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Edward Teller: Father of the Hydrogen Bomb 352

Posted by samzenpus
from the bouncing-baby-bomb dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, had a thing for nuclear bombs. He wanted them bigger, smaller, faster, used in ways that no one had thought of before or since, and always more of them. He suffered no fools, and though he would be more vilified than any other American scientist in the 20th century, he always dismissed his critics as lacking in common sense or patriotism. Amid Cold War paranoia and fears of the Soviet nuclear program, the stakes were simply too high: for the free world, building the most powerful weapon in history was a matter of life and horrible death."

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Edward Teller: Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

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  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:47AM (#39284261) Journal

    Now that Iran wants to have nuke, what would the opinion of Mr. Teller be?

    • by starfire83 (923483) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:48AM (#39284273) Homepage
      Bomb them.
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:56AM (#39284317) Journal

      If Iran ever dared to use such a weapon against anyone, it would be the last thing it ever did. China and Russia will tolerate the Ayatollahs to a point, but to actually launch an attack against anyone else, that would be intolerable even by their standards. All support would end instantly and Israel and the United States would be given carte blanche to deal with Iran as they chose. The Iranian airforce and navy would be wiped out, most of its military installations of any size would be destroyed, it would be left with an army and a bunch of poorly armed Basij who are only useful as cannon fodder, except the cannons would be bombing from 40,000 feet. I suspect the Ayatollahs' regime wouldn't last a month. The regular army, who has no great love for the Basij or the Revolutionary Guard, would probably arrest or just simply start shooting them, because the very few nuclear weapons that Iran would have would be useless, or worse than useless, once the necessary infrastructure to launch attacks was crippled or turned to slag.

      The fact is that as nasty as an attack by a second rate power like Iran would be, it's not something that could be repeated. Places like North Korea and Iran do not have the resources to build vast stockpiles of nukes. Once the oil dries up, they won't even be able to afford to maintain what they've built by that point.

      • Salami tactics (Score:5, Interesting)

        by martin-boundary (547041) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:08AM (#39284377)

        If Iran ever dared to use such a weapon against anyone, it would be the last thing it ever did.

        Not necessarily. Suppose Iran used a nuke against North Korea? Would the world approve or disapprove? China would disapprove, but America might not. The UK probably would approve. Who would retaliate against Iran? Who would be allowed to bomb or even nuke Teheran? Overall, the question is difficult to answer, and that means there's a shade of gray.

        Now let's say Iran used a nuke on some slightly less evil place, but still evil. Would that turn the *whole* world against Iran, or would the support be divided, with slightly more countries against than if it was North Korea?

        At what point would the *whole* world unanimously support wiping Iran off the map? If Iran attacked America? If Iran attacked one of the former Soviet states? What if Iran attacked Zimbabwe?

        • Re:Salami tactics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mug funky (910186) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:25AM (#39284449)

          the rules of MAD are still in place i think. nuke anyone at all, and you're as good as nuked yourself.

          countries with nukes are diverse enough that you couldn't bomb one ideology without pissing off some nuclear power. we have communists (China), mafia states (sadly Russia), capitalist states (USA, UK), social democracies (France, sort of), Islamic states (Pakistan), and India which is kinda a bit of everything. then there's Israel... the whole political spectrum in all it's shades of madness and reason have nukes.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Rules of MAD don't apply to Islamic regimes the same way that they did to Communists. Sure, the Communists (Soviets & Chinese) were evil, but they were at least rational about it - while they undoubtedly wanted to wipe out their enemies, they themselves wanted to survive. Which is why deterence worked during the Cold War. During that time, there were a lot of espionage & terrorist acts pulled off by the NKVD/KGB, but how many suicide bombings does anybody remember that the Soviets did?

            This does

            • Surely you're not serious?!
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Jawnn (445279)

                Surely you're not serious?!

                I believe that he is. He lets Fox News shape his "fair and balanced" view of the world. I mean, after all, all Muslim's are potential suicide bombers. Right? So it follows that all "Islamic" states have the same suicidal thoughts.

            • by olau (314197) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:27AM (#39286221) Homepage

              You're being irrational. Suicide bombers are employed as a last resort against a technically superior enemy. I'm sure that if you go back in time, you'll find that all major religions have had suicidal fighters in one way or another. It has nothing to do with religion.

