Nuclear War

Nuclear War inevitable?


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fsci123

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My first question is what are the probability of nuclear war...
My second is what is the smallest theoretical explosion a warhead could produce...
My third is how will we use nuclear weapons that doesn't involve MAD(Mutualy Assured Destruction)...
My fourth is what long term effects will such warfare have on the environment...
 

Ghostrider

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I can answer your second question easily - the smallest yield warhead around used to be the W54 fielded by the US to use in the M388 "Davy Crockett" nuclear rcl rifle. It had a 10-ton yield (yes, ton, not kiloton). This is the kind of weapon you could use without Armageddoning up the place, but I believe there are restrictions in place on small-yield nukes. Of course, those restrictions are only valid as long as the strongest party who has signed them wants them to be, like all treaties.
 

fsci123

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I can answer your second question easily - the smallest yield warhead around used to be the W54 fielded by the US to use in the M388 "Davy Crockett" nuclear rcl rifle. It had a 10-ton yield (yes, ton, not kiloton). This is the kind of weapon you could use without Armageddoning up the place, but I believe there are restrictions in place on small-yield nukes. Of course, those restrictions are only valid as long as the strongest party who has signed them wants them to be, like all treaties.

I now about the davy crocket i want to know is there anything that can get smaller... Why are there restriction on such nukes...
 

Wishbone

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You can get it smaller, but it's called a fizzle. Basically, waste of fissile material. There are no binding restrictions on use of nukes in war, other than the fear of being nuked in retaliation.

EDIT: long-term effects - it depends on the number of warheads used, their heights of burst and total yield, but you can safely project global deposition of a lot of Curies in the North hemisphere. Worrying about the environment is the last thing to do, honestly.
 
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orb

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Critical mass (and size) of a bare sphere
[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californium"]Californium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]:
Californium-251 has a very small critical mass (about 5 kg), high lethality, and a relatively short period of toxic environmental irradiation. The low critical mass of californium led to some exaggerated claims about possible uses for the element. In an article entitled "Facts and Fallacies of World War III" in the July, 1961 edition of Popular Science magazine, the claim was made that "A californium atomic bomb need be no bigger than a pistol bullet. You could build a hand-held six-shooter to fire bullets that would explode on contact with the force of 10 tons of TNT."
Still 10 tons yield, but smaller size of the warhead.
 

fsci123

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Artlav

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Look at our history - have there ever been a period of 60-70 years with almost no war?
If we manage to keep it that way for another century, till last witness of any war is dead, then there will never be a war again, i believe.

If not, then there will be no more war as well, but for different reasons.

Unfortunately, we are quite capable of total annihilation right now, and worldwide stupidity is near it's peak. A very volatile state, that can either set into stable stone, or burst into deadly flame.
 

Ghostrider

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If we manage to keep it that way for another century, till last witness of any war is dead, then there will never be a war again, i believe.

I think you have it backwards: witnesses to the atrocities of war are the living memory of the kind of Bad Stuff(TM) we're capable of doing. Once they're gone, we're back to the usual Bad Stuff(TM).
 

SiberianTiger

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Gave it less than 25 years before it happens. Proliferation is inevitable, and sooner or later some minor power begins nuking somebody else. I don't foresee a total world destruction war, however. Regional one, at worst.
 

fsci123

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Look at our history - have there ever been a period of 60-70 years with almost no war?
If we manage to keep it that way for another century, till last witness of any war is dead, then there will never be a war again, i believe.

If not, then there will be no more war as well, but for different reasons.

Unfortunately, we are quite capable of total annihilation right now, and worldwide stupidity is near it's peak. A very volatile state, that can either set into stable stone, or burst into deadly flame.


I personally dont wish that we completely kill ourselves out but i would like to see some use of weapons aimed at combatants not civillians... Humans fight over resources and as they dwindle down the world may becme unstable as new radical governments fight with peacful players... Russia and the US are no closer to nuclear war as a fox taking down a rhino... But its india, pakistan, and china we need to worry about...

Uh and wait there has been war within last 70 years we had Korean war, 'nam, Congo, Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian, India-Pakistan, china-India, US-Iraq, Iraq-Iran... We had a lot of wars just not between major players...
 

jedidia

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witnesses to the atrocities of war are the living memory of the kind of Bad Stuff(TM) we're capable of doing.

