RE: metaTHAAD was: Son of Star Wars

Billy Brown (
Fri, 15 Oct 1999 16:51:32 -0500

O'Regan, Emlyn wrote:
> What I don't understand is why anyone bothers with delivery
> systems for nukes anymore.

Because no one wants to spend billions of dollars to commit suicide?

> Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to just assemble massive arsenals of bombs
> which are exploded in-situ? After all, once you blow up enough of them,
> whole world is stuffed, including your would-be agressor. In a decent
> nuclear war, the effect would be exactly as devestating to all parties as
> you had dropped the bombs on your opponent.

<WARNING! WARNING! Hollywood meme detected...> :-)

With currently existing weapons this is not true at all. The actual kill zone for a nuclear device of normal size (i.e. 50KT - 1 MT) is actually fairly small, compared to the scale of a continent. Fallout will certainly kill a lot of people, but the worst effects are still relatively localized. If America set off its entire existing arsanel right where it now sits the net result would be a few million dead Americans, greatly elevated cancer rates in North America for several decades, and modestly elevated cancer rates over large portions of the northern hemisphere for a few years.

Of course, we could build much bigger (and dirtier) bombs if we wanted to, but it doesn't really make sense to do so. An arsanel capable of wiping us out would be pretty much useless for anything else, and it would be expensive enough to be beyond the reach of a lone madman (even if he happens to be a Third-World dictator).

Mind you, this is just the situation today. A single planet doesn't give you much breathing space when you start looking at the kinds of weapons that will be feasible in the early nanotech age (or even just before then). If Eli's AI scheme doesn't work out, it is going to be a real race to get ourselves off this rock before it becomes impossible for two hostile factions to survive on it. But that's a different (and rather long) topic...

Billy Brown, MCSE+I