              The fact that you conclude that the communists "undoubtedly wanted to wipe out their enemies" just shows how narrow you're thinking about this. The tragedy of an arms race like in the cold war is that both sides are building weapons out of fear of an attack. It's madness.

            • by jimbolauski (882977) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:27AM (#39286629) Journal
              Suicide bombers are pawns, they have been manipulated into killing themselves to murder other people. Their commanders are not so "dedicated to the cause" that they become suicide bombers. World leaders love their power and will do anything to keep it, nuking another country is a sure way for them to lose that power, which is why they won't do it. MAD still works for countries, the real worry with nukes is if they fall into non-state actors hands, with little to lose when retaliation happens they are the biggest danger. Even then the origin of the bomb will be found and the country that supplied it probably be dealt with in the same manor, Afghanistan comes to mind as a good example but there would be many more participants.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              The key there in what you said is "confidence that they can destroy their enemies". No one in the leadership of Iran is confident that they can destroy their enemies, not today, not tomorrow, not when they finally break through and get the bomb. Hell, we could even spot them a half-dozen ICBM's and they would not have that kind of confidence. Iran is a second rate power. Hell - Iran is worse than a second rate power. Iran is a third rate power. And all the nuclear weapons in the world are not going to

            • by careysub (976506) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:18AM (#39288027)

              Rules of MAD don't apply to Islamic regimes the same way that they did to Communists. Sure, the Communists (Soviets & Chinese) were evil, but they were at least rational about it - while they undoubtedly wanted to wipe out their enemies, they themselves wanted to survive. Which is why deterence worked during the Cold War. During that time, there were a lot of espionage & terrorist acts pulled off by the NKVD/KGB, but how many suicide bombings does anybody remember that the Soviets did?

              ...

              How short the memories.

              During the Cold War the hysteria-mongers routinely argued that the Communists could not be deterred because they cared nothing for human life - arguments trotted out for this view were the tens of millions of deaths in the Stalinist and Maoist purges and engineered famines, the way life was literally thrown away in Gulags, and in WWII how millions of Soviet soldiers were carelessly sacrificed for negligible battlefield effect (and the same with Chinese and North Korean soldiers a few years later, and North Vietnamese and Cambodian soldiers decades after that). Various quotes by Lenin were commonly repeated (some of them fictitious*) to show the utter ruthlessness, and that their messianic belief in the inevitable victory of Communism made them indifferent to the possibility of nuclear war since Communism would survive.**

              And most of the statements about Communist behavior were true. But a big difference is it was never the leadership, the state itself that was put at risk. Nuclear weapons change that completely. That alone makes the whole claim completely invalid.

              *The favored fake quote, often repeated was this one: "What does it matter if three-fourths of the world perish, if the remaining one fourth are good communists?" attributed to Lenin.

              **Counter-evidence, like Stalin's decision not to seize West Berlin, Khruschev's hasty back-down in Cuba, and the striking intolerance to taking casualties in the 1980s after the Afghanistan invasion were ignored.

              This "Islamists are insane and are not afraid of nuclear war" is just a retread of the same Cold War tripe.

            • by rbrander (73222)

              Ah, callow youth. Trust me, child, we heard all this about the Commies back in the day.

              They were *fanatically*, *suicidally* dedicated to their evil ideology. Or the Top Bosses had deep bunkers and cared nothing for the survival of their zombiefied slaves. Or they were just so insane they actually believed they could simply win a nuclear war, get all our bombs before we could launch them...by smuggling in bombs and planting them on our open society. The same way they supported world-wide terrorism.

            • Rules of MAD don't apply to Islamic regimes the same way that they did to Communists. Sure, the Communists (Soviets & Chinese) were evil, but they were at least rational about it - while they undoubtedly wanted to wipe out their enemies, they themselves wanted to survive.

              Muslims, like Christians, American patriots, Communists, and people with lots of other belief systems, have a notable and vocal subgroup that holds that it is better to die than to live in circumstances where there values are not realiz

            • by bjdevil66 (583941)

              This does not apply to Islamic states... wiping out the Jews.

              Wow - just... wow. This is an arrogant, ignorant and xenophobic rant, full of half-baked stereotypes and generalizations, all based on a broad and ignorant stereotype that has led to sporadic wars between Christian and Muslim cultures for over a millenium.

