Who Speaks For Science?

Neil deGrasse Tyson has been taking some lumps lately. He is the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium and comments on science in various media. A couple of months ago, he ventured into biology unsuccessfully. Now he’s said that the universe may be a simulation created by other beings and has been getting pushback. Read More

Plutonium Disposal Difficulties

Back in the 1990s, when the United States and Russia were both drawing down their numbers of nuclear weapons, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed, in a burst of mutual good will, to make 34 tons each of plutonium from those weapons unusable for that purpose. I was among those working hard on how to do that: the ARIES Project at Los Alamos was designing a plant for plutonium weapons pits in, canned plutonium out, with facilities for IAEA inspections. Read More

Coverage of Nuclear Security Summit presents confusing message

On 31 March President Obama convened in Washington, DC, the fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit of his presidency. The goal of the summits has been to secure nuclear materials against diversion and unauthorized use. And indeed, the summits have encouraged countries to make significant progress toward that goal. Why, then, do so many reports on this summit emphasize the fear of nuclear terrorism rather than the steps that are being taken to prevent it? Read More

Links – April 16, 2016

My op-ed in Physics Today on the use of fear in discussions of nuclear terrorism. It appears that a number of other people are seeing that hyping the fear factor isn’t the best way to discuss these issues: Elisabeth Eaves in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Al Mauroni in War on the Rocks, and a group educating journalists on nuclear matters. Also some good sense on how to protect nuclear plants from terrorists. Photo from the Physics Today article. Read More

Links – April 12, 2016

Russia’s economy depends on oil, and the oil price has plummeted over the past year. Then there are the sanctions that Europe and the United States have laid on Russia, and Russia’s countersanctions. Even the military is seeing cuts, although Vladimir Putin seems determined to forge ahead. Here are some graphs from the New York Times on the Russian economy. Sam Greene explains why those charts are not the last word. How Russians are coping. (Image from RTE News) Read More