Chapter 7 // The Ghost of Matter

I. Introduction

II. Marie Curie & The Curios of Decay

III. “The Ghost of Matter”

IV. The Rise of a Failed Artist

V. Fishin’ for Fission

VI. “Dear Winston”

VII. Manhattan in New Mexico

VIII. A Frosty Relationship

IX. A Stalemate, and a Savior

X. A Starry Fire Named Wormwood

XI. Nuclear Machinations of the 21st Century

XII. Nuclear’s Last Stand?


I. Introduction

The year before soldiers with shallow gold pans for headgear stopped dying in trenches in a war that left an entire Generation Lost, a mustachioed New Zealander who had already won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry succeeded in splitting the atom. Like a subatomic nesting doll, the proton emerged out of this split atom and into human knowledge. In splitting the atom and discovering the proton, this New Zealander claimed that he had “broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter.” From this discovery of the proton came an entirely new realm of science: nuclear physics.

Fast forward to 2017, precisely a century after the New Zealander’s groundbreaking experiment. On July 17, a curiously blonde first-time politician in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth certified a majority Shiite Muslim nation as compliant with a multilateral containment treaty limiting the country’s nuclear program. The sanctioned country was, of course, Iran, which had, in 2003, begun developing a nuclear enrichment program, ostensibly to generate power. But Iran had, in 2015, agreed to terms limiting the program’s extent in a treaty that the same curiously blonde first-time politician had, in his 2016 bid for the President of the United States, labeled the “worst deal of all time”.

How exactly did such a tiny, simple bit of matter as a single atom arouse the interest of Iran -- once the greatest empire in the world -- and the ire of the United States, perhaps the only superpower in existence today? How has the splitting of the atom impacted humans over the past century? And could nuclear power become the world’s saving grace in an era of quickly accumulating atmospheric carbon that is threatening some of the world’s great cities with rising oceans?

In today’s chapter of Age of Ecology, we’ll explore the answers to these questions, while charting a course from secret, underground labs in the American desert, to a hall just off Oxford Road in England echoing with the incantations of some of the 20th century’s greatest intellectuals. Along the way, we’ll cover catastrophic meltdowns, the Cold War, and the obscure Russian naval officer who helped stave off nuclear winter during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

II. Marie Curie & The Curios of Decay

A slight yet determined woman with the gaze of a thousand acres, Maria Salomea Skłodowska was born in the “Paris of the East”, Warsaw, when Poland was still a part of the Russian Federation. After recovering from a collapse in childhood, she went on to enroll in Warsaw’s underground Flying University. One of the few institutes of higher learning for Poles under the Russian rule of the era, the university’s classes rotated locations so as to remain undetected. After a brief stint in a Polish chemical laboratory, Maria migrated to the Paris of the West, Paris, at the height of the Belle Epoque in 1891. She completed a master’s degree at Paris’ esteemed Sorbonne, then went on to study the magnetic properties of steel.

Age of Ecology - David Attenborough's favorite essays on ecology - Marie Curie in lab.jpg

But as the decade decayed past its half-life, Marie, as she now went by in France, turned her attention to a new element: uranium. She hypothesized that the radiation resembling X-rays discovered earlier in the decade did not arise from the interaction of molecules, but rather came from the uranium atom itself. If true, it would render false the centuries-old belief that atoms were indivisible. What Marie found astounded her. The minerals pitchblende and chalcocite, supposedly radioactive because of their uranium content, were actually four times as radioactive as uranium itself. There had to be another element at work.

The day after Christmas, 1898, Marie Curie announced, in coordination with her husband, Pierre, that she had discovered radium. She went on to become the first female awarded the Nobel Prize, for Physics in 1903. After her husband Pierre died, in early 1911, she became involved with one of Pierre’s former students, who had since become estranged from his wife. Seeking blood, many in the press labeled her a “Jewish home-wrecker”. An angry mob outside her apartment forced her to flee with her daughter to a friend’s apartment.

Later the same year, she gave her detractors the proverbial middle finger by becoming the first person in history to win two Nobels when she was awarded the prize in Chemistry. She died not long before the outbreak of World War II, from prolonged exposure to radiation. When her remains were enshrined in Paris’ Pantheon in April of 1995, decades after her death, her ashes were still radioactive.

