Saturday, November 29, 2014

Obscene Geometry: The Hard Facts about Death and Injury from Nuclear Weapons

Cuisenaire Rods
One of my sisters was an elementary school teacher.

And so I, as a much younger brother, was the beneficiary of many of the educational materials and aids, books and objects, that came to fill her house over time.

I wonder if you, too, have memories of little colored blocks in bright colors that were made of very nice wood and were cut to precise sizes so that they nestled together perfectly? Perhaps you, yourself, used "cuisenaire rods" at some time in school; or perhaps your children (or grandchildren) have . . . .

It has been decades since I thought about cuisenaire rods -- or rather, "those little blocks," as I always called them before I looked into them for this blog post. I was prodded into thinking about cuisenaire rods -- and about how they help to visualize mathematical and geometric relationships -- by research I was doing for #NoNukesTuesday.

Just two weeks from now, people will gather in Vienna for the 3rd Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, and so I wanted to prepare some materials to encourage people to follow it virtually. I went to the website of the 2nd conference, held just a short time ago in Nayarit, Mexico (February 13-14, 2014), and began to review the documents there.

I had already been somewhat familiar with one recent document on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons: the PAX document "What if a nuclear bomb exploded in Rotterdam?" Now I saw a document from Mexican government posing the same question with respect to Mexico City: "Nuclear Blast in Mexico City" (Coordinaciòn Nacional de Protecciòn Civil de Mèxico), based on the estimated consequences of the detonation of a 50 megaton nuclear bomb. I looked at page after page ... an inner radius with lethal 200 psi air blast and 5000 rem radiation  affecting ~1 million people ... with a wider 6 km radius fireball affecting ~1.7 million people ... surrounded by an even wider (11 km) 10 psi air blast radius which could be expected to be fatal to nearly all ~7 million people affected, because of the blizzard of disintegrating structures ... 51 km radius of third degree burns (nearly 20 million people) ... and on and on.

Detonation simulation of nuclear bomb 50MT at Mexico City
"At 10 psi over pressure, heavily built concrete buildings are
severely damaged or demolished; fatalities approach 100%."
(Coordinaciòn Nacional de Protecciòn Civil de Mèxico)

Thoughts rushed through my mind: it had never occurred to me that Mexico has to worry about detonation of a nuclear weapon ... isn't that limited to countries like -- ?  But then, of course, I realized that no one is "off limits." I noted in the document from Mexico that Mexico is party to a treaty that makes Latin America a nuclear weapons-free zone (see Treaty of Tlatelolco). So how much assurance does that provide to Mexicans that they will never suffer a nuclear attack? 80%? 90%? 97%? Clearly, that's not enough for the government of Mexico, which is responsibly asking: "What would we DO if this were ever to happen?"

When you read the conclusions of the report from Mexico (" ... FIRST 24 HOURS: Not much could be done to help people in the area of the 50 percent blast-casualty distance ... ") it is clear why Mexico and other states are working so hard for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

This isn't real, is it? This couldn't ever really happen, could it?

And then there was the report from Nagasaki.

It was heartbreaking to read the report of Dr. Masao Tomonaga, M.D. Ph.D. (Scientific Research Group on the effect of nuclear weapons in various aspects), "If Another 16 kiloton Atomic Bomb Detonates on a Modern City; A Study Based on Hiroshima/Nagasaki cases." That the people who have suffered one nuclear attack should have to be the ones to, themselves, painstakingly recapitulate and meticulously explain the details again and again . . . .

Not only do the Japanese survivors of the atomic bomb have to try to shake us into consciousness of the threat we are under . . . but they also have to find a way to convey to us that the threat today is so much greater than the one that hit Japan. How to get people to envision the consequences of the detonation of nuclear devices that are hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than the ones used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

This was the image that really stunned me:

Nuclear detonations above a virtual modern city with 1 million population
16 kiloton atomic bomb at 600 m ... 4.5 km radius
1 megaton (1000 kiloton) hydrogen bomb at 2400 m ... 18 km radius
(Dr. Masao Tomonaga, M.D. Ph.D.)

"It's just sections of a cone," I said to myself. "Any child equipped with a cuisenaire-esque set of blocks can easily look at a map and figure out for him- or herself what the future holds."

That's right . . .  just take a map of your local metropolis, spread it out on the floor, and put the whole family to work learning the geometry of nuclear strike using high quality wood-crafted educational aids.

Cone Sorting Toy
from The Wooden Wagon / Toys and Folk Art

Ask yourself: which of your children (or grandchildren) do you want to share this obscene geometry lesson with?

TAKE ACTION:  Go to the websites about the two Vienna events, follow the proceedings, share on social media, and work with the organizations involved on recommended follow-up steps:

Update - August, 2015 - Nuclear disarmament activists will bicycle around Washington, DC, to demonstrate the extent of death and injury if (when?) the nation's capital is the target of an attack.

Related posts

Perhaps most startling of all, the area affected by 3rd degree burns would extend far beyond the city limits to encompass towns as far north as Waukegan, as far west as St. Charles, and as far south as Crete, and as far east as Gary, IN.

(See What Would a Nuclear Weapon Do to Chicago? (Go ahead, guess . . . ) )

In light of the upcoming review of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and the fact that organizations throughout the country and worldwide are organizing to press the U.S. to substantially reduce its stores of nuclear weapons, it seems like a good time to use social media to get EVERYONE on board!

(See 5 Ways YOU Can Make a Difference on #NoNukesTuesday )

"It's not enough to remember this just once a year; it's not enough that we make a single book -- Hiroshima -- required reading, and never go beyond that. There should be a whole canon that people study progressively, year by year, to grasp and retain the horror of this."

(See FIRE AND BLAST: A Curriculum that Confronts Nuclear Danger?)

Do we have a way to immerse ourselves in the experience of what the use of those nuclear weapons would really mean -- prospectively -- so that we can truly cause ourselves to confront our own inaction?

(See Stop engaging in risky behavior )