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New Tech Makes Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Verifiable

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the except-our-super-secret-stealth-nukes dept.

The Military 93

Harperdog writes "In 1999, Senate Republicans rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty on the grounds that it wasn't verifiable. The National Academy of Sciences feels this is no longer true, due to new technology. Quoting: 'Technologies for detecting clandestine testing in four environments — underground, underwater, in the atmosphere, and in space — have improved significantly in the past decade. In particular, seismology, the most effective approach for monitoring underground nuclear explosion testing, can now detect underground explosions well below 1 kiloton in most regions. A kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of chemical high explosive. The nuclear weapons that were used in Japan in World War II had yields in the range of 10 to 20 kilotons.'"

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93 comments

Subtext (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623469)

They rejected the treaty on the ground that they're the United States, and nobody's forcing them to give up their nukes. They just couldn't say that.

Re:Subtext (4, Insightful)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623543)

I'd think we could maintain a working stockpile based on modeling and existing test results.

A test ban seems more like a non-proliferation strategy... which I'd think we would want.

All code, no QA? (2)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623593)

I'd think we could maintain a working stockpile based on modeling and existing test results.

Never worked in IT, have you? :)

Re:All code, no QA? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623681)

I'd think we could maintain a working stockpile based on modeling and existing test results.

Never worked in IT, have you? :)

Models are good enough for climate research, right?

BUt we have a benchmark (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623743)

We can benchmark climate models to a good standard...the actual climate.

You do realize that we don't need models to demonstrate global warming, right? That's an actual measurement.

Come back when you have a bare minimum of technical prowess, and have studied something besides humanities, political science, or some other such soft study for right brained types like yourself.

Re:BUt we have a benchmark (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39625211)

We can benchmark climate models to a good standard...the actual climate.

You do realize that we don't need models to demonstrate global warming, right? That's an actual measurement.

Come back when you have a bare minimum of technical prowess, and have studied something besides humanities, political science, or some other such soft study for right brained types like yourself.

Hey Einstein: 10,000 years ago New York City was under the polar ice cap.

Not only that temperatures have been rising steadily since about 1600 or so - the end of the Little Ice Age. Just a few more decades and we might be as warm as the Medieval Warm period about 1,000 years ago.

But I bet you keep telling yourself how fucking smart you are.

Go ahead, tell yourself you're smarter then Freeman Dyson:

The Civil Heretic [nytimes.com]

IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with Salon.com that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism. Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”

But yeah, you go ahead and claim to be smarter than Freeman Dyson.

You fucking fool.

Kool-Aid guzzling fucking fool.

Re:BUt we have a benchmark (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39626643)

Oh I see what we've got here in YOU: another little tyke who grew up in a household where his parents wanted him to be smart and go into "some kind of science," but you didn't really have the chops for it. However, neither you nor they could admit you probably just needed to get your BA and hope someone would let you push some papers around and un-jam a printer every one in awhile and limp along through your "career" until you had to go to the old people's home and be forgotten. No, what you did instead is worm your way through some kind of crappy program at a crappy school and get yourself a degree where you "work with computers." And here you are today--probably sucking up and holding down a job where you get paid more than you should and for which you are way out of your element but yet you use the one skill you actually DO have (your BULLSHIT skills) to keep going, NOT innovating but instead keeping a more deserving SMART guy from contributing good work in place of your MOOCHING.

Congrats, you miserable, miserable wealth syphon.

But for realz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39626769)

But for reals, troll fun aside, correct your trite bits of misinformation, please

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

Re:All code, no QA? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624129)

My test restores are somewhat less intrusive than a nuclear detonation. ;)

Re:Subtext (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623619)

A test ban seems more like a non-proliferation strategy

That reaction mechanism seems extraordinarily mysterious to me.

The standard /. car analogy is if I decide to never again test car air bags, then no one will ever commit suicide by intentionally crashing their car into my car. If I never check the oil level on the dipstick of my car engine, then my neighbor will never purchase oil for his car. If I never check that there is a spare condom in my back seat ashtray (which works a hell of a lot better BTW if you're a non-smoker) then my neighbor will never try to have sex in his car.

Re:Subtext (3)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624033)

A test ban would make a nuclear weapons program far less useful for countries that don't already have working designs. You want nuclear weapons for two things: As a deterrent, and for a first strike capability.

Unproven deterrents aren't very useful. In what world do complicated devices work without ever being tested? A nuke you can't test isn't going to be very scary to your neighbors.

By the same token, the point of a nuclear first strike is your enemy isn't there to retaliate when you're done. But if you don't know whether or not your weapon works, you can't depend on avoiding payback. So again, an untested weapon isn't useful for a cold-cocking your sworn enemy. If it doesn't work you're going to find yourself without any friends or any way to defend yourself as the rest of the world decides your government is too crazy to be allowed to survive.