And in many cases also those that won't rest until they did the same to the other bastard, or at least will be ready to go to war if there's the slightest chance of the same thing happening to them again. It's a two-edged sword, really. The moral bankrupcy concept worked well in germany, but it totally failed in the balkans, and probably in other regions of the world.

Anyways, I'd prefer a game of chess...

but i would like to see some use of weapons aimed at combatants not civillians...

That's just the problem with nukes, they're not too discriminating, aren't they? By the way, the "I'd like to see weapon XYZ in action"-attitude is pretty much what brought us WWI.

Uh and wait there has been war within last 70 years we had Korean war, 'nam, Congo, Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian, India-Pakistan, china-India, US-Iraq, Iraq-Iran... We had a lot of wars just not between major players...

Which is what he meant, I think. Nukes effectively detered us from a large-scale war.
 
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Urwumpe

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I can answer your second question easily - the smallest yield warhead around used to be the W54 fielded by the US to use in the M388 "Davy Crockett" nuclear rcl rifle. It had a 10-ton yield (yes, ton, not kiloton). This is the kind of weapon you could use without Armageddoning up the place, but I believe there are restrictions in place on small-yield nukes.

From what I can tell you about the oral accounts of such weapons, the maximum launch distance was about the minimum safe distance. You don't use it exactly aimed, it was more used like a way to enforce "no trespassing" lines for Russian forces.

The SADM suitcase bombs are the same warhead and more accurately used.

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Atomic_Demolition_Munition"]Special Atomic Demolition Munition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

---------- Post added at 05:37 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:31 PM ----------

The moral bankrupcy concept worked well in germany, but it totally failed in the balkans, and probably in other regions of the world.

The investments had also been different. If the NATO would have used the same force strength in Serbia-Kosovo for example as the allies had when they conquered Germany (freed Germany is a bit cynical, this makes it sound like people wanted the Allies to come around, in reality they just waved happily to anyone who wasn't Russian), you couldn't have been able to go through Belgrad without seeing a Allied infantry guard post.

Hiding would have been pretty hard by then, even if you have powerful friends, especially because you have no power left anymore, nobody has to fear your return, because somebody stronger is now there.

I must have guessed on the poll question, but I can't see a nuclear war in the next 25 years, but I can't exclude it in the next 50. India-Pakistan is the hottest zone around currently, but North Korea could also decide to test their luck. But I doubt this will happen in the next 25 years, if the status quo is kept. And if the world really dramatically changes in the next 25 years: Who could really predict how it develops?
 
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agentgonzo

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As the human race progresses, our technology improves. We started in pre-history by hitting eachother with sticks and rocks. As time went on and we improved our technology, we started making the sticks out of stronger materials and making them sharper and the rocks we threw got more accurate and more painful to be hit by. As we slowly progress into the future, the rate of technological improvement is increasing and we are no more capable in predicting what the planet Earth and her meagre inhabitants will be doing in 1,000 years than our prehistoric ancestors would have been at predicting the plot of last week's Doctor Who episode.

Weapons will get more effective. Fact. Technology will get cheaper. Fact. Nuclear weapons will get easier and cheaper to produce as more nations advance their scientific capability and the already-nuclear-nations try to produce ever-cheaper energy as the oil runs out. Warfare in the mid- or far-future could easily incorporate nuclear devices into personal weapons akin to today's handguns or small-payload 'suitcase' bombs. I am convinced that at some point in our ever-stretching future, nuclear technology will play a part in warfare.

However, I do not know whether this nuclear technology will be in the form of massive Armageddon-type MAD weaponry, or just the next way to power rifles/tanks on the front line in nuclear-powered-conventional-weaponry (if you get where I am trying to go with this).

I have a dim view of humanity and it's inability to stop hitting itself with ever increasingly big sticks.
 

SiberianTiger

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BTW, the definition states:

Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent.

So really, a nuclear war already happened around 66 years ago. ;) The correct answer to the poll is: "Already happened".
 