III. “The Ghost of Matter”

If ever there was a brother by another mother, some antipodean cousin, of Marie Curie, it surely must have been mustachioed kiwi Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford was born in the small, sleepy city of Nelson, New Zealand, just a few miles from where Frodo evaded Saruman’s bellicose crows in Peter Griffin’s screen adaptation of The Two Towers. Earnest from a young age, Rutherford attended New Zealand’s Canterbury College and became one of the first students without a Cambridge University degree ever admitted to study at Cambridge’s prestigious Cavendish Laboratory in England. He graduated in 1898, the same year Curie published her findings on radium.

Middle Earth, aka New Zealand.

Middle Earth, aka New Zealand.

A decade later, while chair of the physics department at Manchester, England’s Victoria University, Rutherford won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, then devoted the next decade to studying the atom, surrounded by a cast including Hans Geiger, philosophy whiz and human rubics cube Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist who some consider to be the greatest scientist of the 20th century -- greater even than Al Einstein himself.

Not seven years after Rutherford assembled this all-star cast, Archduke Franz Ferdinand read prepared remarks to a Sarajevan crowd from a speech that had been bloodied by an errant assassination attempt earlier in the day. Within mere hours, a more effective assassin’s bullet struck Ferdinand in the jugular, sending him to the grave. The events played a role in kickstarting the bloodiest international conflict the world had ever seen, just fourteen years into the 20th century. So began World War I. For her part, Marie Curie plunged headlong into the effort. Not only did she pledge her Nobel Prize-winnings to the Allied cause, she also developed mobile radiography machines colloquially, if not affectionately, known as petites Curies that diagnosed over one million soldiers during the Great War. Which was really anything but.

One fateful day in 1917 as the War ground on, Rutherford conducted an experiment bombarding nitrogen -- the most abundant element in earthly air -- with particles from a radioactive source, known as alpha particles. What happened next was not lost in the haystack of history, even as war raged on. For Rutherford became the first person to ever “split” an atom in a nuclear reaction. Rutherford said of this mammoth discovery: “I have broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter.” The breakthrough would reverberate loudly over the course of the next century.

IV. The Rise of A Failed Artist

A year after Rutherford split the atom, the Allies in World War I, including Britain, France, Japan, and Russia, defeated The Central Powers of Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, the German Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. The reparations that the victorious Allies imposed on the vanquished Central Powers, especially the German Empire, sowed the seeds of inflation and ill-will that soon ran rampant through the German motherland.

A year after World War I ended, a failed artist and veteran of World War I seized on the toxic ferment in Germany to become leader of the newly formed National Socialist party. At the time of Germany’s World War I surrender in 1918, this angry man with a cigarette smear of a mustache had been recovering from a bout of blindness induced by mustard gas. In a rather subdued instance of the hyperbole he became known for, he later claimed that news of Germany’s surrender caused him a second bout of blindness. Like many German soldiers, he came to believe that Marxists, Jews, and others had sabotaged the German war efforts, dubbing them the “November Criminals”.

The man was, of course, Adolf Hitler, and upon his release from prison for a failed coup attempt in 1924, he quickly rose to power in German politics, claiming the chancellorship in 1933. Within six years of Hitler’s 1933 ascension to the German chancellorship, Europe had plunged into yet another World War, following Germany’s belligerent annexation of Austria in 1938, and invasion of Poland in 1939.

Many of Germany’s Jewish intellectuals had seen the writing on the wall throughout the 1930s. Among those who fled in exile, physicist Edward Teller later played a crucial role in helping U.S. and British scientists build a nuclear bomb. In the process, he became known, to his chagrin, as “The Father of the Hydrogen Bomb”. Teller provided part of the inspiration for the wild-eyed title character in Stanley Kubrick’s classic comedy Dr. Strangelove, whose future was so bright -- no doubt due to his role in developing a nuclear bomb -- that he frequently wore sunglasses throughout the movie.

Dr. Tellus, or Dr. Strangelove?

Dr. Tellus, or Dr. Strangelove?

V. Fishin’ for Fission

By the end of 1940, Poland, France, Belgium, and The Netherlands had surrendered to German forces. But all the while, bombs made from nuclear material remained elusive, despite Ernest Rutherford’s splitting of the atom over twenty years earlier. In December 1938, just months before Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia signaled to the world its intent to conquer Europe, German chemist Otto Hahn found that bombarding uranium with neutrons produced barium and additional free neutrons. In other words, smashing neutrons into uranium could create a reaction that produces lots of energy, along with new elements.

A month later, Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner and her nephew, Austrian-British physicist Otto Frisch correctly interpreted this yield of barium from bombarding uranium as nuclear fission. If ever there was a development in military-applied science that could be considered a bombshell, this was it. But despite their monumental discovery, both were barred from publishing in conjunction with Otto Hahn because of their Jewish heritage.