Which leaves... what? Why build one? The states that already have working designs will probably keep them, but if you're running a middle tier (in the economic and technical sense) country a test ban adds some weight to the "Oh, let's not bother" side of the scale.

Re:Subtext (3, Informative)

gelfling (6534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624405)

Rail/gun types of weapons were simple enough in 1945 to not need testing. Trinity was a test of the "Fat Man" plutonium design used on Nagasaki. The Hiroshima uranium design was rushed into deployment in case Trinity didn't work. Hiroshima's 'Little Boy' was never tested and no one seriously thought it NEEDED to be tested.

By comparison, South Africa built and then abandoned 6 - 9 gun type uranium warheads fully prepared to use them if need be w/o ever having tested them. In fact they never even tested the conventional explosives trigger design either. No need for that, the engineering, chemistry and physics were well understood.

Re:Subtext (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625285)

Having well understood chemistry and physics isn't the same thing as having a working piece of hardware. Rockets have well understood chemistry and physics as well, but new designs rarely work the first time. The fact that the 1945 bombs worked the first time is equal parts luck and the fact that they literally had the smartest people in the world gathered in one place. It should probably be seen as an aberration.

As to South Africa's weapons, well, we'll never know if they should have been tested or not, will we?

Re:Subtext (3, Informative)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#39627507)

It's perfectly possible to test a gun-type nuclear weapon without actually detonating it. It's simple: test-fire the gun mechanism. If the two non-nuclear test-masses strike each other with the right velocity, then the neutron denstity will instantenously rise far enough to start the critical reaction. Critical reactions have been extensively tested in the past and the operational geometry is well known - it's all about getting the two pieces of uranium close enough together, fast enough.

Re:Subtext (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#39652329)

Or, to put it another way "Nuclear fission is just like fire: the secret is to bang the rocks together."

Re:Subtext (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625353)

The problem comes in when a country has a small number of nukes. If someone was to smuggle a nuke into the US or Europe they could destroy a big city but both he US and Europe would still be able to counter attack. The US and USSR went a little overboard on the number of nukes created and both sides have the capability to destroy not just a city or 2 but an entire country if necessary. That is a true MAD doctrine that has prevented the US and USSR from attacking one another. The problem with Pakistan, NK, and Iran is that they could sale one of thier weapons to a non-state actor to use while hoping the source of the weapon could not be traced back to them. It would take time to determine the source of nuke but would the public be willing to retaliate 6 months later with a nuclear reprisal? It's this type of scenario that can invalidate the MAD doctrine the major nuclear armed countries have used for over 60+ years.

Re:Subtext (2)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625491)

It would take time to determine the source of nuke but would the public be willing to retaliate 6 months later with a nuclear reprisal?

There's no doubt in my mind. In fact, I doubt they'd be willing to wait for absolute certainty.

Re:Subtext (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39625683)

Unproven deterrents aren't very useful. [...] A nuke you can't test isn't going to be very scary to your neighbors.

A 95% chance of my friends, family and the other few million inhabitants of my home city being blown up isn't significantly less scary than a 100% chance. Hell, I'd do a lot to avoid even a 1% chance.

Re:Subtext (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39626447)

At this point the US designs and test data have probably been stolen so many times that even the Los Alamos crew finds it easier to find them on bittorrent than to locate the proper file in their own system.

Re:Subtext (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39627063)

Test ban, shmest ban. After they know you have working nuclear weapons, what are they gonna do? Nothing. Because you've got BASES FULL OF GIANT NUCLEAR MISSILES.

When India and Pakistan detonated their test nukes, we whined about it, and threw some limp-wristed sanctions on them we gave up a few years later. Didn't exactly make them regret developing them, did it?

The only value of the knowledge of who has nuclear weapons is who you can't fuck with. You can tattle on them to their mom and the UN, but it won't change anything.

All we do with a test ban is artificially limit the evolution of our own technology, substituting the laws of man for the laws of nature, and annoy the rest of the world with our hypocrisy trying to dictate technological development to sovereign nations we have no right doing so to.

Why are we comfortable letting humanity's best weapons and defense remain the unevolved old original designs from Oppenheimer and Teller forever into the future?

How long are computers made in the 1970s and sucking fast neutron radiation since then going to remain viable for controlling our existing weapons?

Re:Subtext (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#39628151)

The truth is, nuclear weapons are a dead-end technology. There is zero point in developing a weapon that is too radiologically dangerous to use tactically, too politically sensitive to use strategically (or tactically, for that matter), and which requires constant monitoring. We now have conventional explosives that rival the power of low-end nukes, and which have only a fraction of the emotional baggage. Simply put, there was more utility in saying "Let's all not make nukes!" for the political gain of being seen to Do The Right Thing, than actually developing them.