              I suggest that you rent the movie Persepolis [imdb.com] and watch it. It may remind you that 99.9% of the people living in Iran are not an "Islamic state". Instead, they're people just like us, with a nut

        • Re:Salami tactics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:18AM (#39284743) Journal

          Not necessarily. Suppose Iran used a nuke against North Korea?

          If Israel sees a missile launched from any of the nuclear sites in Iran, I doubt they're going to wait to see where it's aimed before striking with all they've got.

        • Not necessarily. Suppose Iran used a nuke against North Korea? Would the world approve or disapprove?

          At that point, no one would object to retaliation. The only question would be if anyone wanted to retaliate. But if they did, then no one would stand in their way.

        • Re:Salami tactics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shiftless (410350) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:54AM (#39285241) Homepage

          Not necessarily. Suppose Iran used a nuke against North Korea? Would the world approve or disapprove?

          You're missing the point.

          The point is:

          Why in the world would Iran want to nuke anyone? It makes absolutely zero military sense Do you really think Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollahs are that stupid?

          • Stupid and evil (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fnj (64210) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:53AM (#39285537)

            Yes, we think Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs are that stupid. Plainly.

            Next question.

          • Re:Salami tactics (Score:4, Insightful)

            by fremsley471 (792813) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:16AM (#39285623)

            Your point is the crux of the debate, yet is not being discussed. They're as likely to use it as NATO/Russia*/Pakistan, etc. So what is this war-mongering and chest-beating all about? The simplest answer is that once a Bomb is acquired, Iran becomes less vulnerable, reducing likelihood of invasion/overt military action. For some, that can't be considered.

            The next question is "Why is this reduced vulnerability considered such a seriously bad thing by Israel?", which is what Western commentators should be discussing. Can't be simply all about Middle Eastern hegomonies, but what are the other concerns?

            *is it only Russia that have atomic devices or do other former SSRs still have relic weapons? Would Russia have recently knackered Georgia if they had them still?

          • Re:Salami tactics (Score:4, Insightful)

            by giorgist (1208992) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:51AM (#39286347)
            Here is an answer ...

            If Iran launches a nuke ... it will be game over for Iran.

            If a nuke carried by a truck blows up suddenly in <insert city> it might be hard to find the "made in Iran" sticker.
            Let alone it may have had a "made in Israel" sticker, but they might find a "made in Iran" sticker anyway just for shits and giggle and turn Iran into glass anyway.

            This mad principal only applies to super powers. The best way to defeat your enemy is to make the big bully hate you, otherwise known as a false flag, but that would never happen now would it.

            G
          • Re:Salami tactics (Score:5, Interesting)

            by nusuth (520833) <oooo_0000us@EINS ... minus physicist> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:17AM (#39286533) Homepage

            I copy and paste without shame:
            http://homepage.mac.com/msb/163x/faqs/nuclear_warfare_101.html [mac.com]

            The Nuclear Game - An Essay on Nuclear Policy Making

            When a country first acquires nuclear weapons it does so out of a very accurate perception that possession of nukes fundamentally changes it relationships with other powers. What nuclear weapons buy for a New Nuclear Power (NNP) is the fact that once the country in question has nuclear weapons, it cannot be beaten. It can be defeated, that is it can be prevented from achieving certain goals or stopped from following certain courses of action, but it cannot be beaten. It will never have enemy tanks moving down the streets of its capital, it will never have its national treasures looted and its citizens forced into servitude. The enemy will be destroyed by nuclear attack first. A potential enemy knows that so will not push the situation to the point where our NNP is on the verge of being beaten. In effect, the effect of acquiring nuclear weapons is that the owning country has set limits on any conflict in which it is involved. This is such an immensely attractive option that states find it irresistible.

            Only later do they realize the problem. Nuclear weapons are so immensely destructive that they mean a country can be totally destroyed by their use. Although our NNP cannot be beaten by an enemy it can be destroyed by that enemy. Although a beaten country can pick itself up and recover, the chances of a country devastated by nuclear strikes doing the same are virtually non-existent. [This needs some elaboration. Given the likely scale and effects of a nuclear attack, its most unlikely that the everybody will be killed. There will be survivors and they will rebuild a society but it will have nothing in common with what was there before. So, to all intents and purposes, once a society initiates a nuclear exchange its gone forever]. Once this basic factor has been absorbed, the NNP makes a fundamental realization that will influence every move it makes from this point onwards. If it does nothing, its effectively invincible. If, however, it does something, there is a serious risk that it will initiate a chain of events that will eventually lead to a nuclear holocaust. The result of that terrifying realization is strategic paralysis.

