The Three Main Goals for Preventing Nuclear Disaster, with Eric Schlosser

Author Eric Schlosser discusses what he's learned after writing, publishing, and touring for his book on the illusion of safety associated with nuclear weapons.

Eric Schlosser:  You know, I spent six years researching and writing this book on nuclear weapons and now I’ve spent almost a year talking about the book, going to international meetings, meeting with government officials about these issues and it has not left me feeling apocalyptic. I don’t feel doomed. I don’t feel depressed. I’m not medicated, but here’s what it’s left me feeling. Deeply concerned. I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about a nuclear disaster, about a nuclear catastrophe, but it’s absolutely urgent that we be aware of these risks and then we take, you know, basic steps to reduce the danger. And that’s one of the reasons that I wrote the book. That’s one of the reasons I’m still speaking about it a year later. And if I felt that we were doomed and I felt that there was nothing that could be done about this problem, there are a lot more entertaining things that I could be doing with my time.

So there are very simple things that we need to push for that will greatly reduce the risk — as long as these nuclear weapons exist in the world fully assembled, they’re going to present the danger of mass murder. It’s just that simple.  But what we can do is reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. That’s hugely important. We can prevent other countries from getting nuclear weapons and the last step is we need to lock up all the bomb-grade uranium and plutonium in the world to prevent terrorists from getting a hold of it, stealing it, and making nuclear weapons. President Obama has spoken of a vision of a world without nuclear weapons, abolishing nuclear weapons and I support that as well. It was the policy of Ronald Reagan, President Kennedy, all the way back to President Truman. So someday I hope that will happen but before that day comes we really, really need a public debate and discussion on these issues and we need to do everything we can in taking concrete steps to reduce this danger.

There’s a natural kind of instinct to just get into bed, pull the sheets over the head, and not deal with this or dig a bunker and, you know, install high-speed internet, and protect yourself from it. But there’s all kinds of ways that ordinary people can get engaged in this issue, get active on this issue, and make change. The two greatest dangers that we face in this country, existential dangers, are climate change and nuclear weapons. And the thing about climate change is, you know, maybe it can be reversed. Maybe the harms can be, you know, reduced. But the detonation of a nuclear weapon is going to be instantaneous and it’s going to be irreversible. And so that’s something that I think we really need to be focusing on as well as climate change.


Author Eric Schlosser discusses what he's learned after writing, publishing, and touring for his book Command and Control, which outlines the many inherent risks associated with nuclear weapons. There is an illusion of safety, says Schlosser, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're doomed. What's most important is that we focus on three main goals. First, reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Second, prevent new governments from obtaining nuclear weapons. Third, lock away all the bomb-grade plutonium and uranium in the world to keep it out of terrorists' hands.

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First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

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Image source: European Space Agency

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Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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