Final Paper: Nuclear Weapons Leading to Apocalypse

After gaining insight from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and hearing recent class discussions, I was intrigued to research more about Nuclear weapons and their potential to leading to human apocalypse. I have come up with the thesis that nuclear weapons are a technology of high power and have a strong potential in today’s society and have a likely potential to lead to the downfall of human civilization. Through analysis of the history of the making of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons in today’s society, the impact of such weaponry, and the relation to class sources, I will explore how nuclear weapons could lead to an apocalyptic event in the future.

According to Oxford Dictionary, a nuclear weapon is defined as a bomb or missile that uses nuclear energy to cause an explosion. Nuclear weapons made their impact on society starting in the early 1940s. The United States turned a page in technology in 1942 with the beginnings of the invention of Nuclear Weaponry. August of 1942 was the start of the Manhattan Project in the US employed 130,000 individuals and spent billions of dollars creating the first nuclear weapon. This development would soon be used in July and August of 1945 when the US tested and implemented their Atomic Bomb. Equivalent to over 20,000 tons of TNT, the United States shook the world physically and mentally with their bold move of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When considering the technology behind nuclear weapons, it’s important to explore the science behind it. According to Arms Control Association, “The first design of a nuclear weapon in the United States was a gun-barrel assembly, in which two sub-critical masses of very highly enriched uranium (HEU), were brought together by normal artillery propellant in a short gun barrel into a single over-critical configuration.” The world had to start somewhere in the creation of such a powerful weapon that it makes sense that they used a set up similar to weapons popular at the time, guns. The advancements in the technology moved rapidly and according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Most nuclear weapons today are two-stage thermonuclear weapons that derive their explosive energy from the combined power of nuclear fission and fusion. An initial fission reaction generates the high temperatures needed to trigger a secondary—and much more powerful—fusion reaction.” This starts to show how advanced the technology has become and all of the small details that goes in to such a large piece of machinery. Since the start of construction of nuclear weapons, there have been over 67,500 nuclear missiles built and over 4,680 nuclear bombers built all over the world. Nuclear weapons not only pose a threat of immediate explosion and wide-spread radiation, but there are also many secondary effects such as the contamination of all food and water supply, the pollution of air, and the destruction of power grids. This is not to mention the threat of a nuclear winter, a period of abnormal cold and darkness predicted to follow a nuclear war, caused by a layer of smoke and dust in the atmosphere blocking the sun’s rays. An article from Mother Nature Network states, “In 2007, scientists Brian Toon and Alan Robock concluded that if India and Pakistan were to launch 50 nuclear weapons at each other, the entire planet could experience 10 years of smoke clouds and a three-year temperature drop” (11 ways).
The reactions to this bold and hazardous weapon were dependent on the nation. In 1946, the UN attempted to create an anti-nuclear weapon act banning the use of such weapons. Their plan failed as the Soviet Union became the second nation to successfully create and test a nuclear device in August of 1949. As of 2014, a total of 9 countries are armed with nuclear weapons that can be launched within a minutes notice. Since the creation of the first atomic bomb, nuclear warfare has only been used as a form of attack twice in our world history. This was the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Although not used in harm, there have been over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted as more and more countries began to create their own weapons. . If we base numbers off of the amount of deaths caused from the bombing on Hiroshima, the United States alone has built enough nuclear warheads to kill 25,000,000,000 people between initial, immediate deaths and the effects of radiation. This makes nuclear weapons the most powerful and detrimental technology there is.

Nuclear weapons were viewed as a large threat in 1962 during the Cubin Missile Crisis. In October of 1963, it was brought to President John F. Kennedy’s attention that the US had obtained aerial footage of what seemed to b e a nuclear plant in Cuba. This lead to nuclear weapons being the largest threat of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Professor Ernest May writes an atrial about John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis and states, “Dwight Eisenhower (Kennedy’s successor), had calculated in 1960 that, if a crisis led either side to fire nuclear weapons, all humans in the northern hemisphere could perish. ‘Gravest issues’ indeed.”