Really, you only need to show you have one or two nukes for use in MAD scenarios so the political risk of attacking you becomes to high. That's what they're for - a weapon that you'll never use - and it doesn't make a difference if the count-down timer display is made of blue LEDs or nixie tubes.

Re:Subtext (1)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39628993)

You are a fool if you think the M.A.D. doctrine won't be used somewhere, somehow again. Or, if you think the US isn't going to be on one side of it. A weapon you'll never used still has to work. Any opponent savvy enough to need MAD used against them, is also savvy enough to figure out if our weapons work or not.

Re:Subtext (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#39654051)

You are a fool if you think the M.A.D. doctrine won't be used somewhere, somehow again.

It's fortunate, then, that that's neither what I said, nor what I think.

A nuclear weapon is a deterrent - a political bargaining tool to stop people invading you - that's what it does. As long as you have a couple lying around, your Bomb (capital B) needs are met. You never expect to actually use them, and so long as the ones you have are reliable enough to credibly be expected to work if actually called upon to (and after 40 years of development, we can be sure they are), there really isn't much point in spending lots of money modernising them.

A better way to spend those funds is in developing stealth smart weapons that -can- be used at low political cost, and be used to influence the policy of those who do not have The Bomb.

Re:Subtext (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39628573)

A nuke you can't test isn't going to be very scary to your neighbors.

Even without testing the actual bomb you can prove that the delivery system, the trigger and the nuclear material. You would be mad to write off country that did all that as "not very scary".

Case in point: Israel. Won't even admit they have nukes, never did any publicly acknowledged tests, never even shown their tech. No-one doubts their capability though.

Re:Subtext (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624089)

I guess I wasn't clear. I meant more like, if you can't detonate, you probably can't do much in the way of developing new weaponry.

So for those of us that already have more-than-adequate nuclear weaponry, we'd get to sit on what we've got... which is plenty 'nuff to annihilate anything on earth if we wanted to. And assuming we can test by other means, without just detonating the same design over and over again, we're still gtg.

For additional clarity, I don't know much about the necessity for testing our nukes. If it is genuinely necessary, just to keep everything functional, then I can see why we'd want to avoid getting locked into a defacto disarmament treaty. If it's not, then I don't see why any nation would doubt our ability to deliver.

Re:Subtext (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625359)

For additional clarity, I don't know much about the necessity for testing our nukes. If it is genuinely necessary, just to keep everything functional, then I can see why we'd want to avoid getting locked into a defacto disarmament treaty. If it's not, then I don't see why any nation would doubt our ability to deliver.

The problem is, nuclear devices don't have an unlimited shelf life. They decay, get old, and eventually (like any other bit of machinery) start developing latent failures.

To mitigate this, the owner of those devices will occasionally have to refurbish them, and eventually replace them, just to keep inventory levels constant. Even if they don't plan to expand the inventory, they will eventually need to develop new designs with improved safety (for those handling them) and reliability. New devices need to be tested. As any engineer who's worth a crap will tell you, tests on inert shapes and computer simulations can only get you so far.

Re:Subtext (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623733)

Modelling is great but at some point you have to validate the model or you risk compounding problems.

Aircraft manufacturers use modelling all the time to design aircraft to regulatory requirements, but they still have to validate that model with a wing bend and a fatigue test airframe before the FAA or EASA will certify the aircraft. A failed test will still validate the model, just adjusted for te real world results (the Airbus A380 failed its wing bend at something like 147%, 3% down on requirements, but they were allowed to validate the fix based on the proven adjusted model).

And of course models are only valid while you are dealing with a bomb design you already understand - what about we bomb designs? New implosion patterns? New materials? Models only go so far.

This is an attempt to stop ongoing production of newer designs of weapon.

Re:Subtext (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623971)

Nuclear weapons were already small enough you could store one in a suitcase or use them as mortar rounds (see W54). Soon it would be like in Heinlein's Starship troopers where personnel were assigned nuclear hand grenades or somesuch. After all those proxy wars after WWII the two major powers decided to remove all portable nuclear weapons where possible to ensure few people had access to the weapons triggering a conflict of some sort.

Re:Subtext (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624045)

Or you do what Israel did and have another country do your testing for you. Plus you don't have to sign any messy non proliferation treaties. Win win!

Re:Subtext (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623553)

I think it more reasonable they didn't want to explain we'll never have to use them in war if we know they work via testing, and the opposite is true, if no one knows if they'll work or not, they may as well risk an attack.

There really seems to be no reason to reduce the reliability of the arsenal other than to eliminate MAD, to make a nuclear war winnable. Its very dangerous to peace not to test.

It's a test ban, not a weapons ban (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623615)

The US very well could and would keep their weapons. Also how much it would actually affect the US weapons is likely not much because it bans physical testing. The US tests its weapons mostly on computers these days. The DoE's supercomputers are powerful enough to simulate the weapons at the atomic level and give really accurate results.