Urwumpe

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Not even the machine gun or the chemical weapon stopped us from fighting wars. There is a barrier against using such large scale weapons, just like usually only madmen would easily call for a massive artillery strike against a city. But such madmen exist, just like logical situations exist in which the use of a nuclear weapon is the best option and just emotions argue against it.

Thus, one day such a situation will come, and nuclear weapons will be used (in the future, that they had been used already should be known). And it must not be a madman. Just look at the decisions that led to Hiroshima. Despite the horror of the weapons being far worse in actual use, as predicted by scientists, the weapon had been used (IMHO) as best alternative to invasions or massive conventional bombing campaigns. Also the Tokio bombings caused more destruction and loss of life. Despite being non-nuclear (But that was because of the target, not because of the weapon - a nuclear bomb at Tokio would have been Hell on Earth.)
 

T.Neo

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My first question is what are the probability of nuclear war...

That depends on the ongoing political situation.

Currently a large-scale nuclear war seems unlikely; The USSR no longer exists, so USA-USSR tensions are no longer present. Russia is essentially a capitalist system so there is no real ideology clash there. China is officially communist, but its economgy relies heavily on the west so going to war would not be advantageous.

As long as the US and Russia maintain their absurdly large cold war-legacy stockpiles, they'll be able to dominate all other nuclear powers (the US and Russia have warheads in the thousands; other nuclear powers have maybe hundreds of warheads).

A regional war? Regional wars can be prevented by the same factors that prevent wars between superpowers. There's plenty of tension between India and Pakistan, but I doubt any sane Pakistani or Indian would wish to commit nuclear war.

Due to the generally high population density in India, a nuclear attack would likely be extremely damaging.

As for North Korea, well, the insanity certainly exists there for potential nuclear deployment. But I have a feeling the retribution to NK- most likely in the form of conventional warfare- would be extremely major.

Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, though no other power in the region has nuclear weapons. Syria and Iran have been suspected to have nuclear weapons programs, and the extremely strong Iranian anti-Israel sentiment could be cause for a regional conflict.

South Africa had a nuclear weapons program, but dissasembled it.

So: Where is the "I don't know when or if nuclear war will happen" option? :shifty:

My second is what is the smallest theoretical explosion a warhead could produce...

Small. Depends on what you mean by "warhead". Also depends on whether you want to situate a rocket engine around your bomb; designs such as the Daedalus study or ICAN studies detonate small fusion or fission/fusion propulsion units in succession using electron beams, lasers, or small amounts of antimatter. Nevertheless, such a massive structure would be absurd to use as a weapon, and would wrap itself beyond silly to be used as a low-yield weapon.

Another option is a nuclear isomer (essentially excited atomic nuclei) such as Hafnium-178M2, which has an energy density of 1 326 000 MJ/kg. This means that if you replaced the mass of the explosive within a 20mm shell with pure Hf-178M2, you would have the energy equivalent of over 2 tons of TNT. New fun-size death and destruction!

Of course, the problem is that Hf-178M2 releases all of that energy over a period of decades. We don't know how to get an instant energy release, or even if an induced energy release is practically achievable. There's even been considerable [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafnium_controversy"]controversy[/ame] surrounding supposed attempts at induced energy release from Hf-178M2.

Of course, the problem for a man-portable weapon firing such a large amount of energy is that you'd probably have to max-out your range. And your accuracy would disappear. But it would certainly make for a nice portable artillery analogue; probably not gigantic amounts of destruction, but rather conventional amounts of destruction delivered unconventionally.

My third is how will we use nuclear weapons that doesn't involve MAD(Mutualy Assured Destruction)...

I feel that you're thinking here, "Gee, I wanna see some nukes go off!".

I don't want to sound funny here, but if you're thinking like that, you should probably stop.

The first step to thinking about nuclear weapons at all is to imagine yourself on the recieving end of them. Imagine if your state, your city, your town was hit in a nuclear attack. Imagine what would happen to the inhabitants of your town. Imagine what would happen to your friends and family. Imagine what would happen to you.

Then you'll be glad that MAD exists.

In English it even has a nice-sounding acronym to remind us how crazy the idea of such mass-scale destruction is.

My fourth is what long term effects will such warfare have on the environment...