Age of Ecology - David Attenborough's favorite essays on ecology - Radioactivity chart.jpg

On September 1, 1939, the same day that Germany invaded Poland and officially started World War II, the Uranium Club, or Uranverein, formed in Germany. Joining the club’s ranks was prominent German scientist Werner Heisenberg, who later leant his name to Walter White as Walter cooked the most potent form of fictional meth New Mexico had ever seen.

Two years after Germany invaded Poland, almost to the day, Heisenberg would travel to German-occupied Denmark to lecture on nuclear research. While there, he and famed Danish physicist Niels Bohr had their now-infamous conversation about the possibility of nuclear weaponry and the crucial role it could play in the tides of the War. Speculation about how their conversation went has earned many an artist many a pence through the years.

VI. “Dear Winston”

Perhaps we’ll never know what might have happened had Niels Bohr accompanied Heisenberg back to Germany and helped Germans research how to make a bomb using nuclear fission. What we do know is that, two years after Heisenberg and Bohr’s conversation, Bohr received word that German authorities considered his family Jewish. They immediately fled Denmark by way of Sweden. A few days after his initial escape, Bohr boarded a small, high-flying British Mosquito to traverse occupied Norway’s dangerous skies, bound for Scotland and its treasured haggis. As the Mosquito ascended with Bohr on a mattress in the plane’s cargo bay, Bohr passed out from oxygen starvation. It was not because of the Mosquito’s proclivities, but rather from the altitude. He staged a full recovery and never appeared to sustain any long-term impacts.

Shortly after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Allies’ began their own research into nuclear warfare and, on August 30, 1941, Britain became the first nation in the world to officially approve a nuclear weapons program, code-named Tube Alloys.

Later that year, a U.S. attache visited Britain with a “Dear Winston” letter from President Roosevelt, sent to Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill to discuss the idea of collaboration between the two countries’ nuclear units. Churchill didn’t so much as dignify the attempt at collaboration with a response. The British had already made much more headway than the U.S. in developing a nuclear bomb, but perhaps the U.S.’s continued resistance to officially declaring war on the Axis powers further informed Churchill’s aloofness. The United States’ isolation would not last long, though. On December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft sent the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah to the bottom of Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, damaging another 13 vessels and ending the lives of nearly 2,500 Americans. The very next day, the U.S. officially joined the Allies in the war effort.

VII. Manhattan in New Mexico

As the War ground on, beleaguered British officials eventually changed their tune about nuclear collaboration. So began a rocky nuclear relationship between Britain and the U.S. (and to a lesser degree, Canada). Initially headquartered in Manhattan, the U.S. effort came to be code-named the Manhattan Project, establishing research outposts in Tennessee, California, and, perhaps the most storied, a center in the New Mexican desert, where Will Smith first found the vehicle that would launch him into international stardom in the film Independence Day. In 1943, a number of prominent international scientists joined the project, including the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb we met earlier, Edward Teller, and Niels Bohr, recovered from his bout of high-altitude hypoxia to become something of a mentor to the younger scientists on the project.

As one U.S. nuclear reactor after another became operational -- or “went critical”, as it’s often called -- Manhattan Project scientists marched ever-closer to building a nuclear bomb. Bohr began to worry about the awe-inspiring destructive capabilities of such a bomb. Convinced that the Russians knew about the Manhattan Project, Bohr, in his low, whispering voice, encouraged Roosevelt and Churchill to share their research with the Soviets. Churchill staunchly disagreed, writing to his close science adviser, 1st Viscount Cherwell: "It seems to me Bohr ought to be confined, or at any rate made to see that he is very near the edge of mortal crimes.” Later decrypted messages showed that the Soviets had, in fact, ascertained some of the Manhattan Project’s most sensitive nuclear weapons findings from numerous moles within the project, one of whom went on to become a Gulf Oil engineer and U.S. real estate developer.

Niels Bohr sits on the left.

Niels Bohr sits on the left.

On August 6, 1945, just a few months after Bohr’s rejected suggestion of Soviet collaboration, a droning four-engine Superfortress bomber approached Japan from the East. The innocuous-sounding Enola Gay dropped the world’s first nuclear bomb used in warfare onto a civilian population in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion and ensuing fires and radiation poisoning ended the lives of upwards of 135,000 people and destroyed around 70% of Hiroshima’s buildings. Perhaps betraying someone’s dark sense of humor, the bomb was called Little Boy in what must surely be one of the great misnomers in history. Eight days later, Japan surrendered to the Allies, ending the Pacific conflict and World War II in one fell swoop.

