Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Axemakers Gift?

I have decided to make my weekend posts more philosophical and weekday posts more technical. So this may help some to skip over what they don't want to review.

I do note on the page counter installed earlier this month that over 2000 have viewed the blog and hoping they found some things of interest.

Grabbing the name of the book published several years ago by writer James Burke and adding the question mark might seem a long ways from EM/HS! That book discussed the two-edged sword of technology and seems well accepted that the hand axe was the first real human achievement after the mastery of fire. Or should I say ability to start a fire. And always enjoyed the movie "Quest For Fire" which revealed the travails of neolithic peoples to catch a spark but also revealed fictionally the missonary position first use ever on the character played by the beautiful actress Rae Dong Chong, daughter of Tommy Chong.

Okay enough. Even Jared Diamond follows on with his interesting question "What was the person cutting down the last tree on EASTER ISLAND thinking"? Probably just wanted to cook the night's food or stay warm. Unfortunately it does seem that technology is always looked on as beneficial and not much in the way of thought given to its detrimental fallout.

In various lectures at ICAF [Industrial College of the Armed Forces] and at NETC [National Emergency Training Center] is used to blackboard graph the upwards sloping curve of probability versus consequences in a sort of primitive risk analysis paradigm. Typically as the probability increased the consequences increased. But of course it is the low probability event with high consequences that worries most thinking EM/HS types. The bombing of the WTC in 1993 and 2001 probabilistically was low but it was played in several major exercises that I was aware of including planes flying into the towers. Condi Rice's testimony under oath that no one had thought of planes being used as attack vehicles demonstrates to me her lack of background to be NSC advisor since a Tom Clancy bestseller had just such a scenario. JAL hitting the Capitol. I am glad it was airplanes and not a NUDET. Well anyhow. Trivia aside, and of course learning trivia the real reason I stayed at FEMA all those many years so I could be entertaining at cocktail parties by demonstrating my knowledge of which Hurricanes, or Earthquakes hit the US in what year.

Still back to focus! The Russians (yes the Russians)threw the switch on the start of Iran's first nuclear reactor on August 21, 2010. The atomic age actually started long before the bombs of the summer of 1945 exploded domestically and over Japan (both were airbursts)! Madame Marie Curie, the only woman to win a NOBEL PRIZE in Chemistry died of her search for knowledge of radioactivity. She was not to be the last, although still the only female NOBEL chemistry prize winner!

I have spent considerable amount of time on nuclear issues including service as a NAICO [Nuclear Accident Incident Control Officer) while on active duty in Europe. I once almost went to work for the old Atomic Energy Commission. A highschool friend's dad was first GC of the AEC and then a Commissioner.

When the bombs burst there were mixed emotions expressed by the Scientists and Engineers who had developed those explosive devices. Dr. Robert Oppenhemier's comment from the HINDU Baggavista [sic] "I have seen DEATH" still haunts humanity. Still the hope was for power cheaper than water and thus a new ability of mankind to control technology for peaceful purposes. Perhaps in some ways this post is a memorial to my friend Walmer "Jerry" Strope who died a short while ago at age 92 and was actively involved in radiological defense issues from the end of WWII to the day of his death. His obit is available from me. He was the leading civil defense technical researcher for almost 4 decades and worthy of mention on this blog.

What the proponents of nuclear power did not realize and still don't publically express is that each nuclear power plan can lead to weapons production and knowledge helpful to that development. Who has been the world's biggest proliferator if that is accurate, of course the US! Now over 55 countries have some form of research and power reactors. And certainly nuclear medicine and its oncologists have saved many lives since the early use of xrays for diagnosis and treatment. My own grandfather was first kept alive and then killed by such treatment. I also am a decade long survivor of nuclear medicine. So again the Axemakers Gift.

I am 68 and lived in a simpler world most of my life based on the relatively few nuclear weapons capable and delivery capable nation-states. Non-state actors possession or control of nuclear devices is still an unknown but clearly the WMD efforts of the federal government are entirely inadquate and that has repeatedly been documented. Well in 2015 the atomic age will be 70 years old with still no adequate controls on proliferation in sight. Which President should be blamed for the lack of proliferation controls on nuclear weapons? All must share the blame. And of course as always hoping for a better world.