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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Special 70th Anniversary Issue: Future Threats

November 3, 2015

CHICAGO – As editor John Mecklin writes in his introduction to this 70th anniversary issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ subscription journal, “The first issue of the Bulletin was a slim volume that displayed less than state-of-the-art production values, even for 1945; it was more newsletter than magazine or journal. But from its inception 70 years ago, what was initially known as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago aimed high. The lead article in that first issue used the fourth anniversary of Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor as a starting point to argue not for continued military preparedness, but for internationalization of the control of nuclear weapons.”

Seventy years on, Mecklin has commissioned some of today's top public intellectuals to survey the existential dangers before us in the near, and not-so-near, future. Like the best Bulletin writing over the last seven decades, these deeply-researched, innovative, and finely crafted essays challenge the world to take control of humanity’s most dangerous technology, and in honor of that first newsletter of 1945, this anniversary issue of our subscription journal is free-to-access.

With “Why the Manhattan Project should be preserved,” Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Rhodes finds reason to believe that the horrific achievement of the Manhattan Project 70 years ago may have set the stage for a permanent end to major warfare—and, over time, a reduction in the incidence of war of all kinds.

Eric Schlosser—author of the acclaimed, best-selling, and terrifying book about nuclear weapons accidents, Command and Control­—scans the current nuclear landscape and finds it “full of dangers,” even though public is largely unaware of or complacent about the nuclear dilemma.

Robert Socolow, co-director of Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative, examines three pressing climate change issues along 500-year and 50-year time frames: sea level rise, the nuclear power “solution,” and an abundance of fossil fuel, some of which must not be used. As he does so, Socolow also describes a new field of research, Destiny Studies, that would focus on long-term problems and help humanity think coherently about ways to muddle through complex challenges as it recognizes that any proposed solution can have "a dark side that makes it dangerous."

Gigi Kwik Gronvall, a top biosecurity expert affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, examines biosecurity over the next decade, as biotechnology becomes a globally important economic force, and as individuals become increasingly able to harness the biological sciences to their own ends.

Brad Allenby, founding chair of the Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security at Arizona State University, analyzes the potential threats posed by a range of emerging technologies—nanotechnology, biotechnology, information and communication technology, robotics, applied cognitive science, and what he calls “humtech,” or the design and engineering of humans themselves.

This anniversary issue concludes with interviews of two leading advocates—former Energy Department official Joe Romm and Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy—on a core interest of the Bulletin: the role of nuclear power in dealing with climate change. That they disagree on that role is perhaps less noteworthy than why they disagree, and how they think the effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions around the world ought best be pursued.

In the Nuclear notebook Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris examine Pakistani nuclear forces in 2015 and estimate that by 2025 Pakistan could be the 5th largest nuclear weapon state in the world.

With this final issue of 2015, the Bulletin looks forward from its first seven decades of publishing to address a future that will include not just the expanding threat of thermonuclear catastrophe, but also an array of other global dangers, including climate change and the potential misuse of advances in synthetic biology, information technology, and artificial intelligence. In reading this startling collection of articles by some of the world’s most renowned researchers, one understands why the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board opted to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward last January. But one also comes away with a sense of hope, and a realization that the future is truly in our hands, should we choose to grab hold.

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, engages science leaders, policy makers, and the interested public on topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, the changing energy landscape, climate change, and emerging technologies. We do this through our award-winning journal, iconic Doomsday Clock, public access website, and regular set of convenings.  With smart, vigorous prose, multimedia presentations, and information graphics, the Bulletin puts issues and events into context and provides fact-based debates and assessments. For 70 years, the Bulletin has bridged the technology divide between scientific research, foreign policy, and public engagement.

SAGE Founded 50 years ago by Sara Miller McCune to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community, SAGE publishes more than 850 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. A growing selection of library products includes archives, data and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. www.sagepub.com

Bulletin Media Contact: Janice Sinclaire, jsinclaire@thebulletin.org

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