THE ATOM: The Road Beyond Elugelab

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One night, under considerable strain from waiting for news, Teller and his laboratory manager Herb York popped into Livermore's Golden Rule Creamery for dinner. On the counter Teller noticed an automatic fortunetelling machine bearing a sign: "SWAMI. Ask me a question." Jokingly, he scribbled on a piece of paper: "Do we really understand what we are trying to do?" Back popped the answer: "There seems to be a trend of doubt." Teller tried again: "Will Ivy be a success?" The answer: "Why do you ask? Of course."

Even Score. Ivy was a success, as every TV viewer could plainly see last week. Beneath a lethal fireball 3¼ miles in diameter, the "shot" island, Elugelab, was transmuted into an ocean hole 175 ft. deep. But Ivy was a cumbersome, complicated test device that no airplane could carry.

On Aug. 12, 1953, the U.S. monitoring system picked up evidence of a Russian thermonuclear explosion that, if the educated guessers are right, was from a device far less complex, far more economical and far more "transportable" than Ivy's. Then, last month, came the U.S. explosion that Strauss described as being twice the estimated size. It became famous prematurely because an unexpected wind shift showered a Japanese fishing boat with radioactive ash. But the March 1 explosion (and the one that followed on March 26) had even more serious implications: in the global game of the scientists, where scores are read in terms of seismographic reports and air samplings, it notified the Russians that the score was more than even. The U.S. deterrent power against Communist aggression had not been shattered.

The Next Questions. This was the road by which the U.S. came to Elugelab. But what of the road ahead?

Is the H-bomb a morally permissible weapon? What of the possibilities of its control by international law? What does it do to the strategic concepts that have guided the U.S. and its allies? Does it require a new appraisal of defense policy? How does it affect the U.S. political and economic objectives in the world?

All of these questions had presented themselves to top officials of the U.S. when first the H-bomb became a reality. Now they have been thrown into public debate to be reviewed and, if possible, settled.

Each level at which the H-bomb raises a question seems to slope downward to the next level, descending from some of the broadest and oldest questions of ethics and theology to some of the most specific problems of practical politics and economics.

The Moral Level. Ironically, some of the loudest cries that the H-bomb should be abandoned on moral grounds, that even experiments with it should be stopped, came from those groups most affected by the rationalist or scientific—as distinguished from the traditional and religious—viewpoint. The basis of modern rationalist morality is largely statistical (see Dr. Kinsey), and the difference between the effect of the H-bomb and other weapons is also statistical, quantitative.

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