Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Science and Secrecy - III

More about the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and its limitations. The bottom line seems to be that nobody really thought out beforehand how something like this might unfold.

Reinforcing what I said about nuclear weapons secrecy actually keeping information out of the hands of those who would use it badly (that includes both terrorists and semi-competent amateurs playing at WMD), Alex Wellerstein examines The Nth Country Experiment. The Livermore Laboratory employed a couple of recent Ph.D.s and told them to design a bomb from open-source materials. His conclusion, through a heavily-redacted version of the report, is that there's some question as to the potential effectiveness of the design they came up with.

That was in 1967, long before the internet. I see the claim frequently that "all the information is out there," but I have my doubts about that. And, as Wellerstein points out, the design is only the first step.
I won’t even bother pointing out that “designing” an atomic bomb on paper is, of course, nothing doing compared to actually producing the fissile material, casting explosives, fabricating the right shapes of things, assembling the whole device, all the while not killing yourself in the process. Headlines aside, these guys did not build an atomic bomb in any sense of the term “build,” which I think most thoughtful nuclear observers realize.
Much of that information is classified too.

1 comment:

Joffan said...

The advent of the internet, while making information easier to accumulate, does nothing to guarantee the accuracy of that information. It is now possible to believe way more than the White Queen's "six impossible things before breakfast". And it would not take many of those misconceptions - perhaps only one - before any bomb using that misinformation was useless.