Friday, February 25, 2011

Teller Ede, Big Science and Operation Chariot

One of my favorite axioms is the one about the hammer and the nail: if your only tool is a hammer then you will tend to perceive every problem as if it were a nail. This is why our congress that is mainly made up of lawyers, think they can solve all our problems by passing laws. Legislation is their hammer. So if you were a nuclear scientist and one of the creators of the hydrogen bomb, the H Bomb could be your hammer and you might have this crazy idea to drop it on Alaska to solve our energy crisis!

It is one of the craziest ideas I have ever heard. Teller Ede (called Edward Teller by some) wanted to drop an H bomb in the north-west coast of Alaska, about of mile off shore of the village of Point Hope, to open up a harbor for the drilling of oil and mining. He was one of the scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project and the H Bomb. In the late 1950's he was a member of Operation Plowshares which was a US government project to try to find new ways to use nuclear energy to solve everyday problems, peaceful uses for nuclear explosions. Under its umbrella, Operation Chariot was formed. It gained support quickly by attracting Alaskan politicians, university presidents, newspaper editors and church groups. All of them were obviously extremely ignorant of the nuclear fallout that such a blast would cause. The opposition to this madness started from a small group of natives, the Iñupiaq people, who gained traction when they got the attention of such national groups as the Sierra Club.

Ede was also a huge advocate of another whacky idea: SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). He is so notorious that he is one of the people that inspired the Dr. Strangelove from the film of the same name.

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