            With that appreciation of strategic paralysis comes an even worse problem. A non-nuclear country has a wide range of options for its forces. Although its actions may incur a risk of being beaten they do not court destruction. Thus, a non-nuclear nation can afford to take risks of a calculated nature. However,a nuclear-equipped nation has to consider the risk that actions by its conventional forces will lead to a situation where it may have to use its nuclear forces with the resulting holocaust. Therefore, not only are its strategic nuclear options restricted by its possession of nuclear weapons, so are its tactical and operational options. So we add tactical and operational paralysis to the strategic variety. This is why we see such a tremendous emphasis on the mechanics of decision making in nuclear powers. Every decision has to be thought through, not for one step or the step after but for six, seven or eight steps down the line.

            We can see this in the events of the 1960s and 1970s, especially surrounding the Vietnam War. Every so often, the question gets asked "How could the US have won in Vietnam?" with a series of replies that include invading the North,extending the bombing to China and other dramatic escalations of the conflict. Now, it should be obvious why such suggestions could not, in the real world, be contemplated. The risk of ending up in a nuclear war was too great. For another example, note how the presence of nuclear weapons restricted and limited the tactical and operational options available to both sides in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In effect neither side could push the war to a final conclusion because to do so would bring

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

        If Iran ever dared to use such a weapon against anyone, it would be the last thing it ever did

        Iran's regime may be crazy, but they ain't dummies

        They will build the bombs and they will use the bombs, no, they won't bomb anyone, but rather, they will use the bombs they have accumulated to blackmail the world

        Without physically bombing anyone, the world will have no excuse to retaliate - Iranians know that

        • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:56AM (#39284631)

          They will build the bombs and they will use the bombs, no, they won't bomb anyone, but rather, they will use the bombs they have accumulated to blackmail the world

          Blackmail the world into... ...not invading them? ...letting them build nuclear bombs? ...letting their politicians be dicks and say outrageous things?

          • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

            Blackmail the world into... ...not invading them? ...letting them build nuclear bombs? ...letting their politicians be dicks and say outrageous things?

            Oh, I am sure the Iranians have given it a lot of thought

            They could blackmail the world to give them other high-tech stuffs that they do not currently enjoy - such as space technology

            They could blackmail the world to give them the veto power on the UN security council

            They could do much much more than what you and I can ever imagine, if they were to own nukes

            • by St.Creed (853824) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:36AM (#39285729)

              Fat chance they'd get any of that.

              If they started blackmailing, the political position of their remaining allies would quickly become totally untenable. They could give hints, saying "well... we'd like to have more influence on the security council... nudge nudge wink wink"... but that's about it.

              As a deterrent to actually invading them when they start shooting dissidents in lots of 10000, now that is quite another matter. It would be very effective in doing exactly that - which is why a nuke is a bad thing mostly for the Iranians themselves, and not so much anyone else.

            • Blackmail the world into... ...not invading them? ...letting them build nuclear bombs? ...letting their politicians be dicks and say outrageous things?

              Oh, I am sure the Iranians have given it a lot of thought

              They could blackmail the world to give them other high-tech stuffs that they do not currently enjoy - such as space technology

              They could blackmail the world to give them the veto power on the UN security council

              They could do much much more than what you and I can ever imagine, if they were to own nukes

              Just like North Korea does, huh?

        • That kind of blackmail only works if you're the only country with a nuclear bomb. If they aren't "dummies" as you say then they will also realize that they can't actually use it either. So, back to square one with the normal, everyday brutality of "regular" war that people on this planet seem to love so much.

          • by tnk1 (899206)

            Well... if it was an existential threat to their system, their power and even possibly their lives, they might well launch. The Soviets had their empire, there was no need to nuke NATO unless something drastically changed, but be aware, at least some of the Soviet military leaders were known to have believed a nuclear war was winnable.

            Now take Iran, which is probably a lot less pragmatic than the Soviets were, and give them a bomb. I agree, their possession would not mean they'd launch at the first opport

            • by shiftless (410350) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:03AM (#39285291) Homepage

              Well... if it was an existential threat to their system, their power and even possibly their lives, they might well launch.

              And wouldn't they have ever right to?

              The Soviets had their empire, there was no need to nuke NATO unless something drastically changed, but be aware, at least some of the Soviet military leaders were known to have believed a nuclear war was winnable.

