"Hair triggers, instabilities and how physicists, acting as citizen-scientists, can help reduce the risks of a new nuclear arms race and nuclear war."
Frank von Hippel, Program on Science and Global Security
There is growing concern about the systematic elimination of US-Russian nuclear arms control agreements and an emerging three-way nuclear-arms race between the United States, Russia and China. At the same time, the public, including most physicists, assume that the actual danger of a nuclear war is negligible. The biggest danger, accidental nuclear war, as dramatized by a number of near misses during the Cold War, seems to have been forgotten. In fact, with the lack of high-level attention to nuclear-weapons dangers in any branch of the US government; continuing concerns about the vulnerabilities of US and Russian nuclear command and control systems and China’s nuclear forces to first strikes; US and Russian launch-on-warning postures with decision times of minutes; and the advent of ballistic missile defense, anti-satellite weapons, hacking, and hypersonic and other missiles with unpredictable trajectories, the danger may have increased. This talk will explain the current crisis in nuclear arms control, recall the past waves of constructive engagement of independent physicists with nuclear-weapons policy, and discuss the roles physicists can play in explaining crisis and arms-race instabilities to the public and Congress and in advocating remedies. The talk also will introduce the APS-sponsored Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction to facilitate the reengagement of more independent physicists with this issue. For those who might be interested, there will be a separate more detailed discussion of opportunities to get involved, including with the Coalition, at 3pm the day after the colloquium.