Re:It's a test ban, not a weapons ban (4, Interesting)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623981)

At the Atomic museum (Bradbury Science Museum) in Los Alamos there's an old telephone sitting on a desk that acts as the metaphor for how they test the Nuclear Arsenal. "What if you couldn't use the phone but had to make sure it worked?"

"you could test the bell"
"you could test the wiring"

I haven't been there in awhile, but that's what they used to describe how LANL and the other labs insure that when the "phone" needed to be used, it could.

Frankly, I miss the days when we all worried about "fallout" from the latest Soviet or Chinese tests. Also, my Grandparents lived in Las Vegas and we used to get the "rumbles" when we visited. My Grandfather would say "They just dug another hole"

It's more than that now (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624663)

They do that too, component tests, but like I said: They do full blown simulations. Those big DoE supercomputers have a number of uses but what really got them funded was weapons testing. You model everything on that weapon you can, and then simulate it on an atomic scale. As accurate as real testing? No, probably not, but it doesn't generate any nuclear explosion. Also a lot of verification can be done with regards to simulation results vs actual component testing.

Re:It's more than that now (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625119)

Next political advancement: detecting simulations!

Re:Subtext (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624369)

Most countries that claim to have adopted the CTBT have in fact NEVER ratified it.

Re:Subtext (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624727)

They rejected the treaty on the ground that they're the United States, and nobody's forcing them to give up their nukes. They just couldn't say that.

The problem with your theory is that it pretty much has nothing to do with facts. The Comprehensive Test Ban wasn't a ban on nukes, it was a ban on nuclear testing.
 
Worse for your tinfoil hat view of the world, even though the US hasn't ratified the CTBT, it has acted as if it has and ceased nuclear testing.

Re:Subtext (1)

PNutts (199112) | more than 2 years ago | (#39626901)

They rejected the treaty on the ground that they're the United States, and nobody's forcing them to give up their nukes. They just couldn't say that.

Well, considering the US has been giving them up for a long time now and is at last count 8,500, [wikimedia.org] I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.

Distributed Sensor Grids and we all can help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623473)

Hi,

with www.radioactiveathome.org or other distributed sensor grids this is also possible and we all can help

What'll the new excuse be? (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623489)

I mean, with the phrase "or any other nuclear explosion" doesn't that imply we're agreeing not to ever use nukes for anything?

Re:What'll the new excuse be? (1)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624051)

The new excuse.

Bu, bu, but . . . this new tech is based on science! The same evil that gave us godless eviloution, inconvenient climate change, unspeakable information about reproduction and people's naughty bits, and god-circumventing treatments for impotence and aids.. Next, you'll be trying to convince us the sun rises in the East.

Re:What'll the new excuse be? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624495)

Sorry, but treatments for impotence is not circumventing. I have seen no proposals to ban funding for Viagra.

I believe you mean those evil contraceptives that turns women into sluts.

So ... (2)

JimCanuck (2474366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623507)


Instead of "A kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of chemical high explosive", it would have made more sense, and have been more accurate if instead it was said as "A kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT" which is what the comparison measures.

Specifics and straight facts makes something news and legitimate, generalizations and omissions make it a tabloid article and misleading.

Re:So ... (1)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623645)

Author should have wrote: "A kiloton is equivalent to 4.184 gigajoules"

Re:So ... (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624029)

"Author should have wrote: "A kiloton is equivalent to 4.184 gigajoules""

Actually, a KT is equivalent to 4.184 terajoules. One ton is equivalent to 4.184 gigajoules...Wikipedia is your friend, you're welcome.

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39628229)

It would also have been better had they wrote "a kiloton is equivalent to 1,024 tons of TNT", but they didn't do that either.

just a thought (2)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623519)

as the country with the greatest number of nuclear weapons, lead by example and scrap them. Its some much needed dreaming from an American whos lived his entire life never really knowing a time when we have not had a war in some permutation.

Re:just a thought (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623555)

as the country with the greatest number of nuclear weapons, lead by example and scrap them. Its some much needed dreaming from an American whos lived his entire life never really knowing a time when we have not had a war in some permutation.

And what makes you think this period in history is any different from any other?

Re:just a thought (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623741)

lead by example and scrap them

Lead towards what... I love nukes, they make total world war unthinkable, thats why we don't do it. At the rate of one world war per generation, we're a couple behind now, so we'd have to catch up. The more nukes, the more unthinkable war becomes. The opposite, the fewer nukes, the better idea total world war appears. Given a choice of world war, or nukes, I'd prefer the nukes.

Getting rid of them dooms my son to die overseas in WWIII... or even worse, die here in WWIII. Seem like a kinda nasty thing to do to a kid, when all you have to do to prevent it, is fill a couple bunkers with nukes.

