th perhaps is necessary, complete [INAUDIBLE] this case of collective mental disease that has gripped humanity. And I think it will be seen as such in 30-40 years, if we survive. And all that came from us, from our work at Los Alamos and other of these laboratories. It came from our brain child, from our achievements 40 years ago.
Many statesmen and a good part of the public is today aware of the fact that the actual use of even a small part of all this would be the greatest catastrophe of mankind. But being aware is not enough. We must recognize why is it that we go on and increase the probability of the danger over nuclear war. Why must that threat, which supposedly keeps peace and did keep peace, why must this threat be multiplied all the time by a steadily increasing factor? Why cannot people in governments get their heads together and recognize-- and say, enough is enough and recognize the danger of all this?
I believe that one of the main reasons is that there are many kinds of fear. There is, for example, the fear of a first strike. Both sides are afraid that the other side [INAUDIBLE] and particularly the land based missiles before retaliation.
Now that fear is in many ways more irrational, because the US has more than half of its missiles in submarines, which are, at least for a good time, impossible to exactly locate, so they cannot be destroyed, most of them, at least. And the Russians have about a quarter of their missiles in submarines. And given the destructive power, if even one submarine-- it is plain that a first strike just could not disarm an adversary.
Another fear is the fear to be weaker than the other side. See, up to the mid -70s, the United States had considerably more weapons, nuclear weapons, than the Soviet Union. Although the latter had even at that time enough weapons to destroy us.
But since then, the Soviet Union has reached a sort of equality with us and that has people very uneasy, to say the least. But let me say, this increase of the Russian nuclear weapons, which happened in the second part of the '70s and beginning of the '80s is has been preceded by a very strong increase of the United States from about 2,000 to 8,000 at strategic points. So we are now roughly at the same level.
Ironically, just that approximate parity adds a lot to the present difficulties and to the arms race. Why? Because you never know. And there's a lot of secrecy, particularly on the other side. And therefore, you [INAUDIBLE] worst, and to think there are more weapons there. And therefore, has to build more and build them up.
This is one of the driving forces, of course, of the arms race. The second-- the third fear, actually, is of being out distanced-- out distanced in a certain type of weapon. For example, the Russians have actually more land based and we have more submarine weapons. So we think we have to have the same number of land based missiles. And the Russians have those big land based missiles.
And that is one reason why people want to build the MX. So actually, we're going to build the MX. And the Soviet Union, of course, on the other side, is going to build submarines, because they have fewer than we are. This is, again, and mechanism for escalation.
A third fear-- or this is now the fourth fear, comes from a perceived or an actual aggressive policy of the opponent. Both sides believe that the other side is bent on aggression, whereas they, themselves, act purely defensively. Of course, the US definitely says that what happened in Afghanistan is an aggressive act, or in Southeast Asia.
But this is seen by the other side as a defense effect, to ensure the security of their borders, where in Vietnam, the Russians to establish a counterbalance to the influence of China. Conversely, the US has a lot of defensive actions to prevent the spread of communist influence, for example in Central America, in the Middle East. And these are perceived, of course, by the Soviet Union as an attempt to build up Western influence wherever possible. And the recent Star War plans is a particular good example.
It is perceived by the Soviet Union as a preparation for first strike, because then we can have a first strike and at least the consequences of retaliation will be diminished, so that you can perhaps supposedly support them, which I don't believe, but perhaps they believe. So each military and political action abroad can be interpreted as aggressive or defensive by one side or the other. And during a political crisis, of course, such misrepresentations are extremely dangerous.
The lack of understanding comes, of course, from a very completely different system, social system, political system. We are afraid of the authoritarian regime of world communism, the lack of elementary human rights on the other side, the treatment of minorities, the suppression of freedom in the satellites and the homeland. That arouses fears in the United States. And vise-versa, the ideology of capitalist free enterprise, the human rights activities, the virulent anti-communism, strong support of right wing dictators, and lately the talk about liberating the world from the evils of communism, necessarily arouses fear in the Soviet Union, and not only in the leading circles.
Now, in order to understand a little more, I think that's a very important thing, the fears and the subsequent actions of our adversary, you must consider the present situation. Let me express it this way. There are four large power complexes-- China, the Soviet Union, Western Europe, United States. Three of them have one enemy-- or let me adversary-- the Soviet Union. One of them, the Soviet Union, has four-- namely the three others and its own population.
Now, it's no laughing matter for them. And this explains a lot of actions. For example, one of the reasons-- certainly one of the reasons of the large conventional forces in Soviet Union is the fear of revolts in Eastern Europe. The overly large number of Soviet SS 20 missiles is probably meant to deter the Western aid for revolts, possible revolts in Eastern Europe, and to support incipient anti-Soviet governments. Now, the fact that the West never has supported such movements does not allay their fears that they may do it in the future.
Now, these fears are important, but they are not the only cause of the armaments race. I am coming now to another very dangerous and important-- more and more important cause of the armaments race. And that is the increasing momentum of the military machine. Years of intense developments, and buildup of weapons, of means of delivery, of new methods to improve the accuracy, they've established and interwoven system of vested interests, of ambitious and dedicated groups unwilling to give up their successful activities, not only, or maybe not even very much, because of financial interests. Although, I'm sure this plays a role. But also, because of a natural commitment to pursue a difficult task, just when it's about to yield more and better results.
No doubt most participants believe that they will-- that what they do will enhance the security of the United States or the Soviet Union. But it is probably not so. How can an armaments race increase security? I remember this very well from personal experience in Los Alamos. I think this afternoon there was a little discussion, but I will still mention it now. Namely, in Los Alamos, we all-- most of us, like myself, and many of my friends, went to Los Alamos only because we were afraid that Hitler will make the bomb.
Still, when the bomb-- when Hitler was defeated, just about 40 years ago in May, there wasn't even discussion of quitting. We just worked on because we had also this technological momentum, that-- Oppenheimer uses this uncanny term, a technically sweet project. That's the danger.
Of course, the same danger of this momentum is also in our preparations on both sides, a preparation to engage in a nuclear war. Strategies and tactics are developed. An escalating search for military targets to be hit in case. And the more such targets are found, the more bombs have to be deployed to hit them. Should the deterrents fail, so goes the argument, nuclear war may be come and we must be prepared to prevail in a limited nuclear war.
But, of course, a nuclear war very probably cannot be limited. The losing side will be forced to escalate. Two archers facing one another, saying the tighter I draw the bow, the safer I become. Unfortunately, also these preparations are fueled by their own momentum. The more developments going on, the more possibilities of attacks are found, as I said. The more pressures develop for deployment.
And such preparations made a certain sense in the past, when war was really acceptable as the last assault for which we must be well prepared. In my hometown, in Vienna, there is a monument. And it says on the monument, [SPEAKING LATIN] For those who don't know Latin, it means when you wish for peace, prepare for war. Today's that slogan can no longer be applied. To prepare for nuclear war is to prepare for mutual suicide.
So the arms race is the product of irrational fears felt by both contending powers. And there is a self-perpetuating mechanism that creates its own momentum and increases the fears, and draws all the activities into its whirlpool. And this is why the present confrontation is so dangerous.
This is the first part of my talk. Now, I would like to use the rest of the time to those thoughts that must come to people who are involved with these questions. What have we learned now from what happened in the last 40 years? And how can we see a hopeful future? Which I do-- I don't believe-- at least I feel in my bones that we won't be all destroyed. But only if we do something about it.
Now, the last four decades have taught us one important lesson. Negotiations to reduce the level of nuclear weapons have very little chance of success in the prevailing atmosphere of confrontation, distrust, and increasingly offensive and defensive weapon developments. To the contrary, there is a danger of the erosion of even those few treaties that did slow down the armaments race, like SALT I and SALT II.
Perhaps, I should like to make a remark. SALT I has an interesting part, which many of you know, namely the ABM Treaty, which says that you are not supposed to defend yourself against strategic missiles. So quite so, you are allowed to have one or two establishments for that. Actually, the United States has not used it at all and the Russians have one, Moscow.