Over geological timescales, I have a feeling the Earth won't really notice it. There's a long-standing conception of nukes slagging entire continents, and that's really silly with the nuclear stockpiles we've seen in history so far. Cities, population centers, strategic targets, they'll be hit hard, but places that are in the middle of nowhere, rural areas, etc will pretty much get by unharmed save for some radioactive fallout.

In a hypothetical major nuclear exchange between two superpowers in the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere probably wouldn't be negatively affected at all save for slightly increased radiation levels.

I roughly calculated once that in 30 minutes, the Sun delivers four times the amount of energy to the Earth as the detonation of 20 500 warheads at 1 megaton each. If the Sun doesn't slag the planet in 30 minutes, a fourth of that energy certainly won't.

Of course, you have things like smoke and CO2 created by fires started by the fireball, aerosols introduced into the atmosphere, nitrogen oxides created in the high temperature of the explosion, etc. This could all cause damaging short-term climatic effects, but just as with for example a large-scale volcanic eruption, the planet will recover relatively quickly.

As for humans, people love to see them going extinct. But we're actually extremely adaptable organisms. We're like... the ape-cockroaches. If any species would survive after the worst of hypothetical nuclear apocalypses, it's us.

If we manage to keep it that way for another century, till last witness of any war is dead, then there will never be a war again, i believe.

The opposite is probably true; I think that WWII is still fresh on the collective psyche of humanity, even after 60-70 years.

Forget what war is like, the effect it has on people, families, societies, countries, continents... and then all you have is a bunch of kids playing videogames and thinking "HURZ COOL I BLEW HIS HEAD OF HEADSHOT LULZ". And then when that happens, people end up being eager to go to war because they'll think it'd be fun, or cool, or whatever.

And that's when millions of people would die.

Now, I'm not saying we should start wars to... prevent... wars... just that we must instill a proper understanding in people, so they don't go off thinking that they can throw darts at a map, to choose some country which they want to practice their death-and-destruction skills on...

EDIT:

we are no more capable in predicting what the planet Earth and her meagre inhabitants will be doing in 1,000 years than our prehistoric ancestors would have been at predicting the plot of last week's Doctor Who episode.

That is pretty insulting both to your prehistoric ancestors and to humanity's ability to predict the future. I wouldn't stand much of a chance of predicting the plot of a Doctor Who episode either, even though I actually know what Doctor Who is.

Already musings of things such as interstellar spacecraft today, are better than the Leonardo's suggestions of flying machines in the 1300s. We know inexorably more about physics and technology; we could build a spacecraft that could visit another star, we just don't have the infrastructure or exact know-how yet.

People keep going on about how our "technological advancement is constantly increasing", and to be honest it gets pretty boring. One could just as easily say that we've picked the low-hanging technological fruit and new inventions are becoming increasingly more difficult to implement. Just because we're entering an information revolution and Moore's law is driving the development of computers doesn't mean our technology is evolving into incomprehensible Star-Trek crystals-and-togas magic. Various things in history increased in performance in similar patterns, and then stopped at a point, only to advance slowly and slightly more after that.

I'm not saying computers are a doomed technology or we'll all still be using today's PCs by 2035, but in general terms, it's an interesting consideration. Look at the advancements around the first half of the 20th century- radio, radar, internal combustion, flight, jet engines, the maturation of firearm technology, nuclear power and weapons, the beginnings of spaceflight...

What can we compare those with in our era?
 
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SiberianTiger

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That depends on the ongoing political situation.

Currently a large-scale nuclear war seems unlikely; The USSR no longer exists, so USA-USSR tensions are no longer present. Russia is essentially a capitalist system so there is no real ideology clash there.

Let me remind you, that WWI begun with absolutely none ideology disagreements between the fighting nations, just like thousands of wars before it and many after it. Ideology is no more than a tool, or a habit, and is more commonly used inside a particular country rather than in international affairs.
 

T.Neo

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The modern world also differs from the pre-WWI situation in several respects...

Ideological differences are not the only cause for war, but they can be a cause for tension. Today, there is almost certainly less tension between the US and Russia than there was during the cold war, and thus the chance of a nuclear exchange -within current conditions- is far lower.
 
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