              Just as many Americans also believed. Yet a nuclear war never did happen. Why is that?

              Now take Iran, which is probably a lot less pragmatic than the Soviets were

              Why? Because our government and their friends want you to believe so? Do you really think Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs have maintained control for so long by being stupid? Do you really think they want to "end it all" and be nuked into oblivion, which would be the clearly inevitable result of using a nuke against another country?

              The problem is, the Iranian people don't have any practical control over their government at all. [...] In Iran, the government doesn't have checks and balances, it has a blank check to do whatever it wants, as long as the Supreme Leader signs it.

              Just like the United States!

              In the US, the President would likely be obeyed if he ordered a retaliatory launch, but if it was for something other than pure defense, he might well find himself disobeyed

              Ever heard of "plausible deniability"? It's a product of U.S. politics! Of course the President can't just launch nukes at will. But if the missile detection system malfunctions, as it is later determined, signalling an incoming attack, and the President orders an all-out retaliatory strike based on this data......well, who can blame him right?

      • While that scenario sounds very plausible and rational, you failed to take into account one major aspect in all this. Iran's leadership is being driven with radical religious convictions. Or so we're lead to believe. The upper echelon espouses the 12th Imam (2nd coming of Christ) and them providing the instruments by which to make that happen. Talk is talk and power is power. So who really knows if these are heart felt convictions or just a ruse by which to project political power and authority above and be

        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:38AM (#39284547) Journal

          If you want my personal opinion, Iran is a thinly veiled military dictatorship that uses religion as its unifying ideology much as the Soviets and the Chinese use(d) Communism. The Basij are all very swirly eyed, but I don't get the feeling the country is actually run by similar types.

          • If you want my personal opinion, Iran is a thinly veiled military dictatorship that uses religion as its unifying ideology much as the Soviets and the Chinese use(d) Communism. The Basij are all very swirly eyed, but I don't get the feeling the country is actually run by similar types.

            Leaders who promote suicide bombings rarely wear the vest themselves.

            • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

              Leaders who promote suicide bombings rarely wear the vest themselves

              To be more precise --- it is the old geezers who were behind the suicide bombing, but it is the young ones who end up blowing themselves to bits

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:16AM (#39284729)

        If Iran ever dared to use such a weapon against anyone, it would be the last thing it ever did.

        Most likely true, but what if we're in a situation where the Iranian regime is already facing its end? For example, I believe they have another election coming up. I expect it will be stolen just like the last one. And perhaps like the last one, there will be widespread protests. So far, pretty reasonable, right?

        But let's say that the protestors, inspired by the Arab Spring events, push harder this time, and actually get close to toppling the regime. Given Iran's abuses of its own people last time, I doubt they'd hesitate to employ the same tactics used in Syria and Lebanon - outright war against anyone opposing them.

        There could be no help from the international community if they had nukes, because if the regime thought they were really going to fall and that their rulers would end up like Gaddafi, they have no reason not to pull out all the stops. If you're really facing down an angry mob that wants to tear you limb from limb, using a nuke is a GREAT option -- it is the ultimate punishment for those who have done this to you, and it buys you time while your enemies regroup. Time which you can use to try to get out of the country, or at least surrender to the International Criminal Court (which does not employ capital punishment, unlike your former subjects).

        All the fear-mongering about them nuking Israel is a ruse. The Middle Eastern dictators need Israel as a bogeyman to scare their citizens, and Israel plays right into their hands by acting the part quite regularly. Tehran wants a nuke to ensure the survival of their regime, nothing more, nothing less. The Iranian people would be wise to oppose such a development, not that their opposition is liable to have any effect.

      • So if it played out they would make sure it also sucks for somebody else.
        You've also ignored pretty well everything that somebody paying a tiny bit of attention to recent history would have noticed, such as the long running horrific war of attrition between Iran and Iraq which has left Iran with the majority of it's population under 25.
        What happens in Iraq is pretty well a race between the younger generation taking control and the old men (as in too old to have fought in that war 20 years ago) getting nukes
      • by Evtim (1022085) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:13AM (#39285353)

        Just to add a point about China and Russia. I don't know what is the stance of China with respect to Iran, but before the Russian elections last week Putin published enormous "letter" outlining his platform and very clearly stating his opinions about all kinds of domestic and international issues. On the subject of Iran the message was clear - Russia will not tolerate Iran with nuclear weapons, period. However Russia will not lightly agree on military intervention as a "solution"; in fact they will oppose it at every turn. "Reasons for this position" - asks Mr. Putin - "look what happened everywhere where there was an intervention".