Now, this was a very difficult development. And I remember at that time, I was active in the Pugwash movement. From '64-- that treaty was concluded in the '70s-- '72. From '64 on, we tried to talk with the Russian scientists to tell them that such defenses are dangerous, because all they will do is to increase the number of offensive warheads, so that an equilibrium, so-called equilibrium is established. It was difficult to convince the Russians. Indeed, the Russian scientists used the same arguments which you hear today from our government-- defense obviously is good, how can defense be bad? We must defend ourselves.
And it took us many years, but we succeeded, not only to convince the scientists, our government, at that time, was also of that opinion. And the scientists that came to Pugwash, of course, had very strong connections with their government, or they wouldn't be allowed to come out to the West. And they were able to convince their government really to sign that treaty, which to some extent has reduced the speed of the armaments race, though it didn't turn it around.
But the interesting thing, I tell this only because of the application of today. Today the situation seems to be reversed. The same group of scientists that convinced, at that time the Russian scientists, that defense, that kind of defense against missiles will only increase the armaments race, we are not successful in convincing our government, our present government of this. And vise versa, the Russians now, who we had a hard time to convince, now say exactly that idea and repeat it, and probably with good justification.
Well, this is just to say that there were certain efforts already before, during these 40 years. But there is now a chance that all these treaties-- I wrote it-- for example, the Star War project, of course, would, if it actually goes into the testing and development phase, would be a breach of the ABF Treaty, which has saved us so far from too much development.
Is there a chance that we can arrive at a different attitude? Evidently, we must. There are compelling reasons. And that is sort of clear to everybody. And their main point is that nuclear weapons must be regarded not as weapons of war, but their only purpose is to deter their use by the other side. And for this, of course, we have much fewer than we have at present.
Now, how can we change those causes which I've analyzed before, limiting mutual fears and the driving forces of increasing armament efforts? Well, we must be aware that the present situation, the present confrontational of the situation, inducing fear in the opponent is against one's own interest. It only escalates the armaments race.
Fear, of course, is not an objective fact, like the number of warheads. It arises from interpretation or misinterpretations of statements and actions by the other side. Now, what could be ways to reduce fears and distrust. I think an indispensable first step is an awareness of the problem.
For example, every statement and every action on both sides should be examined with the view as to how will it be interpreted on the other side. Will it increase or reduce the fear and distrust? Obviously, you can easily see examples that increase the fear. The deployment of MX, the deployment of the Trident II submarines that are accurate enough to hit their missiles, on our side, increase fear. The great number, the heavy SS18s and the recent preparations for deployments of mobile missiles by the Soviet Union increases the fear. Of course, SS20 in Europe also.
Well, how can we deal with those fears? For example, how can we deal with the fear of superiority? Let's be sure, today both sides, the East and the West maintain that opponent is militarily stronger. You can read this in our paper and you can read it in their papers. As remarked before, it is not so much the reality that counts, but the perception.
Therefore, we must not only strive to maintain an offensive and defensive parity, because if we try to be superior, we only accelerate the arms race, because evidently they cannot allow us to be superior. Perhaps I should search your one little remark. One could say, aha, we're are now technologically so far ahead that we can become superior and they cannot follow us.
That would be the most dangerous situation, because then they would become-- they would fear that we will use our superiority for blackmail, that they have to give in here and there. That's probably also the rationale of those people who are in favor of superiority. But then they become irrational. And governments become very easily irrational. And they will put on the wall and they will react in some way, which induces a war.
Now, therefore, we must be sure that both the East and the West have also the perception of being on parity. That means one of the most important things is to have some negotiations that have the aim to make it clear, to discuss how is parity meant. We must put ourselves a the little in their shoes to understand it. And we rarely do this.
I'll give you an example. The present dispute over the number of intermediate range missiles in Europe. The Soviets-- well, we say we have to put all these missiles into European countries because they have 10 times more missiles, intermediate missiles then we have, the SS20. But of course, the Soviets count the French and British missiles, and find then that both sides are about equal. Now, we leave them out.
Imagine, for example-- now here, one has to use the mirror argument and put oneself in the other's position. Imagine, for example, if they would not count missiles they have put into Hungary, or Poland, or Cuba as missiles against us. I mean, one has to have the most primitive understanding for the problem.
So there should be bilateral discussion, or maybe multilateral discussions, because the Allied countries on both sides are very much interested in this. They don't want to be unprotected witness in the defensive build up or launching pads in an offensive build up.
Another thing is, in order to get down the fear of aggression. And we must have a better understanding of their motivations of their actions. Here, the national body for crisis management would, of course, be just an important step. That body would discuss actual or potentially expected political and military events. There already exist such a bilateral body-- the standing Consultative Commission, that deals with supposed or real infractions of the treaties, and it has been very useful in the past to smooth-- to get difficulties out of the way.
Nowadays, when so-called perceived infractions are right away widely publicized, and so the Commission is no longer so effective. But there is a reason that we should have as similar, of course, much harder task, of international monitor, or maybe later on, multilateral body that discusses possible crisis.
Now, there are obviously military measures that could be taken to reduce fears. We could, for example, reduce our potential, our strategic potential by 10% or 20% without weakening our position. In particularly, we could reduce first strike capabilities, because we can't use them anyway. And the [INAUDIBLE] of never using nuclear weapons first, that would be also a very important thing, because a declaration not to commit suicide shouldn't be so difficult.
Of course, the Western Europeans always think, and they reason, with some justification, that the nuclear deterrence is important against a conventional attack. But this reasoning is based upon a very questionable assumption, namely that a suicide threat is an effective deterrent. So these are problems which we have to attack.
Now, one trivial case. And that is that there are 8,000 small nuclear weapons, so-called battlefield weapons, around in Europe. And of course, both sides, roughly this number. And those make really no sense at all on the countries. They're extremely dangerous. By the way, they aren't that small. There are some of them that are as big as the Hiroshima explosions, some of you have seen this afternoon.
There is a real good chance of a successful negotiation on that, because actually, the US has already reduced them unilaterally somewhat. And it's obviously an advantage to have a higher threshold against the outbreak of a nuclear conflagration. But these are all smaller measures.
What is necessary, and certainly, what the last 40 years have shown then is to reduce tension by other and more effective methods. We need a deeper change of attitude from this paranoid distrust. [INAUDIBLE] is-- the US and the SU-- I like the symmetry in the abbreviations-- are not enemies, they're adversaries. They have one common enemy and that is nuclear war. And they have many common interests, apart from escaping mutual nuclear annihilation.
I'd like to talk a little about that, because this is important. Because to work together on other dangers is helpful for mutual understanding. The world is, for example, threatened by the increase, the steady increase of carbon dioxide, which will change the climate. It may melt the ice sheet. We don't know much about it, but coastal cities may disappear.
I saw a map the other day of what could have happened, which Florida is gone, Holland is gone, the whole coastal east is gone. They don't care about this. Then they have the chemical pollution, the atmosphere is threatened, threatens animals and vegetation. The acid rain, and other things-- the death of the forests, which in Europe is a major catastrophe and probably will come to this country and the Soviet Union pretty soon. We have so far protected because our population density is not as high.
Now here are things that need scientific investigation, that need scientific collaboration, that need big projects. But where are our scientists, they go into defense, what we call defense. They go into all this weapons development and the financial support goes there, whereas there are many other dangers. And I've only mentioned two. There are many more-- pollution of the oceans, overpopulation, over-exploitation of soil, famine, et cetera, et cetera. So all these dangers threaten both superpowers. And here's a wonderful opportunity for cooperation, which will reduce fear and distrust.
Now and even the transfer of scientific and technical interests to other aims and weapon [INAUDIBLE] would even help to counteract the self-propelling momentum of the armaments effort. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but one should try. So there are, of course-- there is, of course-- well, then commerce. We should have much more in commerces, so that we are sort of interdependent of each other. That is a help and not a danger, as it is often described.
