Will the World End in a Nuclear Holocaust?
Will Earth Be Ruined in Nuclear War?
BY THIS year 1982 “nuclear powered” nations are said to have stockpiled at least 50,000 nuclear warheads. The combined power of these weapons would rival an explosion of 1,600,000 bombs of the kind the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.
A mere 300 superbombs out of that grisly arsenal, if dropped in a concerted assault on key population centers in the United States, could annihilate 60 percent of the population and turn vast areas into a wasteland. Americans suspect that 300 megabombs amount to no more than 3 percent of the Soviet arsenal. In turn, Americans are prepared to destroy the Russians in a similar manner.
Political leaders, while racing to stockpile armaments, keep warning solemnly that one day world powers will have to “meet at the conference table with the understanding that the era of armaments has ended, and the human race must conform its actions to this truth or die,” to quote President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. A quarter century later President Jimmy Carter, in his farewell address, echoed the fear that should there be any survivors from a nuclear holocaust, they “would live in despair amid the poisoned ruins of a civilization that had committed suicide.” Soviet leaders agree that nuclear war means “universal disaster.”
Albert Einstein was a “pure” scientist who sought knowledge for the sake of truth. That pursuit led him to figure out a formula to unlock the latent energy inside the atom: E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). In splitting an atom (fission) or combining atoms (fusion) there is a release of energy of horrendous proportions. How much energy? Well, the amount of fissionable mass expended in the destruction of Hiroshima amounted to about one gram—one thirtieth of an ounce.
In 1950, two years before the testing of the first hydrogen, or thermonuclear, bomb, Einstein warned that “radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere and hence annihilation of any life on earth has been brought within the range of technical possibilities.”
World leaders agree that in 6,000 years of “civilization” there has been no precedent for this peril. Man has finally laid hold on a power that can bring about his own extinction. In an all-out interchange of nuclear bombs, all life could be ruined.
Planet Earth could die: In a millionth of a second whole cities are vaporized. Craters deeper than skyscrapers pockmark the point where a megaton bomb exploded in a ground blast. Day turns to night as mushroom clouds bulge into one another, covering a continent to pour down a “black rain” of lethal radiation. Fire storms envelop ruins. Charred shapes of dogs and horses and humans drape the rubble. If there are survivors, radiation kills them. If there still are survivors, they stagger in shock into a world void of every familiar thing—food, clothing, light, power, sanitation, communication, medication, family, friends, police, government—civilization.
Is there no way to head it off?