        Hard to argue against, isn't it?

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:47AM (#39284265) Journal

    The fact is that without the atomic bomb, WWIII most certainly would have happened between the West and the USSR. The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki raised the stakes of another general war between the remaining Great Powers so enormously that a war like WWII would no longer be possible.

    As horrible as these weapons are, they stopped the most terrible war the world would have ever known.

    • by siddesu (698447) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:15AM (#39284727)

      This is quite far from a "fact", in fact, the facts point in the completely opposite direction. By the end of WWII, the USSR was not in a position to fight another world war, or even a local war. It was, in fact, not in a position to fight any wars except proxy skirmishes until about the end of the 1970s. The evilness of the regime towards its people aside, the country was devastated by WWII, its male population decimated or worse, its infrastructure heavily dependent on Western aid, and on top of that the USSR had to support extending communism in half of Europe. If you believe that was free, you're wrong.

      By many accounts, the real reason for the huge nuclear buildup on both sides of the iron curtain had, after a while, not so much to do with the threat that was addressed by the nuclear weapons, but more to do with the prestige and the resource allocation benefits that manufacturing nuclear weapons brought. In other words, it was a classical case of a principal-agent problem where the goal of the principal (maximizing safety) was not aligned to the goal of the agents (maximizing power of nuclear arsenal).

      I believe this is also known as not allowing a mineshaft gap.

  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:52AM (#39284295)

    Teller destroyed the career of Robert Oppenheimer for no damn good reason, after which his own graduate students shunned him.

    I have no interest in anything to do about him.

    • by manoweb (1993306)
      For no good reason? Oppenheimer did NOT want to build the H-bomb! What was he thinking?
      • by Alomex (148003) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:17AM (#39284421) Homepage

        First of all, even if he opposed it that doesn't mean you get to accuse him of being a communist.

        But in reality the situation was more complicated than that. Oppenheimer (and others) also opposed Teller's design because they thought it wouldn't work. Teller took it personally and set out to destroy them. But those others were right and in the end the H-bomb that Teller help built was based on a design of Ulam's.

    • I have no interest in anything to do about him.

      Not understanding why someone did something is a a reason to be interested, since it can bring greater understanding on your part. Being curious is the first step of the scientific method.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:53AM (#39284301)

    And his work has brought the state of research into nucleur physics forwards by huge leaps and bounds.

    OTOH some of his critics were right. We didn't and don't *need* the hydrogen bomb.

    But that said, for a given yield a fusion bomb will give you considerably less radioactive nastiness so it does have advantages over fission, and I can empathise with a man who thought huge explosions were pretty cool.

    • by mug funky (910186) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:33AM (#39284515)

      actually, you get more fallout. much more.

      the fusion part of the design doesn't provide the lion's share of the yield - as proved by Castle Bravo. it was designed as a ~3Mt design, but thanks to the U238 tamper and all the very fast neutrons the fusion stage provided, they ended up with 15Mt that they were quite unprepared for.

      most of the yield comes from fissioning the U238 tamper, which gives a ton of fallout. Pu239 fission initiates the fusion stage, which provides craploads of neutrons which will fission the U238.

      • by dido (9125) <dido@NOsPAm.imperium.ph> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:06AM (#39284673)

        Well, it the hydrogen bomb was a bomb that could be scaled up to as large an explosion as one wanted, as the Soviet Union proved with the Tsar Bomba. They replaced the U-238 tamper with lead, and still got an explosion of 50 megatons or so, the largest man-made explosion in history. Had they kept the uranium, it would have been around 100 megatons. Unlike fission weapons, where the fission of the uranium or plutonium in a chain reaction will cause the supercritical mass to blow apart after only a fraction of the material has fissioned (up to perhaps only 20% fission for implosion-type weapons, as low as 1% for gun-type weapons like the Little Boy bomb used on Hiroshima), limiting the size of the explosion, a hydrogen bomb can become as big as one would like, provided the raw materials are available.