Europe is a little ahead of us. They have the gas line from Soviet Russia. They live a much more-- they have much more commerce with the Soviet Union, et cetera. But of course, one of the main obstacles is always the question of human rights. How can you collaborate with a system that treats its citizens that way? But I think that's just the other way around. It is bad that they treat their citizens, but you must fight it, and you must tell it, and you must talk about it.
But by not having any collaboration and cooperation with them, we make things only worse, as we do. Since the so-called detente. Detente, unfortunately, is a bad word now. But it's a lessening of tension. It's just what we want. Now, since the last detente, since detente has stopped, only there are even more persecutions, and more bad things, more restrictions of civil and human rights in the Soviet Union.
So to be in touch with them, to be able to talk directly to them, and they're coming here and looking at the way we live, is, of course, much more important. We should not hope that we can change the system. The last opportunity to change a despicable political system by force was the Second World War. And it was pretty expensive. From now on, we just can't do it if that system is a big power and has nuclear weapons.
So the only hope of changing what happens in Russia is a slow improvement, which would probably take a long time. But it can only happen if fear, confrontation, and distrust subsides. And let's see, technocrats come to power, and who don't-- for whom ideological questions are of no importance.
These are the lessons which we should draw from the sad experience of the past 40 years, when our great hopes 40 years ago for a better world without conflicts were temporarily dashed. There's still hope for hope for the next 40 years. The threat of nuclear war has kept an uneasy peace. It has given us time. There is a meta stable situation. But it's only a meta stable. It will not last forever.
So we have still time to learn the lesson, to change the present course, which in the long run, is a collision course. But this will require the collaboration of all of you, in particular the young people. Because it's the young people who will decide what happens. And if they do not participate actively in this fight, by talking, discussing, writing to congressmen, and trying to influence colleagues, et cetera, we will not get very far.
It will require political and military insight, and an understanding of the psychology of the adversary, and a great deal of wisdom, and the readiness to compromise, none of which was much in evidence during the last 40 years. But progress must be based, and all what you do must be based on an absolute pragmatic, ethical, and moral dedication to the aim that nuclear war should not, cannot, and must not occur.
My colleagues and I constructed the atomic bomb. If we hadn't, other people would have done it sooner or later. What nature has made possible cannot be avoided. But the lessons we draw from it, and what we do with it, that depends on us, not on nature. Thank you.
LOW: Thank you, Viki. The next speaker is Professor Philip Morrison. Phillip--
MORRISON: Thank you. I'm afraid that among the pleasures of such discussion we miss the chance for sharp disagreement, which always bring some learning. We'll have to forego that, because we are somehow too similar in point of view. I shall try not to repeat any of the wise remarks, but to fit carefully in between them with footnotes. We'll see how that scheme works.
I too could begin with a memo that came across my desk just yesterday, literally, in the mail. It was something which I myself wrote 40 years ago. It was the quasi official and rather over formal, careful presentation of my experiences at the Trinity site on July 16, morning, 1945, which was stuck in the files of the Los Alamos laboratory all these years. And some author has dug them out, along with many others. And he thought I'd be interested. And I was, of course, interested to see it again.
I remember the main point, which is the first paragraph which I begin. It's the same memory that Viki has. [INAUDIBLE] at base camp. At 18,000 yards, 10 miles, must have had the same experience. The site was awesome. The sound was extraordinarily. We were prepared for that.
What I was somehow not prepared for, by the calculations and discussions we had had, was the sense of warmth on the face, as hot as summer moon, just for a fraction of a second or a second. And coming in the cold desert morning, well before dawn, this is an extraordinary experience, indelible. Because, of course, that kind of sensory input, with such an live channel of input, is something that you remember beyond the vision, beyond the sound, beyond the rational and awesome consequences that we could draw.
Two of my old colleagues at Los Alamos, one of whom I think is in this room, have been much impressed by this same memory. And have repeatedly written and spoken, at least tentatively, concerning the possible wisdom of having an occasional ceremonial above-ground test of a nuclear device, somewhere in the desert or the broad Pacific, to which we invited the heads of state or the representatives, so they too might be at base camp, 10 miles away, and feel the heat on the face.
This may be a very ingenuous view of how statesmen minds are changed. But it is not without it's-- not without its persuasiveness. And I hope to hear more about that as time goes on. Now I'd like to put the whole thing into a little bit more history, as usual by case studies, which is the way I deal with history. And I would like to tell you something which I fell into by the persuasiveness of another colleague, Professor Zacharias, who is here.
Some years ago, maybe a decade ago or more, I was caused by his persuasion to go to Oklahoma City, a place I rarely visit.
But in Oklahoma City, I met a remarkable man. It was his birthday. He was a leader of the community. I shan't describe all his virtues. But he was a man who was then celebrating his 100th birthday. One doesn't get a chance to meet articulate people with that kind of extensive historical experience. And we sat in each other at lunch.
And since I was a physicist, and he was interested in that, he told me the following remarkable story. Which begins, in my view, it was the beginning of the 20th century in physics. Physicists never get things quite straight. So for us the 20th century begins in 1896.
Now, in January 1896, this man was a young student in the freshman physics course at Colorado College. And he was professor came in that morning, having seen the paper, and said, the Rockaway News is coming, the newspaper. Today. I'm going to cancel the lecture I was planning, and the work that you're supposed to do, I urge you-- I invite you to work with me this morning. And together, if all of us work hard, we'll be able to do something quite wonderful.
Because a German professor, far off in [INAUDIBLE] Professor Rankin has today published how to make ras that will allow him to take photographs of the bones in the living hand, right through the flesh. You can see the skeletal shape. And his equipment is straightforward. He describes it-- we have that same equipment here in our shop. If we work hard, I think by the end of the morning we'll have accomplished this fact. Perhaps, we'll be the first in the entire United States to do so.
So indeed they fell to with a will. And my 100-year-old acquaintance remembered going to the last moment, to the chapel, to fetch a big thick Bible, so they could take a photograph of a key through a book, which is the other great demonstration of the X-rays. And indeed, it worked just as they said. And they were very happy and contented. The morning was well spent.
It took them in Colorado, thousands of miles from the centers for research, it took them a mere few hours to duplicate this remarkable discovery. They were not the first. And not the first for a simple geographical reason. In Colorado, not because of the indolence of the people, but because of the roundness of the Earth. The sun rises two hours later that it rises in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and so on. Because it's on Mountain time.
And therefore, when they were just assembling, when hearing the professor's news to the newspaper, the New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New England, their [INAUDIBLE] had already been at work two hours. And indeed, all across the United States, perhaps in half a dozen colleges, in a rather provincial country, from the point of physics research in 1896, the X-rays had been duplicated. There's no question that this discovery this was in the medium, and it simply required crystallization to make it appear. The nucleus was all you had to drop in.
Now, exactly the same situation-- I only realized in the last couple of months, preparing lectures for our course-- exactly the same situation applied to the discovery of nuclear fission. When fission was described correctly by Meitner and [INAUDIBLE] in terms that they worked out in Christmas vacation in 1938, and was announced to the world, across the world, from Japan, to the Soviet Union, every place where there was a halfway respectable department of physics with nuclear physics interests, was able to duplicate the effect right away.
And in a couple of day, showed the fission pulses on an oscilloscope to anybody who would ask. Pulses 50 times more intense than the pulses from alpha particle emission, which was quite common to see in the same display. So you see, this is the example of two cases-- I know of no others really like that-- two cases where fundamental change occurred, in a sense, long overdue.
The community was ready for it. The instruments had been used widely and developed for the purpose. The [INAUDIBLE] was available everywhere. The photographic plate was available everywhere. There was no problem. Just the right combination had not been found. And once that combination was given, the box was unlocked all over the world. And the same thing happened with fission.
Many people failed to discover fission in the three years before it was discovered. By this or that small failure, it was just chance led them to put an extra piece of scotch tape across the sample. That's an actual case. Not to be able to turn the knob far enough and the design spectrograph to catch the energy of the next X-ray line. A number of other events like that, which prevented the premature, so to speak, discovery of fission.