VIII. Frosty Relations & A Cuban Scare

The era of nuclear proliferation, however, had just begun. The Truman Doctrine in 1947 kicked off the Cold War began, when the U.S. pledged money to any nation threatened by Soviet expansion. Fear over the effects a nuclear winter stomped into pop culture with the creation of Godzilla in the 1950s. Although no full-scale war ever materialized, various proxy wars broke out across the globe, including the Korean War in the same decade and, a decade later, the quandary wrapped in a quagmire known as the Vietnam War.

Perhaps no event during the Cold War epitomized the massive chasm between these two powers more than the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, an impasse that came within a fool’s prayer of plunging the world into nuclear winter. The table was set in 1961, when the CIA and a paramilitary group of 1,400 Cuban exiles it had trained, Brigade 2506, botched an attempted invasion of Cuba, which had, two years earlier, seen Fidel Castro stage a coup against the American-backed ruler and swiftly nationalize the US-dominated sugar and mining industries on the island. Within three days, the Cuban Army had killed or captured more than 1,300 Brigade 2506 fighters, while only suffering losses of 176 army combatants, along with more than 4,000 civilians. Perhaps not a decisive victory for the Cuban Army, but a victory nonetheless. The Bay of Pigs invasion, as the skirmish came to be called, occurred within just a few months of the U.S. locating outdated Jupiter ballistic missiles in Turkey, saber-rattlingly close to the Soviet Union.

With Cuba on high alert from the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Soviets bristling from the proximity of U.S. missiles, the premiers of each country met in secret to arrange for the placement of Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from Miami, Florida. In July of 1962, Soviet ships set sail for Cuba, riding oddly high in the water. What was on board? Well, the USSR’s Khrushchev had recently boasted that the Soviets were churning out missiles “like sausages”. U.S. intelligence officers thus concluded, correctly, that the ships’ cargo included Soviet ballistic Khrushchev later blustered that the Soviets had installed enough missiles to “destroy New York, Chicago, and the other huge industrial cities, not to mention the little village of Washington.”

As fall leaves turned from green to copper to brown and children tried on their costumes for Halloween, events came to a head, and, very nearly, a warhead. In response to ballistic missile sightings, President Kennedy ordered a quarantine of Cuba’s waters. On the morning of October 27, Soviet anti-aircraft guns downed an American plane conducting a flyover near Cuba’s now-infamous Guantanamo Bay. Fidel Castro was convinced another U.S. invasion was imminent and messaged Khrushchev indicating his interest in a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S. At the time, a number of Soviet nuclear warheads and tactical missiles were scattered about Cuba, and the Soviet in charge of them needed no further codes from Moscow to launch them.

CIA spy plane, circa early 1960s.

CIA spy plane, circa early 1960s.

IX. A Stalemate, and a Savior

Instead of authorizing a direct military strike against Cuba -- which would have almost certainly culminated in nuclear disaster -- Kennedy aimed U.S. nukes in Montana at the Soviet Union. Hours later, the USS Beale attempted to drop underwater explosives known as depth charges on a Soviet submarine. The depth charges missed, an error of the utmost serendipity. Unbeknownst to the officers aboard the USS Beale, the submarine was armed with a 15-kiloton nuclear torpedo.

The submarine, nicknamed B-59, was quickly exhausting its air reserves, and the three officers onboard argued about whether to make the nuclear torpedo combat ready. Facing the prospect of surfacing amidst the U.S. naval quarantine, Captain Valentin Savitsky and another officer argued in the affirmative.

But the third officer, a quiet man from a peasant family with a stare like heavy water, dissented. Because a nuclear launch required unanimous consent, Captain Savitsky stood down and settled on surfacing the submarine rather than launching a nuke. The lone dissenter’s name was Vasili Arkhipov, and many sources today believe that he single-handedly spared the world from nuclear winter that would have killed more than 100 million Americans and Russians a piece.*

Age of Ecology - David Attenborough's favorite essays on ecology - Vasili Arkhapov.jpg

Meanwhile, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and their advisers negotiated furiously for an adequate resolution. At its bleakest hour, U.S. officials had little hope for a peaceful resolution, predicting a 1 in 3 chance of an escalation to war. Cooler heads finally prevailed, with the Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact seeing the Soviets agree to withdraw Cuban missiles in exchange for the US removing missiles from Turkey. To this day, many maintain that Khrushchev never had the intention to use the weapons siloed on Cuba -- that he was only bluffing to win concessions in Turkey. That we never had the chance to find out is a testament to the high-stakes diplomacy of the day.

