Aron M. Bernstein
Physics Dept., Lab for Nuclear Science, MIT
Nuclear weapons pose an enormous threat to the future of humanity. It is important that individuals, particularly those who grew up after the end of the Cold War, learn about what nuclear weapons are and their effects on the world. The MIT Nuclear Weapons Education Project aims to support this goal by providing materials for lectures or discussions at introductory course levels.
Let’s consider some questions and topics that could be discussed:
- What are nuclear weapons and what damage do they cause?
- What were the consequences of using nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Did they end WW2 and save lives, or were they the beginnings of the Cold War?
- Did the large numbers of nuclear weapons developed during the cold war save us from WW3 by deterrence, or did they pose an unnecessary danger of future use?
- What are the current arsenals of nuclear weapons?
- What agreements have been reached to limit the nuclear arms race?
- What is the current strength of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals? Do they simply maintain deterrence and keep us safe, or do they maintain overkill capacity? Is there need and the political will for reductions?
- Eisenhower thought that the possession of nuclear weapons was the least expensive way to offset the large numerical advantage of troops and tanks that the Soviet Union had in order to keep the peace. At the present time, the US has a $1 trillion 30-year modernization plan for its nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Is this affordable and does it really keep us safe, or does it stimulate other nations to emulate it?
- Is the Iran nuclear agreement good or bad?
- Is it possible to deal constructively with North Korea? How?
- Is the spread of nuclear weapons unstoppable? What is the role of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
- Is nuclear war inevitable?