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How Risky is a Nuclear Doomsday Machine?

In efforts to improve our national security, how risky is it to build a nuclear arsenal that, if used, has the ability to destroy civilization? That is the fundamental question raised in my paper “How risky is nuclear optimism?” in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. While nuclear deterrence is not usually referred to as a Doomsday Machine, its other name, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), brings out its similarity to the Doomsday Machine in Stanley Kubrik’s 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove. As seen in the following excerpt from the script, the Soviets are portrayed as having created such a device to make their nuclear deterrent totally credible: Continue reading

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