So that in a way-- and this is again what Viki said-- the matter has the property of the release, the large scale release of nuclear energy. And it came to us as a extraordinary discovery. But it came, of course, in a different context. It was not 1896, but early 1939.
World War began in late 1939. And was sealed, most people feel, by the Munich events of the fall of 1938. This we felt all over, and in California, where I was. Within a month, after we first heard of fission, I, myself, remember-- and I was no expert, and didn't understand, except for the most elementary way, the nature of neutron diffusion. Drew on the board in [INAUDIBLE] 219, which we graduate students shared in the [INAUDIBLE] room of Robert Oppenheimer, a drawing of a nuclear weapon, with the key words-- deuterium, and chain, and all those things that you might now associate with it.
It was very naive. Would not have worked. But was not the result of serious effort. It was just what was in the air. It was the climate of opinion. And so it seems very difficult to avoid the conclusion that we were in for, one way or another, to face this problem. What did happen, as a consequence of this strange chance, was the close coincidence between the opening of this possibility and the outbreak of the war, stimulated by the most virulent, self-declared, aggressive regime in the history of Europe for centuries.
This was a piece, perhaps, of bad luck. Total war was implied by the headlines of the events. And here was the device, embryonic device, suited intrinsically to that particular activity. And that, perhaps, is the historical tragedy, which we could not have controlled, but which we certainly have to recognize.
Now, the institutions that are responsible for this are the most dominant institutions in our lives. They have been so for 300 years, about. That's not as old as modern science, which goes back now about 400 years. But these three or four centuries have seen the simultaneous growth of the two most important institutions of contemporary life. I think it's plain what they are.
They are nations, national states, on the one hand, and science and its conscious application technology, both ways, on the other hand. These two institutions represent the modern world in many ways. And if you look at the pages of the books, of history, you'll see them on every page, increasingly strongly as the centuries have come by.
They have very different ideals. They have very different origins. One speaks for diversity, universality. The other speaks for adherence, coherence, pride in limited community. True, [INAUDIBLE] specialization has lost some of its universality, specialization, both in place and in nature. But, of course, the national state has, in fact, perhaps has become somewhat larger. But still, is primarily much in the form that the revolutionaries of France, or the United States, for that matter, would have recognized as the formation of a nation.
And nation building and nation forming has never been more vigorous than it has been since the energy released first after World War I, when the great empires of Europe crashed, and then World War II, when the great empires that held colonial sway across the countries also crashed in their turn-- Holland, the British Commonwealth, and so on.
Now, in the days of the enlightened, it's hard to believe how these two institutions fitted with each other. And it's very difficult to satisfy yourself that it's the same way, from the present day, that it's that way. But it was that way. And there are many reasons. I shan't elaborate that much. You can see them for yourselves. But I just wanted to mention two.
When Captain Cook set sail on his wonderful expedition to explore the-- to look for a Southern continent, measure the transit of Venus, and explore the Pacific for His Majesty, our country, which was at war with Great Britain, a Revolutionary War in full energy, through its brilliant scientific ambassador to Paris, Mr. Franklin, wrote a letter to all our commanders at sea, saying, by no means attack Captain Cook's vessel. Give him free passage. He sails not as a British ship, not as a ship of the British Navy, but as a representative of science. What he does will only enhance the virtues to all mankind, including the United States of America, and gave him safe conduct.
It's hard to believe that would happen today. Even later, even later when Colonel William Lambton was engaged by the East India Company, not even the British state, but an agent of the state, the East India Company, to begin the great triangulation, which has led to the modern Indian survey, beautifully mapped from Himalayas to the Cape, his great fundamental theodolite that was to be used to establish the principle geodetic coordinates, was sent by sea and captured by a French ship-- a disaster. No.
Three or four years later, no great delay in the circumstances of 1808 or 1810, when it was, it appeared, by courtesy of the French Academy, who said they had no interest in depriving Colonel Lambon of his wonderful instrument. And there was. Please use it and publish the maps.
Well, it was a time you may say was ingenuous. Of course, it was a time when science did not have the power, did not generate the power yet. The power was, of course, in the hands of armorers, always had been. But it was technology, and not yet much influenced by the more rational abstract qualities that we see in post-Galilean science.
Nowadays, of course, the figure of the earth is a top military secret. And if you know where there are concentrations of mass and changes in the geode that haven't yet been worked out from the satellite perturbations, you better not tell anybody, because it's very important for directing the missiles. And against it is this exponential rise of a powerful means of understanding, and thus controlling, features the environment. These two great changes interlock.
And something new entered with nuclear weapons, which I maintain are special. It's a dangerous position to maintain, but I think it is a real one. It is verifiable in some sense quantitatively. They are not ordinary. People have always wondered at the expressions of energy. And of course, in terms of sheer total energy, we still can't match the energy released in nature.
The philosophers of Hellenic and Hellenistic times recognized energy and gravitation, falling bodies, in the winds, in the water currents, the waves of the ocean. Of course, they don't have the power density which we command in nuclear explosions. They recognized a second kind of energy, animate energy, the energy characteristic of human beings, their own motion, and the motion of all the animals. In fact that sign of motion, we still speak of something animated when it is moving.
And the notion that mechanical objects would also move came as a strange and marvelous thing. 2,000 years ago, and even five 300 or 400 years ago, it was still quite remarkable, that motion could be transferred from living things or mere forces of nature, where it was intrinsic to move like wind and waves, to little clockwork objects. We've lost that sense entirely today.
So I think I said earlier, in this very room, there's a parallel today, which has to do with intelligence in mechanical objects. And there too, people are puzzled and associated. I think it's very likely the same consequences to occur. Namely, it will be transferred to mechanisms. And we won't understand those mechanisms. Those mechanism will not enable us to understand intelligence in ourselves, any more than the motion of windup mice enable us to understand mice very well. It's a very small part of the problem.
But the power in nuclear explosives, as everyone's pointed out, is extraordinary. But this is the fundamental point. The fundamental point is not only the power that can be summoned there. Of course, if you pile up enough TNT, you can pile up the same amount of energy. But you can't do that. You can't do that economically. It is the extraordinary cheapness of nuclear energy in explosive form that is the characteristic danger of the situation.
It must be 20 years ago, I was riding in an airplane one night, late flight. And I had bought a copy of a familiar magazine, The New Yorker, looking at the cartoons. I was startled to find a cartoon which was based on the following conceit of a clever cartoonist. Was a time Soviet-Chinese differences, in the early '60s.
And the cartoon showed a gentleman, [INAUDIBLE] of the Chinese, a Mandarin-- one of the Mandarin [INAUDIBLE] learned Mandarin [INAUDIBLE], impassive in his robes, and waving the appropriate fan. It's all made very chinoiserie. And then a bunch of toiling people in their blue uniforms-- you could see that-- making a great firecracker. And the caption said, they test, we test. And that was the idea of the cartoonist.
Now, the firecracker was gigantic. It was about as big as a house, 35 or 40 feet in diameter, and it was drawn perhaps 150, 200 feet long. And toiling men were carrying a great thing to light it. You can see the exaggeration of the cartoonist. But you recognize that if I were to try to make a megaton of gunpowder, which must be what they used of firecrackers, the firecracker to represent that would have to be a 30 foot diameter tube. It would not just be 200 feet long, or 2,000 feet long, or two miles long, or 20 miles long.
It would actually go right across the horizon. Add a few megatons, and disappear into space, like the Great Wall, narrowing down to [INAUDIBLE]. It's hyperbolic. The cartoonist is a better artist. He knew if he drew that, people would think it was impossible, but it's simple sense. And that's the trouble, and very hard to imagine that trouble if you can't calculate it and face it. And even when you've seen it, it's not easy to imagine. But that the situation.
