“I am become death, destroyer of the worlds.”
On 16 July 1945, Robert Oppenheimer (“father of the atomic bomb”) thought of this line, slightly mis-translated from the Bhagavad-Geetaa, when he witnessed that massive explosion of the first atom bomb in the desert. He led the project that created it.
That event changed the world forever.
And not for the better.
Human beings, already among the most vicious of killers, became even deadlier. What’s worse, they became deadlier to all life, including themselves! What kind of mindset is it that says, “I don’t care if I die, but I want to kill others in the process.”?
Humans became vastly more destructive than ever with that event.
For several decades, there were two major nuclear powers: the USA and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Russia was the biggest component of the USSR. [The USSR no longer exists … find out what happened to it!]
They both had nuclear weapons that they could drop on each other and destroy each other! This madness was called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)! Both countries were locked in a race to have more and more missiles (not limited to rockets that could carry nuclear bombs). This came to be called the arms race.
This race was not confined to just the two big chaps!
Soon, China, France, and the UK got in on the act. For a time, there were these five nuclear powers. However, over the years other countries became nuclear powers either openly (India and Pakistan are examples) or secretly (Israel is an example of this). In more recent times, North Korea has become an openly nuclear power, threatening the USA, South Korea, and Japan.
This madness is has spread. To such an extent, that there are widespread fears that terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Quaida might be trying to get a cheap small nuclear bomb (commonly called a dirty bomb as if the other bombs are somehow clean!).
Albert Einstein famously did not say, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Whoever might have actually said it, it is very telling.
There are many online resources to find out useful information about this particular human stupidity. Here, I have selected a few to invite you to visit and explore.
If your school has assembly presentations, this could be something you could talk about. Or you could have a presentation for your geography class using these resources in some creative ways. Or in one of your school clubs. You don’t have a Geography Club???? WHAT? Well, start one right away, please!
The five nations that can hit any place on Earth with a missile.
This article of February 2018 shows the havoc that just five countries could cause around the world if they chose to. If they become politically unstable, if their leaders went bonkers (some of them are bonkers, I don’t mention names), or if some kind of terrorists gained control of their nuclear weapons (e.g.: by hacking their computers – this is a real threat!) … the world would be in some serious danger indeed.
Using some clever animations, this article shows us the capability of different countries, beyond the five I have named above, to cause nuclear havoc.
Why the nuclear threat level is rising.
This article uses graphs to show the different kinds of nuclear capabilities among countries. Overall, in the recent decade or two, there has been a reduction in the numbers of nuclear weapons in the world. This should be encouraging, no? But it is not encouraging enough for two reasons. Do some research and find out what these two reasons may be. You can find this article at:
Nuclear weapons data.
In this article, you can look at data about the changes in nuclear capabilities. You can also view a very important video. There is also a well-made graphic that you really must study closely. This graphic shows you information on every nuclear explosion since 1945.
Interactive map of nuclear facilities geography.
This interactive map shows you the distribution of nuclear facilities in the world. Look at the geographical patterns of the different kinds and levels of nuclear facilities. Try to identify countries that may be considered “unstable” and the reasons why we might consider them to be unstable.
This site offers a comprehensive and well-illustrated history of nuclear weapons in the world. Click on the MENU on the top right of the page and open the interactive feature titled What Happens in a Bomb Blast.
Read the full articles I have listed above carefully. Work with the interactives. Look at the ranges of the different countries’ nuclear weapons.
Reflect on why we all have to work towards world peace as if our lives depended on it.
Because they do!
Featured image: Nuclear ranges of five major nuclear powers of the world. Source: https://goo.gl/zV6cpy [Last accessed on 11 August 2018]
An earlier version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition, 18 July 2018.