Another way to put it is you can either set off non-nuke weapons in bulk about once a generation, or you can not set off nuke weapons. The latter seems preferable.

Re:just a thought (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624755)

Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and Noble prizes thought that dynamite would end all wars because it was simply too horrific to contemplate it's use in war. Turns out people actually want to do horrible things to their percieved enemies. I lived through the cold war and I don't deny MAD has worked, but it's the diplomatic equivalent of a Mexican standoff, nobody has the faith required to lower their weapons and if one side sneezes were all fucked.

Re:just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39625113)

Lead towards what... I love nukes, they make total world war unthinkable, thats why we don't do it.

The real problem is that eventually, small groups of individuals will be capable of building/acquiring nukes. That's just the way it is - eventually, the radioactive components *will* be obtainable by individuals (either through corrupted officials or some new yet-to-be-imagined piece of tech).
The solution to the problem is - IMHO - not to try and stop technology, or to try and bury this specific tech itself, but instead to profoundly change the way people think about other peoples, and how they see the world. This will take a very long time to happen (if ever).

Re:just a thought (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625139)

At the rate of one world war per generation [...]

I would add "since we instituted the most recent central bank in the US."

Re:just a thought (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39626679)

Austria and Serbia did NOT go to war over the founding of the Federal Reserve of the United States of America. Neither did the Japanese Empire invade China, or the Third Reich remilitarize the Rhineland, take over Czechoslovakia, and invade Poland, France, Norway, and/or the USSR due to Fed policies.

Re:just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39628279)

Whilst I want to agree, these days there are two scenarios mutual assured destruction (M.A.D.) fails to address. A scenario where not all actors are sane and/or reasonable and a scenario where not all actors are known.
With nuclear technology becoming more accessible to more nations, not all political and military decision makers in these countries are sane and reasonable. Also, again, with nuclear technology becoming more accessible, the risk of non-government actors obtaining weapons grows which can lead to a situation of an attack from an unidentified hidden actor (e.g. terrorists) where nuclear retaliation is not an option.
That being said, MAD still helps when facing traditional nuclear powers but only if nuclear security is a priority.

Re:just a thought (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39628891)

Problem is everyone thinks like that, including places like Iran and North Korea. If the US didn't try to police the world and openly talk about invading these countries then perhaps the need for MAD would decrease.

Having thousands of warheads is excessive anyway. The only countries mad enough to attack you have barely one or two and no means of delivering them yet, and even they only want them as a last resort against a US attack. Obviously they are aware that they can't nuke the US off the face of the planet.

A handful of warheads is enough to keep any country safe these days.

Fly in your ointment (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629017)

The more nukes, the more unthinkable war becomes.

That theory has a single point of failure due to an even better killing machine than nukes: Religion. Who would willingly make the world burn? Those who believe they will be rewarded in the next.

Re:just a thought (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623781)

Just a note, but Russia has the largest stockpile, not the US.

Re:just a thought (3, Informative)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624197)

Russia: 4650 U.S.: 2468. Number of cities > 1Million people in the world: 302.

You can't possibly need to attack more than 20 cities with nuclear warheads in whatever the scenario. Place this number in 10 locations around the globe, and you're up to 200. That's the number you really need, max. Beyond that, it's just ridiculous.

Re:just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624839)

This assumes that your weapon will get to the target intact, fires properly, and will detonate on target without suffering a malfunction (premature detonation, poor trajectory, strikes an arctic tern on the way up, etc) - something that we cannot guarantee.

Fun fact: Most nuclear weapons are targeted to hit OTHER NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Why? What's the point of getting your fire on target first if it doesn't mean that the return strike will be fired and will annihilate you? They are targeting only some cities - the others were targeted at where the best intelligence indicates the enemy's launchers are located. This is why submarines became important as a launching platform.

Of course, this was during the cold war. I'm sure the US and Russia aren't targeting each other anymore. Sure.

Re:just a thought (3, Informative)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624873)

You don't need to attack 2500 or 4600 cities, but the premise behind the number of warheads is that you WOULD want to attack all of the enemies warheads, and vice-versa. You don't want to leave your enemy with the ability to strike back.

The goal might be to hit America's 20 largest cities, or Russia's 20 largest cities, but the fact of doing so means that the attacked country is going to be unhappy, and will fire back in anger at your 200 largest cities. So, the intiator fires weapons at their 20 largest cities, all of their strategic bomber bases, any large warships (missile subs, carriers, etc), and as many missile silos as they can to reduce the reprisal factor.

To prevent all of their offensive weapons from being wiped out, each side has at least a portion of their arsenal on a hair-trigger, capable of being launched in the 30 minute window from enemy launch to impact, to maximize the reprisal they could take. .