X. A Starry Fire Named Wormwood

A quarter-century later, the Cold War persisted, but more in form than substance. By then, the Soviet Union had become a mixed economy and a global collapse of oil prices in 1986 had strained the country’s finances like the hamstring of William Howard Taft in a foot race. On April 26 of that same year, residents of a small town on the Pripyat River, in modern-day Ukraine, went about their business, drinking tea and eating dinner with their families. As night fell on the town, a corp of engineers prepared for a routine late-night safety test in the nearby power station. But what happened over the next few hours was anything but routine.

As the constellation Ursa Major shimmered like the eyes of Kodiak bears in the clear, frosty night sky, human error along with design flaws in the power station’s generating core flash-boiled water into steam, creating an explosion. The facility went up in flames, a fire that raged for nearly nine days. The inferno lofted plumes of radioactive material into the atmosphere, showering Europe and the western USSR in radioactive fallout estimated to cause, in the end, more than 4,000 deaths, including many of the “Liquidators” responsible for responding to the emergency. Not to mention, countless more birth defects. In Belarus, where costs of addressing the health defects from Chernobyl gnaw away up to 1% of the country’s GDP, authorities continue to conceal statistics on cancer incidence and defects afflicting children, including extra appendages and misplaced organs.

Chernobyl 30 years later.

Chernobyl 30 years later.

Nineteen hundred years earlier, perhaps in the aftermath of Nero’s burning of Rome, the book of Revelations was transcribed with a reed stylus using a soot mixture as ink. Chapter 8, verse 10 of the book augurs: "The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers...the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died…” Some claim that wormwood, the source of the poison from the Biblical welkins, translates into Russian as “Chernobyl”. Others have their doubts. Whether there’s truth to this claim or not, to this day, Chernobyl remains the worst nuclear meltdown in history.

XI. Nuclear Machinations of the 21st Century

Of course, Chernobyl wasn’t the only meltdown in history. In 2011, twenty-five years after Chernobyl, a tsunami off the coast of Japan caused the Fukushima nuclear plant’s reactors to shut down automatically. This mechanism should have worked had the tsunami not also knocked offline the plant’s emergency generators necessary to power the cooling pumps. Without cooling, the plant suffered meltdowns and explosions that combined to release radiation into the atmosphere. Fortunately, perhaps in response to lessons learned from Chernobyl, nearby residents were evacuated much more quickly to minimize radiation poisoning. (Not to mention, around 60% less radiation rampaged into the atmosphere.)

Other than Fukushima, perhaps the most headline-grabbing nuclear development involves Iran’s foray into the nuclear sphere, seeking to join China, France, Russia, the UK, and the U.S., among others, as a member of the Nuclear-Enabled Club. Iran’s history with nuclear goes back much farther than the 2000s. All the way back to 1967, in fact, the same year that the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That year, Iran’s first nuclear reactor, supplied by the United States, went critical, requiring uranium enriched to 93%, an element the U.S. also furnished. The reactor could throw off enough energy to power around 3,000 homes, presumably even ones that leave the lights on.

But things changed in 1979, when the Iranian Revolution swept Iran’s shah from power, putting into power Ayatollah Khomeini, a leader opposed to the U.S.’s influence in the region. In the 80s and 90s, the U.S. placed Iran on its list of countries sponsoring terrorism and passed measures designed to limit trade. It was a departure from Iran’s heady days as the “World’s First Historical People,” that German philosopher and notable logorrhean Friedrich Hegel wrote about.

In 2003, world leaders began to feel a little hot under the collar after the political wing of a terrorist organization in the country notified world leaders it had built new nuclear facilities. Two years later, after meeting with France, Germany, and the UK, Iran agreed to send its spent fuel to Russia to dispose of so that Iran couldn’t extract plutonium from the spent fuel. The next year, however, Iranian president and suspected Harley Davidson enthusiast Mahmoud Ahmadenijad announced that Iran had enriched uranium for the first time, to 3.5 percent. In 2010, the same year that Ahmadenijad said state actors had attempted to gain access to its nuclear program’s computers through a Stuxnet virus, he ordered scientists to enrich their uranium to 20 percent. They were one step closer to the 90 percent needed to build a nuclear bomb.

