Letter To The Editor: Strip ’Em To Their Skivvies And Light One Off!

Los Alamos

Back in the 1970’s, Harold Agnew,* third director of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL), presented a Director’s Colloquium to explain his congressional testimony regarding a proposed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). He feared the world’s leaders would soon forget the destructive power of nuclear weapons, so he proposed the following:

“Every five or so years, gather the world’s leaders on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, ‘strip ’em to their skivvies,’ and ‘Light one off!’ First they’d be blinded 10 or more seconds by the light, then it would get warm, then it would get hot, and just when they think it could get no hotter, the pressure wave would hit and knock them 10 meters on their asses. ‘Then maybe they’d think twice about using a nuclear weapon.’”

Given Tuesday’s Times and New Mexican stories about a European Nuclear Deterrent and President Trump’s talk of enlarging the US nuclear arsenal and encouraging states like Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons (they are both well able to do so); maybe it is time to do something like Agnew suggested. At the very least, I think we should do this demonstration for Trump.

Harold Agnew was not only the Director of LASL, he was with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago when they established the first nuclear chain reaction, and he flew on one of the B-29s that followed the Enola Gay that dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. He understood the power of nuclear weapons from personal experience.