Re:just a thought (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39626591)

Air burst a few in the upper atmosphere, hit a big city or two. Resume life as usual while they're almost completely without power, infrastructure, and likely don't even know who the fuck hit them.

Redundancy (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39632001)

Also you have to remember that a lot of these weapon systems were not exactly reliable or pin point accuracy.

So while yes, if you get a big enough boom, and aim it at a sufficiently large city, odds are you will hit it. However a lot can go wrong between the red button, and actually detonation. It might not fire. It might not navigate to the correct place. It might not detonate. Also if either side has any missile defense it might knock it down. This is a sort of fight that you get exactly one chance. So in those instances you likely target with 2 or 3 depending on the importance of the city.

Also as mentioned, a BIG part of the plan was to disable all or most of the opposing enemies missiles. This meant targeting ships groups, installations, bases, and plenty of stuff that are much harder to hit. Some were probably designated to be just big EMP communications knock out detail. Now target several to all those things.

Then you have the subterfuge on both sides, hiding bases, fake silos, mobile launch platforms. Hey, its probably a fake installation, but it could be real, and targeting NY, are you willing to risk it? Better target them all anyway. For everyone you get you could potentially save millions.

Likely the only thing not targeted would be subs, though certainly their ports and navel bases would be. Anyway after awhile I can see how it would add up. Insane yes, but I can understand the madness.

Re:just a thought (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625341)

Number of cities > 1 Million people in the world: 302.

Bzzt. Wrong. If you consider the urban agglomeration area, as opposed to some meaningless county/administrative region line, the number of cities with more than 1 Million people is in the order of 800-1000. Assuming you want to hit every city twice, just in case of a dud, you need 2K nuclear warheads.

Re:just a thought (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625441)

But nuclear targeting isn't "lets just hit the biggest cities we can". Rather, you go after significant targets. You don't target the city; you target the railyards, power stations, dams, ports, airfields, and all the other infrastructure that make anything close to modern life possible. Dropping a bomb in the middle of a city isn't going to completely wipe it out, and will leave many of the functioning parts of a country intact

See, the idea behind a nuclear deterrent is that it will leave targeted national leaders with nothing to rule. Drop one bomb in the middle of each city, and you still have a bunch of people living everywhere else that can still recover. Wipe out every modern convenience and leave the country in the 17th century, and the Dear Leader has nothing left to lead. That's the (oversimplified) idea of a deterrent.

Re:just a thought (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625615)

I was following on the logic of the OP, not necessarily advocating a specific number of weapons or even nuclear warfare.

Dropping a bomb in the middle of a city isn't going to completely wipe it out,

[citation needed]

Re:just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39625691)

"Dropping a bomb in the middle of a city isn't going to completely wipe it out, and will leave many of the functioning parts of a country intact"

Yes, obviously. But at that point will it matter to anyone but the generals in charge of the war?

Re:just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39627591)

You can't possibly need to attack more than 20 cities with nuclear warheads in whatever the scenario. .

Nonsense. As an American, I can easily think of 20 US cities that need to be nuked. That wouldn't even cover half the state capitols, nor the secret underground FEMA complexes in Battle Creek, MI and Denton, TX. Then there are the major cities like Chicago, New York, Houston, etc. And the naval ports. And that secret underground place in Maryland where the Congressmen are supposed to be sequestered. Even acknowledging that some California cities shouldn't be hit (their survival would slow down the post-attack recovery effort), there is still a need for several hundred warheads. 20 warheads wouldn't even take out the greater Dallas area unless they were megaton+ yield devices. And then there is the problem of Detroit; do you know how many nukes you'd need to make it WORSE there?

Re:just a thought (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623889)

Leading by example implies a reason to FOLLOW the example.

Power is useful, nukes are useful, and if you have them it is illogical to renounce them unless you embrace abject submission to those who have them.

We are in peaceful times right now. The wars, such as they are, are tiny. MAD kept the peace for decades and prevented a Third World War. Just because the thought of nukes causes you anguish is not logical reason for the US to be rid of them.

Re:just a thought (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623983)

Power is useful, nukes are useful, and if you have them it is illogical to renounce them unless you embrace abject submission to those who have them.

I assume you are in favor of Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons then? It would be illogical for either country to renounce them, correct?

Re:just a thought (2)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625205)

There are at least 2 arguments for not letting Iran & North Korea get nukes.

The US has a tolerable record of not threatening, taunting, and insulting other countries. Iran and North Korea do misbehave in that manner, and their current leaders are obvious psychopaths.

It is an advantage for any country to have nuclear weapons, a disadvantage to be without. The US should want to maintain an advantage over all other countries, particularly over the vile and dangerous ones. The US should not be in the business of caring what Iran and North Korea want.

.