  • by manoweb (1993306) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:59AM (#39284341)
    I wonder what the memories of the staff that saw those explosions "live" are. It must have been a magnificent show. The best of the human intellect to unleash the most destructive rage of destruction.
    • Nuke Mars. No, seriously. Start vaporizing the poles and raise the atmosphere a few degrees. If we're going to learn how to terraform a planet, let's start there.

      Of course, sending a few MIRVs into space won't happen for obvious geo-political reasons. I can fully understand why.

  • His son... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:00AM (#39284345)

    ...Paul Teller taught at UC Davis in the 80's and 90's(maybe still does). When I took his philosophy of science course(PHI 108), on the first meeting with the TA, he said "Don't ask him about his father".

  • Fortunately (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:54AM (#39284625)

    Thank goodness, now that the Cold War is over we have the War on Terror, so we can still dismiss critics of more spending for unnecessary weapon systems as "lacking in common sense or patriotism".

  • He mustn't have brooked himself then.
  • I met him in his later years, after the bomb-pumped X-ray laser missile defense [wikipedia.org] idea he was touting had fizzled. At the time, he was pitching precision-guided crowbars dropped from orbit.

    • It was developed in parallel in US and USSR, so both men take credit. But US was the first one to detonate a working device.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:14AM (#39284983)
    This post is clearly intended to legitimatize the right wing push to attack Iran.

    Is there any other reason to lionize Teller at this moment in time? The text of the link includes the phrase "a matter of life and horrible death". In other words, an existential threat to Western Civilization. The implied parallel is that Islam and international Communism are similar threats to the West. If Teller is a hero for his position, the all the Republican presidential hopefuls are also heroes for calling for an attack against Iran. And Obama, along with anyone else who advocates caution, is a spineless traitor who want to destroy democracy.

    Pure right wing propaganda.

    Instead of looking back more then 60 years to the late 1940's, let's consider a much more recent and infinitely more relevant event: G. W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. This was a war of choice, and has emerged as the single worst policy mistake in the history of the USA. It cost the US and it's allies hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of US casualties, and over one hundred thousand civilian causalities in Iraq.

    It made Iran much more powerful, and alienated the entire world from the US. All the European leaders who supported the war fell out of favor. Radical Islamic movements, who really do want to destroy the West, have much more influence in Islamic politics. Even with the nominal end of combat, no one knows when it will really end or how much it will cost, in both life and treasure. We still don't know how badly screwed up we are over this.

    And now Republicans, who lied their teeth out over Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, are screaming that WE MUST ATTACK IRAN RIGHT NOW!!! So someone decides it's time to raise H-Bomb Teller from his crypt, wrap him up in the stars and stripes, and declare that he saved civilization from the Godless Hoards. Meanwhile, G. W. Bush, who is very much alive and well, is completely missing. He is so off the charts it's like he never existed.

    As far as the Republicans and the mainstream media is concerned, Clinton left office, the world hibernated for 8 years, and then Obama took over. Now there is talk of more war in the Middle East, and no one even speaks the name of Bush. It's not like someone asked his opinion and he responded "no comment". No one is even asking. He has been edited out of history, like in 1984.

    This topic is a de facto intelligence test. If you looked at it and wondered why anyone would be saying these kinds of things about Teller then you pass. If you saw nothing unusual, you failed. Given the kind of comments I've seen so far, everyone reading Slashdot is politically brain dead. If there was some way I could turn off life support for all the flat-lined Slashdot readers, I'd do it in an instant.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      "If there was some way I could turn off life support for all the flat-lined Slashdot readers, I'd do it in an instant."
      Anyone else see the irony of a person ranting about the brutality of George Bush's arbitrary and brutal war, posting in a public forum that he would unhesitatingly MURDER the people that disagree with him?

      And that folks, is what passes for public discourse on policy issues in the USA.

      Note to the OP:
      "...And now Republicans, who lied their teeth out over Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, a

  • by rafial (4671) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:26AM (#39285065) Homepage

    A bellicose feller named Teller
    That prominent atom bomb seller
    Promotes with aplomb
    The hydrogen bomb
    And tells the uncertain they're yeller!

    -- lifted from the back column of a science mag of my childhood

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:44AM (#39286011) Journal

    The Nazis could have kept Teller and a huge bunch of other excellent Jewish scientists, if only their grotesque racism didn't blind them, and push the Jewish scientists to the West (the USA mostly).

    I think we can be all very thankful for the Nazis' idiocy, because their anti-Jewish propaganda might just have saved the world.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."

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