As everyone knows, the statistic-- a freight train loaded with boxcars of TNT, if it rattles by, it will carry a megaton by at full speed part your grade crossing in eight hours. That's a megaton. The disposition of the forces now gives each side a yield of between 5 and 10 Geiger tons, 5,000 or 10,000 megatons each side.
This is inordinate. It doesn't compare to any of the other structures in our society. And that's why I think it is fair to say that it represents a novel danger, not to be compared to the terrible history of war between nations, which indeed is bad enough, and in human terms cannot be dismissed or diminished. Who is to think otherwise, when to read all these grave things. Even though at the same time, they brought out courage, and sacrifice, and unity in the usual way that nationalism has built for us.
Who could not hope for an end to war? Who would not dream of [INAUDIBLE] of all time? Ever since we've had states-- it's not intrinsic probably to human beings-- but to the organization in states. But I think we have-- at the moment, I offer a more modest goal. It is the abolition of nuclear. Which is not the same thing as the abolition of war, or the settlement of all national differences, or indeed, the common agreement, which we must try to seek and widen.
But I recognize that's an old and longstanding problem. And short of accomplishment of just distribution of the economic goods of the world, it seems to be very hard, at least, to guarantee it. And short of solving the long histories which imply the words of revenge, and retribution, and so on, the classic arguments of the past, I don't see how we can hope to bring those to clear end.
But we can, I think, separate out the idea that nuclear war will not serve any of these interests. Nuclear war will not advance the concerns of nations. And it's only use, if it has any use at all in the arsenals, is as a deterrent against nuclear war itself. That's to say, as a hedge against the fear that surreptitious weapons could be found, could be made, which would represent a violation of agreement, and thus, bring danger.
And if you hold a small threshold, a small amount, which is enough to cover any plausible concealment, then indeed, that too brings no advantage. And could be expected to be irrational and not much worried about. So that I think is the end we have to look at, the proximate end.
I don't deny, and I would hope that we can do much better than that. But that is far enough. It's much farther than where we are now. Because where we are now, of course, is a very clear position. The statesmen have by their action, rather by their inaction, in spite of many provocations, and many differences, have refrained from direct confrontation between adversaries heavily armed with nuclear weapons. And that's because there is a strong inhibition to their use, a strong sense of survival, and this we can count all to the good.
But what they have intended to say is there will only be no disaster on my watch. Therefore, we'll build more missiles, but not use them. And the next group can decide how to solve the matter. That's been going on for 40 years. The justifications for this system and that system are so thin and so self-contradictory, as you read them over the years, that we're just doing the study now in our course, and it comes ever clearer that there is no way on the level of individual decisions to say that they are right or wrong. They're never very right. They're always tendentiously argued.
The essential point appears to be that states will spend what they can spend, 5% or 10% of the gross national product, on military affairs, whatever that buys when they're [INAUDIBLE] a state of adversarial relationship. Whatever that buys. They don't ask what it buys, they ask what can they spend. It's the level of effort that counts.
We have two million men in armed services. We've always had two million men in the armed services, since 1950. And that's what it is. And they can be armed. However powerfully they're armed, it doesn't really matter, as long as the expenditures are about the same. When we had 100s or 1,000 bombers flying three tons of bombs each, or whether we have 1,000-- 300 in this case, bombers, and another 1,000 missiles, with the equivalent of a million tons each, it really doesn't matter. The cost is much the same.
And it's that which is looked at by the states and by their [INAUDIBLE] And there's no other explanation for the order of magnitude of what we've built up. It's not measured in terms of targets. It's measured on the input you need. The input you need is so and so much. That's reasonable. We always spent that kind of sum. Let's spend it again. And it doesn't matter the technicians are making it easier to have the damage. That's the tragedy. It's not looked at in terms of output, but in terms of input alone.
Other technologies will come along, which will again engage this conflict between technology and the nation state. I don't know which ones, but I'm confident that the one we see is sufficiently grave so that we have to take action. A new point has arisen. It's not new, again, it's a repetition of events, as Viki said, of 1969 to 1972 or '73, when the idea of a defense against the delivery of nuclear weapons was in the air, literally. And now, it's gone from the air to outer space for two of the three layers, but still much the same thing.
And the trouble with it, of course, is not the detail of the systems, not at all. I don't want to discuss X-ray lasers, or ground based chemical lasers, or whatever you have in mind. Those are all interesting and important discussions. We should have them here. But they don't-- in this institution-- they don't represent the real issue. Because the real issue is not that. The real issue is that a defense system, genuine defense-- that is active defense, not deterrence, nuclear weapons style-- has always been and remains based upon marginal superiority of an installed system.
My sword will pierce your shield. Not every time, you're not shield-less, but the decision has always been in the margin. Some little difference has made a difference. The shells penetrated the deck of one side, but not the other. And the remaining ships that floated were of one kind. They won the battle. It's always in this marginal distinction that every defense, offense war has been won.
And that will be true for strategic defense initiatives, in space, anywhere. The general picture is not the medium that makes the difference. It's the energy and technical means placed at the disposal of those who will counter any given system. So we can expect, since we've always seen it before, a seesaw jockeying, which now this will be hit, now that will be hit. And on top of that, always the proposition that nuclear weapons are still inordinately powerful, and a small leakage of them through any defense is devastating.
So you really, as everyone said, raised another race. But you've not solved the fundamental problem. The difference, again, is this extraordinary order of magnitude that nuclear energy introduces that none of the other devices introduce at all. Because they always have their match. But not nuclear energy, there's no match.
I'm afraid that just as we've seen with the B52, which has only been used in combat against a non-nuclear power-- three of them-- Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and the MX missile, which was built for quite a different purpose than its present use, to close the window of vulnerability, and skitter around the Southwestern desert, to avoid its targetability, imitating the submarines, abandoned. No such justification is present any longer. It's just meant as a better missile with a hard target kill capability, to add to our present force.
And so I believe, in fact, that the SDI system, when it finally is built, and has its terminal defense and a few things in orbit and so on, will not at all be regarded as adequate against the powerful countermeasures and increased missile powers of the powerful superpower against us, but will be used on the side to threaten and perhaps even to strike at somebody somewhere else in the world, who hasn't got any kind of anti-missile capability or satellites or anything else.
Because against such a power, it is indeed a powerful weapon, not perhaps a winning weapon, though very powerful activity, just as the 52s were very-- dropped a lot of bombs through the monsoon are Laos and Cambodia. Whether they won anything, it's hard to say, but they certainly blew up a lot of territory. And I'm afraid that's what we're going to see. Missile systems have this curious life, or systems have this curious life. Once built, their utility depends on what you choose to do with them. And when they're badly conceived, then they're not useful for the primary purpose. And they are so expensive, you couldn't build them for the secondary purpose. But you've got them. So there they are.
I think that's the situation. And I believe the solution has got to be measures of restraint as an initial break to the situation. Restraint, not just negotiated, long negotiated mutuality. Rapidly produced measures of unilateral restraint, using that word. And I say this, I wanted to say it, but I got a letter today, which I'll just comment on, a form letter, of course, from a very able Congresswoman, Patricia Schroeder, of the Armed Services Committee, a Congresswoman from Colorado.
And she proposes the following scheme. Now, I have no way-- I haven't talked to enough people to say this is a good idea or a bad idea. It appeals to me very much. I'm sure it is the flavor of what eventually will work. And I put it forward to you only and that means. It depends upon timing. It depends upon unity. It depends on political circumstances. Maybe none of these are propitious. But the idea is a sound one. I'll just mention it.
She says, let it be the sense of Congress that on August 6-- before August 6, 1985, our president shall announce a three month withholding of all nuclear tests on condition only that the Russians do the same thing. And if they do, if he does not certify that they have made a test, then the Congress will not allow any money to be spent on this for such purposes, indefinitely, looking at it every six months or a year. Meanwhile, negotiations begin on a more formidable and comprehensive test [INAUDIBLE].