As a further note, consider that the behavior of Iran and particularly North Korea can hardly be considered logical, as evidenced by widespread poverty.

Re:just a thought (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39626859)

The US should not be in the business of caring what Iran and North Korea want.

Fair enough, but by the same token Iran and North Korea are not in the business of caring what the US wants. So expecting those countries to abandon their nukes just because that would make things simpler for the US is expecting too much.

As a further note, consider that the behavior of Iran and particularly North Korea can hardly be considered logical, as evidenced by widespread poverty.

Widespread poverty could be just as easily explained by the harsh economic sanctions that have been in place against both for quite a while now. I suppose you could say that the logical thing would be for those government to knuckle under and do whatever the US (et al) wants, but if the situation were reversed, would you want your country to submit to a foreign power like that? Probably not, even if it would make some economic sense to do so.

Re:just a thought (1)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 2 years ago | (#39627493)

The US has a tolerable record of not threatening, taunting, and insulting other countries.

American Exceptionalism at its finest. Go look at your history: Central and South America, the Phillipines, Cuba, Vietnam and Iraq beg to differ. And that's only the ones that suffered outright violence from US meddling.

Mart

Re:just a thought (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39627799)

The US has a tolerable record of not threatening, taunting, and insulting other countries.

Come off it... you lot just invade them on false pretences instead... and if you can't get away with it, you force loans upon them with provisos that the money be spent on things sourced from USA and paid back at rip off rates and also leverage the loans to get preferential treatment... google "confessions of an economic hitman", watch the video and marvel at just what dirty tricks are being carried out behind your backs...

Re:just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39628013)

The US has a tolerable record of not threatening, taunting, and insulting other countries. Iran and North Korea do misbehave in that manner

Iran and North Korea are peaceful countries compared to the US. The US probably kills more in a month than North Korea in a few decades years.

and their current leaders are obvious psychopaths.

This is the one thing common to every politician (and CEO) independent of culture, race, religion, etc. Psychopathy is great if you want to reach the top no matter what.

As a further note, consider that the behavior of Iran and particularly North Korea can hardly be considered logical, as evidenced by widespread poverty.

I hate to defend North Korea, I really do, but their economic situation is bad at least partly because of the sanctions. Iran isn't that poor (i.e. in no way comparable to North Korea), I'd guess (insane) religion is a more urgent problem there than poverty. The previous "Great Leader" of North Korea stayed in power his entire life, if anything whatever he did was logical (if he was irrational someone would kill him and usurp the throne, no doubt).

Oh, and I'm not sure if your post was sarcastic. If it was I blame Poe's Law, although you could have written it a bit more insane to leave no doubts.

Re:just a thought (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630337)

The US has a tolerable record of not threatening, taunting, and insulting other countries.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Re:just a thought (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623959)

The real hypocrisy here is the country with the greatest number of nuclear weapons is insisting that other countries not attempt to get any for themselves. The number one reason Iran, North Korea, etc, want nuclear weapons is to defend themselves from US. If you don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we need to divest ourselves of our own as quickly as possible.

Re:just a thought (1)

davydagger (2566757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624139)

while I agree nuclear disarment worldwide to include us, two points: 1. it is the Russians, not us that has the most nuclear weapons (we run #2), the point is almost moot because both nations have enough to nuke the world over.(both are cold war legacies). 2. Unilateral disarment does NOT solve the problem, merely leaves us vulnerable. The solution is MUTUAL disarment as negotiated via talks and treaties with all nations with nuclear weapons programs. Given before hand, there was some skeptacism that a moritorium of nuclear weapons was not PRAGMATIC, simply because we had no way to verify a signatory to a treaty would respect their end of the bargin. Now it seems the technology exists, and it should be possible to go ahead with a nuclear moratorium, provided all nations are willing to go along with it.

Re:just a thought (1)

neonv (803374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624173)

The US was and still is at war with North Korea, and has not used nuclear weapons. The US uses nuclear weapons only to deter others using nuclear weapons, as does Russia, China, Israel, etc. There's a long history to prove that. North Korea continues to use unwarranted aggression against South Korea rather than pursue peace. Not the kind of country I trust with nuclear weapons. In addition, it's led by a dictator who is worshiped like a God by his loyal citizens. Again, scary person to have nuclear arms at his disposal.

Iran has similar problems with threats to annihilate Israel and not getting along with the rest of the world.

There's good reason to prevent these countries from acquiring nuclear arms.

Re:just a thought (1)

psycho12345 (1134609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624967)

Umm... Even if the United States removed every last nuclear weapon they have, Iran and North Korea would still want nukes to protect themselves, because the United States possesses enough CONVENTIONAL firepower to level both countries.

Slashdot, you disappoint me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623521)

This is a science-oriented news site. The tagline is "News for Nerds..." Is it really necessary to explain that a kiloton is equal to 1000 tons?