Such rapid production of mass killing devices is a topic easily related to recent discussions and readings of Crisis and Apocalyptic events we’ve experienced in class.

Nuclear weaponry can relate to our reading of Oreskes’ “Collapse of Western Civilization” when stated, “In the prehistory of “civilization,” many societies rose and fell…” Although differing in the main topic, this reading can strongly relate to the effect nuclear weapons had on civilizations and society as a whole. This reading goes on to refer to actions being predictable and accurate which was very untrue of the consequences of nuclear weaponry in its beginning stages. When first brought about, nuclear weapons were seemingly unpredictable and risky. At the turn of the century, society is able to much more accurately predict what the consequences of nuclear weapons would be based on past experience. The world can assume the destruction brought about by such intense weaponry and can envision the world at its collapse with such technology, but no man can fully foresee what the world would look like amidst such chaos. After our discussion in class, it was brought to my mind about apocalyptic events and how the production and use of nuclear weapons could, in fact, lead to a self-induced apocalypse. The world has become a dangerous place with power put into the hands of people who are thought to be trusted. No matter what level of trust we have in those superior to us, there is always room for conflict. Today’s world is a dangerous place and seems to never have peace. I truly believe that World War III will happen within the next 100 years and that very little will survive of it. I also believe that World War IV will be fought the way original battles were hundreds of years ago and our world will begin anew. I truly do believe that the real ending to the world as we know it will be when Jesus comes to rescue all that is left of the world but I plan on further exploring how nuclear weapons could bring about an apocalypse of their own.

Early in the semester we read An Archive of Feelings by Ann Cvetkovich. This book describes the struggles and trauma of women as an archive. Oxford Dictionary defines an archive as a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people. If we analyze nuclear weapons as an archive, we can see more about their history and the effect they have on society. Nuclear weapons were created practically incidentally when splitting the smallest of subatomic particles and developed into a world-wide phenomenon of both safety and danger. In further analysis of this archive, we can see the potential ending, that being, an apocalypse. This potential for destruction is similar to the trauma being experience in Cvetkovich’s, “An Archive of Feelings.”

Apocalypse Never is a book written by Tad Daley that describes the reasoning behind why nuclear weapons should be abolished or our world will perish. Valerie Plame Wilson of firdoglake.com states, “Apocalypse Never is a frightening book to read but impossible to put down. In clear, accessible prose, Tad Daley unblinkingly lays out the case, point by point, for why we must ultimately rid the world of nuclear weapons or else suffer the inevitable consequences of the end of civilization as we know it. Daley then takes on the task of showing how this seemingly Herculean task can be accomplished, even within our lifetimes. It is compelling and accurate in its assessments and one of the absolute best out there on why we simply cannot continue along the way it has been.”

The topic of nuclear weapons is one that seems very “hush hush” and is not confronted head on as it should be. Many people know the possibility of their use exits but are too naïve to believe it will ever happen. Since there are not bombs being launched left and right, it seems as though it will never actually happen in our lifetime. On March 15, 2015, it was released in articles from The Independent (UK News) that Vladimir Putin of Russia was prepared to release nuclear missiles on the United States of America saying, “They (USA) helped training the nationalists, their armed groups, in Western Ukraine, in Poland and to some extent in Lithuania. They facilitated the armed coup” when speaking on the annexation of the Black Sea and Ukraine Crisis (Vladimir Putin).

Our world has become a very advanced and powerful place to live and it is not crazy to believe that one small instance could put civilization up in flames, literally and figuratively.

Works Cited

“Apocalypse Never – Rutgers University Press.” Apocalypse Never – Rutgers University Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Arms Control Today.” The Technology of Nuclear Weapons. N.p., 1 Nov. 1997. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

May, Ernest R. “John F Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

“Nuclear Weapons: How They Work (2010).” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

“Nuclear Weapons Timeline.” ICAN. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

“Vladimir Putin Says Russia Was Preparing to Use Nuclear Weapons ‘if Necessary’ and Blames US for Ukraine Crisis.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 15 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“11 Ways the World Could End: Nuclear War.” MNN. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

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