I think this is interesting. Very mild restraint, because you're not going to lose very much under any circumstance. It's verifiable. And it has the quality of an initiative, which is what we need, something to start with, not waiting to see whether the bargaining chips on the table can be counted up well. So unless we find such initiatives of restraint, unless we find such minor sacrifices, minor risks to take in the face of this growing, steady, never decisive, but always terrible risk, which is the single minded arms race for greater and greater destruction, then I think we'll find no way out.
And I believe one side or the other must try this, once, twice, many times, until it becomes [INAUDIBLE]. Always careful not to compromise the peace in any substantial way, by the small, but clearly indicated direction of its proposals. So I close then, very much in the same way that I would have closed the talk in 1945, showing that one doesn't learn very much in this world.
But when we came back from New Mexico and Japan, the scientists, ingenuous, but energetic, as usual, made up slogans for what should be done in the crisis of 1945. And I think the slogans are not bad. And I'd like to repeat them again in this time, with a little explanation and end.
First of all, we said there is no secret to this thing. That's a foregone conclusion now. Nobody imagines there is. It's all over the world. But of course, in those days, it was a big political statement, because the notion was we would hold the secret and we alone, with the UK, would be the sole nuclear powers. We said that will not work. The secret will fade. The secret is held in the uranium nucleus, and that is everywhere.
Second, we said there will be no defense, not because we knew about X-ray lasers, we didn't. Because we knew the simple argument I made before, that defense is in the margin, but nuclear weapons are beyond that. And finally, we said that it seems there's only one way to proceed. And that is, somehow by eventual international agreement to do away, as far as we can, with nuclear war. Thank you.
LOW: Phil and Viki, thank you for incredible talks. Mr. Bajpai would you honor us with some remarks? Mr. Bajpai is the Indian ambassador.
BAJPAI: Provost Low and friends, I find myself in double embarrassment that almost everything I would have liked to say has been so much better said, not only by these two greats because we have just heard, but more briefly, but very much to the point also, in the collection that you have in the pamphlet that is with you. My other embarrassment is, quite candidly, that I look like being suspect of joining dangerous company, because we all feel the same way.
And the way they feel is not very popular in certain quarters. And I rather fear that we may all be accused of conspiring together to corrupt the young.
And to subvert the international system, as the powers that are prefer to see it. And subvert the existing or accepted prevailing wisdom, in Washington at least. I must confess that the presence of a layman like myself in this very remarkable gathering of scientists must raise two questions, at least in my mind, if not yours, is why I was included, and the other is why I came.
The first I would-- I'm sure is not because the father of the atom bomb quoted one of our scriptures when the atom bomb was first exploded. And I hope it is not just because India is one of the countries in the world that has developed the know how of nuclear energy. I wish I could think it was an acknowledgment of India's commitment to this cause of finding solutions to this terrible fear that we have all lived under in these 40 years.
It is a remarkable coincidence, in a way, that this nuclear age is almost-- at the same time, began at the same time, as India's life as a modern state. It was a day of dread and glory for all of us. And the tragedy of those of us who come from the developing world is that the glory we had hoped to achieve from it has yet to manifest itself. And the dread is all too pervasive.
I, of course, have come because we continue to attach this very high importance, and have from the very beginning of our life as a member of the international community, tried to work for a solution, which after a very few years, we came to believe [INAUDIBLE] complete and general disarmament, starting with the total abolition of all nuclear weapons.
We have been pressing for this since we first launched the proposal in the United Nations in 1954. And followed it up with other proposals about banning tests, about stopping vertical, as well as horizontal, proliferation. And indeed, about outlying nuclear weapons altogether. We haven't gotten very far, as you know. And there's yet another anniversary that we will be observing this year. It is the 10th anniversary of the non-proliferation treaty.
And many have said, all right, if you can't manage the totality of the danger, at least let us limit it by going through the self-denial process of those countries that have not yet developed the bomb. We have not signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, although we have advocated its purposes and intentions. And I think that is because of a factor that has been mentioned in passing or indirectly earlier today.
The nation state has probably been responsible for more wars than almost any other single factor in history. And yet, we, who became nation states, only a few years ago, are much too jealous and proud of that fact to want a different order of international affairs. But what we have always wanted is a different order of international behavior.
I don't know how many of you saw the film this afternoon, but one of those who was interviewed in it had an interesting recollection that the capacity to produce this weapon really came to fruition after Germany had already surrendered. And I believe you all had a debate as to whether to go ahead or not. And as I think-- who was it that was recollecting this? Professor Wilson-- he mentioned that talking to Dr. Oppenheimer, they argued back and forth.
And Oppenheimer said, no, this is the age of the United Nations. And the United Nations is going to usher in a new world order which must know what this dreadful power is. I take it, therefore, that the scientists of that time, as I see know from the scientists of today, did have in mind a very different way of nations dealing with each other. And if this implies some surrender of sovereignty, I am sure it would be acceptable to nearly every country I can think of, provided every other country would do it at the same time.
And that, of course, is what nobody ever is prepared to do. We have, therefore, this continuing problem of a few states wanting to retain their monopoly and telling the rest of us that we should be good boys. You'll pointed out, Professor Weisskopf, that the nuclear powers have somehow managed to keep the peace between themselves for 40 years, which is an exceptionally long time. I am reminded that an almost equal span of time prevailed between the Congress of Vienna and the Crimea War.
And yet, during that period, it was the smaller nations who were denied their rights. And the concert of Europe, which ran what was then called the civilized world, did manage to keep peace between the powers that formed that concert, but by sowing the seeds for what proved to be the greatest wars of history. I do not think we would like to see that experience repeated.
So this so-called balance of terror, which is trying to keep the world at peace through fear, has now reached this ridiculous proportion, where you keep piling up. And the scales maybe perhaps able to maintain that equilibrium. But if you keep piling up, the scales may break. And then where will we be?
So those of us who had looked for the peaceful uses of nuclear development, and which we hoped would enable us, particularly coming from a country like India, with its vast potential, but also its vast problems, would help us give to our people the type of life that you had built for yourselves, cannot help wonder whether it's worth the effort, and whether we must not now think of other ways of achieving that.
As far as this is concerned, we have persisted, as I say, in pressing for total abolition of nuclear weapons. And in the process, we have been told that we are naive. The fact of life is that a few countries have it and they will manage. And the rest of us, as I said, better behave. And others have gone so far as to say that we are devious, that while we maintain this posture on the one hand, we do not sign the NPT on the other. And that we are merely allowing ourselves the option to use the nuclear energy for military purposes when we want to.
I would on that, just mention one word, that our record is there for everyone to see. We have demonstrated a capability, but not developed it. And we do keep urging others to follow our example. The epithets that are used used to be applied to a man called Gandhi, whom the British thought on the one hand naive and on the other devious. I think most, if not all of us here today would agree that looking back on his life and his achievement, he was able to do something very new, which was to make people behave in a different way.
Certainly, we in India, somehow under his leadership, rose to a level of loyalty of devotion of self-denial, which probably we can never do again, until another Gandhi comes along. But it did give us the hope that the rest of mankind can under competent leadership, or inspiring leadership, achieve that same type of change. And what we are really thinking of is to change men's minds so that nations can change their ways of dealing with each other.
And we still believe that that is possible. We do not have a Gandhi to offer you, but you have so many people who can speak that language, perhaps we don't need him. But I would like to say that the type of ideas that I've heard today are so much what we have tried to advocate. It is very heartening to find circles in the United States that I can feel at home in this matter.
But above all, I would say I think it was another great man of science, Sir William Oslo, who used to say, that in science, it does not matter who first conceives of an idea, what matters is who will convince the world. I'm afraid we in India have not found it possible to convince the world. I hope all of your scientists, and above all, all of you young people here today, will succeed. Thank you very much.
LOW: Thank you for your eloquent remarks. I think we have time for some comments and questions, not too many. Sir--
AUDIENCE: I was very happy to hear he mention of Gandhi. I'm very impressed with the possibilities of non-violence myself. Most of the comments from the speakers about what can be done were dealt with on a Congressional, or executive, or policy levels, and I'm just wondering if the distinguished speakers here could comment on what value they see in non-violent resistance as a way of furthering ourselves for the goal of [INAUDIBLE]
WEISSKOPF: Well, yes, I would see a lot of possibilities. You know, at the end of my talk, I said that it really depends on all of us, in particular on the young people, on the younger generation, to establish this change of attitude towards our opponents, that would make and would avoid the terrible possibilities.
