By Kim McDonald
Thirteen of the nation’s most prominent physicists have written a letter to President Bush, calling
The physicists include five Nobel laureates, a recipient of the National Medal of Science and three past presidents of the American Physical Society, the nation’s preeminent professional society for physicists.
Their letter was prompted by recent
articles in the
The letter was initiated by Jorge
Hirsch, a professor of physics at the
“We are members of the profession that brought nuclear weapons into existence, and we feel strongly that it is our professional duty to contribute our efforts to prevent their misuse,” says Hirsch. "Physicists know best about the devastating effects of the weapons they created, and these eminent physicists speak for thousands of our colleagues.”
“The fact that the existence of this
plan has not been denied by the Administration should be a cause of great alarm,
even if it is only one of several plans being considered,” he adds. “The public
should join these eminent scientists in demanding that the Administration
publicly renounces such a misbegotten option against a non-nuclear country like
The letter, which is available at http://physics.ucsd.edu/petition/physicistsletter.html, points out that “nuclear weapons are unique among weapons of mass destruction,” and that nuclear weapons in today's arsenals have a total power of more than 200,000 times the explosive energy of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima, which caused the deaths of more than 100,000 people.
It notes that there are no sharp
lines between small and large nuclear weapons, nor between nuclear weapons
targeting facilities and those targeting armies or cities, and that the use by
The letter echoes the main objection
of last fall’s physicists’ petition, stressing that the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty will be irreversibly damaged by the use or even the
threat of use of nuclear weapons by a nuclear nation against a non-nuclear one,
with disastrous consequences for the security of the
“It is gravely irresponsible for the
The 13 physicists who coauthored the letter are: Philip Anderson, professor of physics at Princeton University and Nobel Laureate in Physics; Michael Fisher, professor of physics at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland and Wolf Laureate in Physics; David Gross, professor of theoretical physics and director of the Kavli Institute of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Nobel Laureate in Physics; Jorge Hirsch, professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego; Leo Kadanoff, professor of physics and mathematics at the University of Chicago and recipient of the National Medal of Science; Joel Lebowitz, professor of mathematics and physics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and Boltzmann Medalist; Anthony Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Nobel Laureate, Physics; Eugen Merzbacher, professor of physics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former president, American Physical Society; Douglas Osheroff, professor of physics and applied physics, Stanford University and Nobel Laureate, Physics; Andrew Sessler, former director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and former president, American Physical Society; George Trilling, professor of physics, University of California, Berkeley, and former president, American Physical Society; Frank Wilczek, professor of physics, MIT and Nobel Laureate, Physics; Edward Witten, professor of physics, Institute for Advanced Study and Fields Medalist.
The physicists are sending copies of their letter to their elected representatives, requesting that the issue be urgently addressed in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
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