Re:Slashdot, you disappoint me (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623967)

And to get it wrong to boot.

1 kiloton is not equal to 1000 tons of C4, nor is 1 kiloton equal to 1000 tons of HMX.

It's a well known definition and somehow get it wrong.

Re:Slashdot, you disappoint me (2)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625185)

1 kiloton [...] It's a well known definition and somehow get it wrong.

I blame the hard drive manufacturers.

Re:Slashdot, you disappoint me (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625651)

...and not a "kibiton"?
Yes.

The nukes have knocked out their IQ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623875)

No wonder why the test have never worked, they get the initials ALL WRONG! Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty should have the initials of CNTBT!! Thanks to these overpaid, illiterate MORONS who can't even spell check, the whole world has been looking for anything BUT nuclear!!!

Get supercomputer instead (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624437)

When the US protested France performing their last tests in the mid 90's, France's rationale was that the US had supercomputer simulations that replaced real testing and no one else had that compute power. This is no longer the case. Any reasonably advanced country can lash together enough cheap gear to build a supercomputer powerful enough to run simulations. Now - do they have the programming expertise sufficient to build models that work well? That's another question but one largely beyond the scope and concern of this issue.

mo3 up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624559)

resound as fitting 3onfirmed that *BSD 40,000 workstations world-spanning Will not work. And prospects are very All major Marketing Start a holy war At least.' Nobody rules to follow

Falcon Heavy (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39625549)

I would like to see us send missions to mars, but include a nuke. Once arriving at Mars, send the nuke to the far side and blow it. Yes, I am well aware that we are part of space treaty. However, at some point, we need to test our nukes. It is foolish to not do so.

I worked IT on the verification system... (2)

jdbuz (962721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39626135)

As an IT professional, I worked on the verification system for the Prototype International Data Centre during 1999 when the Senate Republicans (and Clinton) rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty on the grounds that it wasn't verifiable. I was also working there in 1998 when within 15 minutes of it happening my pager went off when Pakistan and then India did their tests (thank goodness it wasn't data corruption!). While I'm no PhD and pretty much everyone else was (international group represented by all nations involved with the treaty - and a heck of a Wednesday night soccer practice) they know. Squiggly line slowly getting big: earthquake; flat line suddenly turning squiggly: bomb. Really smart people double check by hand before raising flags just as if you subscribe to USGS earthquake warnings (was that really a 4.2 at 2012-Apr-09 21:37:09 in Gulf of California?). They know pretty well what, how much, when and where. It's "just" physics and it's based on the sensitively of the monitoring instruments. And it turns out that the instruments are really sensitive and it takes incredibly advanced technology to make an under 1 kiloton bomb. It won't be a country's first test. Point is we should lead the way in signing this. Cold war mentality is to monitor Russia. If that's not our goal, if our real goal is the "non proliferation" of nuclear bombs then those seeking to acquire the technology must test (sound familiar?) and testing below current detectable levels means they already have the technology and have already tested it on a larger scale. Ban everyone from testing the big stuff and you'll make the small stuff much harder to come by. Politics - not science - is why unfortunately the US has not yet signed this treaty.

Re:I worked IT on the verification system... (1)

Ceallach (24667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633839)

I worked at AFTAC in the 80's, and they've been able monitor this stuff since the 70's.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Force_Technical_Applications_Center

Biggest threat to world security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39626635)

Is the U.S. they seem to be destroying Mutually Assured Destruction.
  Their financial woes are being taken out on the world in what can only be called imperialism (petrodollar, intellectual property extradition, internet surveillance).
  They have no real moral code anymore since they won't honour their constitution, the rights of their own states, international treaties, habeus corpus, commitments to the U.N., NATO, or UNESCO.
  They are showing that despite a desperate economy they will continue to invest in the military industrial complex to the last cent (memories of Hitler's oil for death trains).
  They are deploying weapons that you would imagine finding on dead or fascist worlds; robots, drones, top down no questions asked intelligence and military procedures.
 
  Please, someone, save us from all this "freedom", I'm coming to hate it.

India (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39627819)

India has not signed the CTBT. The opinion here is that we need to keep our options open. And if the need to test arises, we will. And we will test openly because a nuclear test can be detected anyway (I don't know about sub kiloton nukes). So the point of all this detection technology is moot.

Hmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39627893)

So the new tech. is able to detect an earthquake eh?
MUST ME THEM DAMN COMMIE'S!!!

Pshh (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39628997)

Useless. Everyone knows Iran has now stuffed their entire bedrock full of styrofoam packing peanuts.

Treaty is not needed (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630229)

and unduly constrains the US (and others) in the future. How many tests have there been since the late1990s? Other than NK nothing since the tit for tat Pakistan/India tests in 1998. That was... hmm.. 13+ years ago?

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