Now, this change of attitude, how do you get at it? By demonstrations, by speaking out. And this is a kind of non-violent resistance. I'm sure some people will not like it, what I say, but the kind of demonstrations to prevent certain weapons, well, they usually do not at the end really prevent them, but I think they have a very important purpose of showing the ideas that are in the population, the resistance, for example, in Europe against the erection of those intermediate arrange things and similar thing.
In other words, although it is in principle against the law, these demonstrations, as long as they are not violent, I think they are one of those expressions that I think would help. You cannot do it only that way. You also have to convince, you have to argue, you have to get the majority on your side. But certainly nonviolent demonstrations, if I understand that's what you mean--
AUDIENCE: Civil disobedience-- do you see a role for civil disobedience?
WEISSKOPF: Yes, in certain cases, it may just be a demonstration of the strength of your convictions.
AUDIENCE: Something that I thought might be talked about this evening, that I think perhaps we should touch on a little bit is the consideration that weapons require builders. And as we all know, MIT is one of the places where much of the building of these weapons gets done. Ideally, perhaps, decisions about whether to build weapons as political decisions should not have to concern scientists and engineers.
But given the fact that the government and our politicians continue to be as irrational as you two pointed out, I think we are forced to think about it. And so I want to ask you, as a student who may or may not go into science, especially in a world where so much of the funding is only available for defense work, how should we think about this problem, and especially considering the fact that we're at MIT? And the title--
MORRISON: Of course, it's not a new-- it's a difficult question, but hardly a new one. I'm afraid I take a very social view of the situation. I'm not against, but hardly enthusiastic for solutions that mean the thing goes on just as well elsewhere. Or the thing goes on, but without me. These are valuable answers for individuals. And I would never deny any person that right. It's indeed a necessity to work out for every individual, the comfort, the degree of opposition to the national direction that that person wants to stand in.
But really, to move a laboratory from one place to another, or to do something [INAUDIBLE] is I think primarily an evasion, unless it is used to organize opinion in a broader sense. So I'm not quite sure that I'm speaking directly to your point, but I think what I'm seeking is, how to deny the power to the state, to manufacture more or less what it wants to do, I think it's very difficult for us, unless a large majority of people agree on it. Then I think there's very little chance of succeeding along those lines.
And if they do agree, the institutions still exist to use the power of the state to withhold it, not to spend the money, not to organize the factories, to sign the treaties, and so on. I feel this is a the direction which the solution will lie. That doesn't exclude that everyone must find a personal relationship.
WEISSKOPF: May I add something? See MIT essentially represents the United States. I would even say it-- actually, there are probably more people against the present-- percent wise-- against the present trend at MIT. But in general, MIT represents, and should represent the nation. Because if we at MIT exclude every weapon work, then-- well, I'm now a little repeating what he said. Then we would be an ivory tower who would have no influence.
So in some ways, I would say, sure, it's your own decision whether you will go into that work or this work. But let me assure you, if you want to become a scientist, you do not do it in order to earn money. Of course, you will earn more money in defense. But the few examples which I have given have shown that there are other very important tasks for science. You know the examples.
And I think, therefore, we need scientists. And we need even intelligent scientists in the weapons departments. Because they can then have an influence there, and say, look, what you do here is nonsense. Even weapon developments that are stabilizing and not destabilizing, like some of these so-called smart, not nuclear weapon. So things it's not that easy. But certainly, you should not use this as a reason not to go into science, that science is abused for nuclear war.
LOW: Also, just to keep the record straight, one should say, MIT does not do weapons work. At the Lincoln Lab, which is a quite separate installation, and therefore, historic reasons, radar work is done. But MIT, as a university here, does not do weapons work. In any case, it does not do any secret work. And once you leave the domain of secrecy, it's hard to know what is a weapon and what is not.
But certainly, no weapons are designed here. I'll add another thing. I think an individual has to decide to be a pacifist or not to be a pacifist. That is to say, if you oppose war, then it is logical for you to oppose weapons work. If not, then somebody has to do that work. So I think it's not intrinsically immoral, any more than war itself is immoral, and our societies do engage in it.
So I think to give yourself the luxury of saying I'm not going to indulge in weapons work, and then no community I have anything to do with should be involved in it, is not, at least not consistent, unless you're a pacifist.
AUDIENCE: To continue the point that Scott Zaleski just made, I think the question that I've heard from a number of students is whether-- let me back up and say, I think that all three responses suggest, and I think quite rightly, there's an issue of some personal moral responsibility and judgment as to what one can do who wants to go into science. But I think that those of us who are members of the faculty and administration at MIT perhaps or are being told by the [INAUDIBLE] that it's a little lonely out there.
You're a young person. You're facing choices in which you begin to discover that much of what is interesting-- regarded as interesting and exciting, much of what is regarded as well-paid is [INAUDIBLE] only by making choices [INAUDIBLE] whether it's done at MIT, or by extension MIT graduates.
And I guess the follow-on to Scott Zaleski's question that I would like to ask is, are there things that an institution such as this could and should do to encourage the development of alternative pathways of career choices, so those in large numbers, of our students, who would if they could make choices not to do weapons research, but perhaps to work more actively on the sorts of things that Viki mentioned in his quite reasonable list.
I'm trying to suggest that maybe it's a little unfair for us to reduce the whole matter to a question of personal choice. There are institutional priorities [INAUDIBLE]
LOW: Steve, I agree with that. And, in fact, the Institution is moving in those directions. There are people in this Institution who are hard at work on exactly the kinds of questions-- kinds of movement that Viki and Phil describe. You know them. They're here on the faculty. And we are making every effort to support them and to expand that work. And we hope it will bear fruit. And we hope that there will be new ideas. And that students and members of the community will be involved. We're doing it.
AUDIENCE: Excuse me, may I get your attention? I think I have a sort of somewhat appropriate remark to make. It's not really a question, but it's sort of more or less a statement or a request. This afternoon, Professor Martin Deutsch said that in 1945 the human race was forced, so to speak, into adulthood by the bomb. It occurred to me at that time, that to reverse the direction of this nuclear madness, we, as individual adults, will have to band together and meet a challenge at least as great as that which threatened the nation and the world back during World War II.
And perhaps in that regard, I wanted to say that a small group of students and staff here at MIT have been organizing some efforts to provide additional information to students who are preparing to make occupational decisions as they finish up at MIT. Our preliminary focus has been to talk with students who are considering taking jobs with companies whose principal work is on nuclear weapons systems.
We want to continue this work and extend it. Among the goals we have is, for example, to provide an up to date and comprehensive set of reference materials to be located in the MIT Career Placement Office, so that students who use the office in a job search have access to a concise and accurate alternative view of the many large defense contractors who currently recruit and provide shiny, new, attractive brochures on themselves at the placement office. This is just short.
We need help. We need help, fresh ideas, blood, sweat, and tears to make an impact at the Institute. Our small efforts this semester have been very encouraging. It turns out that there are a lot of students who really haven't thought, and don't have resources available to them with their many problem sets, and with all the interviews that they have to go through in getting out of here, they really haven't had any resources available to them to help them make more moral or ethical choices about jobs.
So finally, this summer will be an ideal time to begin our planning for the fall recruiting period. If you're interested, any of you, in getting involved, we need people who can read and write, who like research, and have good ideas and enthusiasm. Please get in touch with me. My name is Ken Finkelstein. You can reach me by leaving a note at the Graduate Physics Office. That's Ken Finkelstein, and we're the Student Committee on Career Choices. Thank you.
LOW: I think we have come to the end. Oh, I'm sorry, did you have a question?
