INT 184 – PL Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar – Weapons of Mass Destruction – Spring 2013

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Professor: Philip Lubin

Office 2015C Broida


Classes: Th 5-7 PM in Broida 3302

Class Gmail account:

User: ucsb.physicswmd

Pass: @phys…

Synopsis: This is an interdisciplinary course that is designed to explore the science and policy of nuclear weapons. This course is not designed to be a science course but rather we will explore multiple aspects of weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear doctrine upon which our policies of deterrent are based. This course is open to honors majors with a goal of bringing together students from various background in the humanities and the sciences.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Science and Policy

Like it or not the world is filled with weapons of vastly increased destructive potential than could have been imagined even 70 years ago. For example, the total amount of Allied bombs dropped during all of WW II was about 3 MT (megatons TNT) or the equivalent of one medium sized thermonuclear device. To put this in perspective, at the height of the Cold War, the world’s nuclear arsenal was about 10,000 times larger than the total used in WW-II and most of it could be deployed in a matter of hours or less. These weapons dominate much of the geopolitical landscape of the world. In this seminar we will discuss and explore the scientific issues behind these weapons and the role of policy (or lack thereof) in preventing them from being used in anger. Being ignorant of these devices, how they work and how we make policies in light of their existence is not in the best interests of a peaceful world. At the moment they both threaten stability and enable an unstable stability. In the long term these same devices and the science behind them may enable us to explore other stars, protect ourselves from threats such as Earth crossing asteroids or pursue inertial confinement fusion but at the moment they are a threat worth understanding. Ignorance may be bliss but the consequences are too great to ignore.


If we fight a war and win it with H-bombs, what history will remember is not
the ideals we were fighting for but the methods we used to accomplish them.
These methods will be compared to the warfare of Genghis Khan who ruthlessly
killed every last inhabitant of Persia.  Hans A. Bethe

…And these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them.  H. G. Wells, The World Set Free, 1914


Reading List:

The Making of the atomic Bomb

Dark Sun

The Manhattan Project

The Los Alamos Primer  (Serber)

The Los Alamos primer: the first lectures on how to build an atomic bomb – Serber, Robert edited with an introduction by Richard Rhodes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. ISBN 0-520-07576-5

Nuclear Matter Handbook

Trinity Atomic Website – excellent

Smyth Report and Military Uses of Atomic Energy 1945

Physics Hypertextbook – Nuclear Weapons

Global Security site – Weapons Design History and Issues

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons – 1977 3rd edition

Effects of Nuclear Weapons – 1977 -3rd edition – complete

History of the Manhattan Project and Beyond Trinity

Spies and Espionage

Introductory Nuclear Physics

Megawatts and Megatons

American Promethius: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

On Thermonuclear War

US Nuclear Weapons – The Secret History – Hansen

The Nuclear Matters Handbook (excellent)

Detailed Weapon Designs issues

Properties of Plutonium

Plutonium in use – LANL – 00818005

Chemical Complexities of Plutonium – LANL – 00818038

Arsenals of Folly

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons

Handbook of Nuclear Weapon Effects: Calculation Tools Abstracted from DSWA’s Effects Manual One

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons  (1977 edition)   (1977 circular slide rule)

Why They Kill

The Plutonium Files

Undue Risk

Secret State Experiments on Humans

US Nuclear Weapons Policy

The Progressive Case – The United States of America vs The Progressive – Howard Morland

Country by Country Breakdown of Nuclear Capability and Delivery Systems

List of Nuclear Weapons Tests

EMP – Electromagnetic Pulse

Radiological Effects

Missile Defense Systems


The Manhattan Project – History Channel

Oppenheimer – Now I have become Death

Trinity and Beyond – The Atomic Bomb Movie

The Day After Trinity

White Light Black Rain – The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

America Atomic Bomb Tests

Day One


Yield Estimates and Taylor Smitov singularity solution

Ted Taylor

Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator

NUKEMAP interactive calculator (excellent – with Google Maps)

Nuclear testing Calendar

Nuclear Weapons Archive (excellent)

Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator

Nuclear Bomb Effects Calculator – The Effects of Nuclear Weapons

HYDESim – Effect simulator

Online Calculators – PhP for many systems (laser damage calculator)

Effects of Nuclear Explosions (overview of issues)

Global Security – WMD calculator

Nuclear Effects – Android Phone

Nuclear Above Ground Testing Films

Time Lapse of All Above Ground Nuclear Detonations

Misc Nuclear Explosion Films (Trinity)

Tsar Bomba Shot ?

Tsar Bomba Shot

Tsar Bomba Shot

Castle Bravo Shot

Castle Bravo Shot

Grable Shot

Civil Defense Films

Nevada test site