THE ATOM: Soul-Searching Question

On the strength of results of a single 1957 test, President Eisenhower's Science Advisory Committee estimated that underground atomic blasts down to five kilotons could be fully detected by seismic inspection stations. On the basis of the five-kiloton report, the U.S. settled down with the Russians at Geneva to try to negotiate a stop-tests agreement with an inspection and detection system—but fully aware that the chances of detection were slim below the five-kiloton underground threshold.

But even as the negotiators were talking, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was totting up results of...

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