AUDIENCE: Oh, yeah, I did have a question, but it's a little bit on a slightly different issue. So if there's anybody who still wanted to talk about the career thing, I want to wait a couple seconds. OK, well, if there's not, I'll just go ahead.
And first of all, Mr. Ambassador, please corrupt me. I love it. But in any case, it was sort of a question for Professor Morrison. When you were talking in terms of the nuclear and conventional war differences and how we might be able to adjust to the-- adjust to going back to a conventional war situation, I'm not quite sure I got you right.
But is it your opinion that it's in any way realistic to assume that a nation would cut back on nuclear arms, cut back on them and then sort of just feel free dabbling in the second rate stuff, so to speak? And if that's not the case, isn't there perhaps something wrong or something inadequate right now with the entire concept of a sovereign nation at all?
MORRISON: Well, to the last point, I think there probably is quite a lot wrong with it. But I'm not in-- I'm too old to engage in the projection of large historical changes. They might come, but I don't know when they'll come. But I do find it not at all difficult to see. I mean, restraint is the essence of contemporary war.
We've seen it. We've fought a war in which we were rather badly beaten. But we very rarely-- even only considered extending that war because of the obvious fact that if we extended that war at the nuclear direction and escalated it, we would've lost more than we would have gained. And that option is available at any point in any war. I look forward to the possibility that that could happen, that even the great states would confront each other in war, recognizing that if they were to open it to nuclear war, they would lose something more than the issues at stake.
We are happy that they are not near neighbors. They don't have-- it's not a question of they will take Washington tomorrow. The only way in which the United States is endangered is through nuclear weapons-- the zone of the interior. We've given up this great geopolitical advantage for the sake of waging strategic war far away, which is not a very sensible thing to do. But that's another talk that I won't give now.
LOW: But probably the war, the total war with unconditional surrender is out. That's finished. Because that would probably lead to nuclear.
MORRISON: Probably, yeah.
LOW: Yes, sir--
AUDIENCE: During World War II, we had the Manhattan Project, which was a research project, which people didn't know what the results would be. But if they were successful, would certainly, and in fact, we can see from with our hindsight, certainly change the nature of warfare and world politics.
Today, in the United States, we have Star Wars, or the Strategic Defense Initiative. Depending on whether you're for or against it, use one name or the other. Which again is, at the moment, is a research program. Which if it was successful, in total defense, if you will, would again change the nature of warfare and world politics.
And it seems to me that some of the arguments for and against Star Wars could have been applied back during World War II for the Manhattan Project. Do you think that's valid? What similarities and differences do you see?
MORRISON: Well, it's an extremely interesting, logical argument. And I certainly would like to give you a large big red A for debating merit. I think it's extremely well put. But as a matter of fact, I think you're selling this perpetual motion machine. I don't agree-- I don't disagree at all. And if you would explain to me how it's going to make nuclear weapons, what is it-- impotent and obsolete, I'll sign onto it. It just won't.
And the reason it won't is-- excuse me, I'm going to make a remark. It's not even logically coherent. What it really meant to say was, logically, it'll make ballistic missiles impotent and obsolete. That's the most it can claim. Maybe it'll add cruise missiles. But I'll be darned if I see how it's going to work on submarine torpedoes. It isn't just discussing the right issue.
So I personally think it's a bill of goods. I mean, the difference between that and the Manhattan Project was that when somebody was willing enough to put in $10 million dollars into it, in the OSRD, probably Kohnert and Bush, and then it went. And then [INAUDIBLE] made the chain reaction. And after that, it looked pretty clear. Another $500 million, and so it went. Well, that's what has to be done here. By the way, the chips are now much bigger for much less delivery.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] the emphasis here on the arms races itself. And, I guess I would address this to both of you, as to why you are addressing such overwhelming importance to the arms race. If one takes the point of view, and I think one might, that the risks of nuclear war are relatively independent of either the size or potential characteristics of the arsenal, then it's likely that even if we add another 25,000 warheads to the arsenal, or [INAUDIBLE] about 50,000 warheads now, the radical [INAUDIBLE] proposal, my judgment would be that the risks of nuclear war would not be materially different, until you get to a very reduced level, though.
And that, in fact, in the foreseeable future, the risk of nuclear war, we have relatively much less to do with the size and [INAUDIBLE] of the arsenal [INAUDIBLE] and much more to do with the political conditions that govern relations between super powers and between the super powers and the third world. And I'm curious how you would both judge the risks of war, the risk of nuclear war, in terms of the arms race, per se, how important you think the arms race is a conditioned risk. And second, why [INAUDIBLE]
WEISSKOPF: Well, I'm sorry that my talk wasn't good enough, because that's what I-- that's what I thought I said. I mean, the arms race, I agree with you, with some kind of exaggeration. I would say, the arms race is a symptom. I mean, if two superpowers are really capable of producing and increasing armaments that are 50 times larger than complete destruction, something is wrong. I mean, this is the mental disease I was talking about.
And what I was trying to say, maybe not clearly enough, was that you need a change of attitude. That the arms-- not only you cannot turn out the arms race, but you will get a stable instead of meta stable situation, because the arms race is a meta stable situation. Only if you change the attitude towards our adversary in both directions. And if you mean that, I fully agree. And I thought I said it. But maybe not clear enough.
MORRISON: Well, maybe there is a difference between Viki and me, because I really don't think I agree with what you say. I really think it's not the risk of war that counts, but the expectation. And the expectation is very high, even if the risk is small. Because the damage is so great if it occurs in the wrong way.
And it's against this expectation that I'm primarily acting. I don't expect to see an end to war. It might be, as he says, a total war with unconditional surrender demands, but that's in the political domain. What I mean is war with the maximum use of the technical capabilities of modern society. I don't think that we could stand that.
And I think that the only-- way to get around it is to remove the serious consequences, as far as possible, by reducing nuclear armaments, and their triggerness, their readiness, their instability, their first strike advantages, all these issues that have come up in the theology of the nuclear doctrine.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] the size of the arsenal and [INAUDIBLE] confrontation between super powers. The question whether super powers will escalate toward a nuclear war, [INAUDIBLE] The question of whether or not they will escalate, which I gather you're saying is possible without [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] the prospects of that [INAUDIBLE] are relative as to the size of [INAUDIBLE] the arsenal and much more related to the political conditions that govern relations [INAUDIBLE] and the political rules of conduct that have developed [INAUDIBLE]
MORRISON: I just don't agree with that. I think you're wrong. I think that the concrete circumstances, what are called the capabilities, are more determining than judgments of intentions and rules of engagement. That's characteristic of most war. And I think if you cut this thing down-- I agree a factor of two won't make a bit of difference from my point of view. But it only shows direction.
Therefore, any small change is valuable now, because it signals direction. But if you cut it by an order of magnitude, which is what I'm speaking of, then I think it makes a big difference. It no longer is decisive in and of itself. It no longer represents anything but another gamble, if you try to escalate now, who will make the most weapons, and who will do them first, and who will end them best.
That's putting the whole war on a certain gamble of novel technology, which is very hard to do, which I don't anticipate people would manage. So I think that it is possible, without increasing the risk of major superpower conflict, to reduce the number of weapons, and very greatly reduce the instability of the situation.
LOW: I'll take just one more question. I want to end at 10. Yes, sir--
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] that there's a moral distinction between killing a million people and killing 4 billion people, [INAUDIBLE] Conventional warfare's OK.
MORRISON: No. I don't--
MORRISON: No, but there's a practical distinction of great importance. Namely important to 3,999,000,000 people, if I take your numbers. Look, we've seen 20 million people killed, roughly speaking, in wars since World War II, maybe only 15.
AUDIENCE: And there's nothing wrong with [INAUDIBLE]
MORRISON: No, that's terrible. But do you think that the presence of nuclear power, superpower armaments has made that less likely? I think it's contributed a great deal to it. Client states everywhere have been put to work warring, because the big boys didn't want them engage in it themselves. I feel that's the principal reason.
LOW: Thank you very much. Thank you for coming. Thank you.