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Why The Future Doesn't Need Us
Atec February 29 2008 20:16:19

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. A revised calculation reduced the danger of destroying the world to a
three-in-a-million chance. (Teller says he was later able to dismiss the prospect
of atmospheric ignition entirely.) Oppenheimer, though, was sufficiently concerned
about the result of Trinity that he arranged for a possible evacuation of the
southwest part of the state of New Mexico. And, of course, there was the clear
danger of starting a nuclear arms race.

Within a month of that first, successful test, two atomic bombs destroyed
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some scientists had suggested that the bomb simply be
demonstrated, rather than dropped on Japanese cities - saying that this would
greatly improve the chances for arms control after the war - but to no avail. With
the tragedy of Pearl Harbor still fresh in Americans' minds, it would have been
very difficult for President Truman to order a demonstration of the weapons rather
than use them as he did - the desire to quickly end the war and save the lives
that would have been lost in any invasion of Japan was very strong. Yet the
overriding truth was probably very simple: As the physicist Freeman Dyson later
said, "The reason that it was dropped was just that nobody had the courage or
the foresight to say no."

It's important to realize how shocked the physicists were in the aftermath of the
bombing of Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945. They describe a series of waves of
emotion: first, a sense of fulfillment that the bomb worked, then horror at all the
people that had been killed, and then a convincing feeling that on no account
should another bomb be dropped

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