The EU and US applied the thumbscrews of sanctions, costing Iran more than $160 million in oil revenue alone between 2012 and 2016. Finally, in 2015, Iran, the EU, and the permanent members of the UN Security Council struck a deal in which Iran would, among other things, reduce its uranium stockpile by 98% for 15 years and export its spent fuel. The next year, international sanctions came off like a London Fog in the sun. While on the campaign trail that same year, Donald Trump reiterated his belief that the treaty was the “worst deal ever”, citing intelligence gleaned from a recent Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. In October 2017, he refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the treaty, leading some to imply it as putting the U.S. on a path towards war.

XII. Nuclear’s Last Stand?

For all of the bluster about nuclear, it is not nearly the transformative power source it may have been decades ago when the US tested the waters, lightly, and France sprinkled them about like Dutch windmills. After Chernobyl and the U.S.’ own nuclear scare in Three Mile Island, along with project management issues in the 80s, the costs of nuclear began to rise. That’s been the shtick of nuclear for years now: that the plants are never on time and always over-budget.

Age of Ecology - David Attenborough's favorite essays on ecology - Nuclear plant on Columbia River Rainier.jpg

The data seem to bear out these stereotypes, too. As of 2017, nuclear’s Levelized Cost of Energy is higher than that of not only natural gas plants, but also renewables like utility-scale wind and solar farms. In fact, the average cost of nuclear power has risen 20% since 2009. (Granted, a handful countries have kept costs in check due to economies of scale, and South Korea has even succeeded in driving costs down.) But even if the construction costs of nuclear plants were to miraculously plummet, the editor of Drawdown, Paul Hawken, sums up nuclear’s drawbacks well: “deadly meltdowns, tritium releases, abandoned uranium mines, mine-tailings pollution, radioactive waste, illicit plutonium trafficking, and thefts of missile material, among them.”

It all makes you wonder, then, why nations without economies of scale continue to pursue nuclear fission as a part of their energy mix. Especially in light of renewables’ continued cost declines. After all, China and India are, like storm-chasers, pursuing wind plants with gust-o. Could it be that pursuing nuclear -- that offspring of the great ghost of matter -- is merely a form of 21st Century Belgian-style brinkmanship, designed to get a seat at the table of international negotiations? Or could it be that some nations well-versed in nuclear offer to show the ropes to these up-and-comers in hopes of currying favor in this atomized world of shaky alliances and non-stop psy-ops?

Motivations aside, it would appear that nuclear’s labyrinthine path over the past century has been little more than a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream.

Will nuclear fission as an energy source give up the ghost in the century to come? Only time will tell.

XIII. Further Reading

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33521655 (On the details of the 2015 nuclear containment treaty between the U.S. and Iran)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/manchester/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8282000/8282223.stm (On Rutherford’s splitting of the atom)

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2009/jan/02/nuclear-war-emissions (On the carbon footprint of nuclear war)

http://www.governmentattic.org/5docs/TheNewWorld1939-1946.pdf

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/Natl_Exp/NatlExp-11.html (On the rocky atomic partnership between Allied powers during World War II)

http://www.2iceshs.cyfronet.pl/2ICESHS_Proceedings/Chapter_25/R-17_Aaserud.pdf (On Bohr’s unsuccessful attempts to mitigate the imminent danger posed by nuclear weapons)

http://www.rerf.or.jp/general/qa_e/qa1.html (On the destruction wrought by the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/04/17/gomel-doctor-chernobyl-cancer-thyroid/82894114/ (On the continued Belarussian concealment of radiation-related incidence)

https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/chernobyl-cover-up-study-shows-more-than-a-million-deaths-from-radiation,3350 (On other Chernobyl-related effects)

http://www.atomicheritage.org/profile/russell-mcnutt (On one of the moles in the Manhattan Project, and an apparent hypocrite, to boot)

https://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,879566,00.html (On J. Edgar Hoover’s suspect tendencies)

http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2005/August%202005/0805u2.aspx (On the Cuban Missile Crisis)

https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheet/Timeline-of-Nuclear-Diplomacy-With-Iran (On the history of Iran’s nuclear capabilities)

https://history.aip.org/history/exhibits/curie/brief/02_love/love_1.html (On Marie Curie’s life)

http://www.pugetsound.edu/files/resources/7579_Bernstein%20on%20Frisch%20Peierls%20May%202011.pdf (On Frisch’s & Meitner’s discovery of nuclear fission)

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*The carbon footprint of a small, nuclear bomb would be 600M tons of CO2 -- more than the entire annual output of the UK in 2009.