Autumn Quarter 2012-2013
STS152 Nuclear Weapons, Risk and Hope
Meeting #1, 24 SEP 2012: Read Handout #1. Also read Handout #2 on the physics of nuclear weapons. That material will not be required immediately, but will help you understand some later concepts, such as the relative risks of North Korea's plutonium production and uranium enrichment. If you have trouble with the physics, don't worry. It won't be key to what follows. Try to read for an understanding of which reactor types are more proliferation prone and which types are less susceptible to proliferation.
Meeting #2, 1 OCT 2012:
1. Read Handout #3 on critical thinking.
2. Watch the 13-minute video Assault on Pelindaba. It conveys the risk of nuclear terrorism better than anything else I have seen. You may also want to do the following optional reading on that website, which is for my project Defusing the nuclear threat: The home page where that link lands you is a five minute read and summarizes the problem and my approach to the solution. The BUILD AWARENESS tab explains the ideas behind trying to create a "pocket of nuclear awareness" on campus. A list of prominent Stanford endorsers for that effort is also available.
3. Watch a short video of an above ground nuclear test and another about "duck and cover." Note how the latter film tries to normalize a nuclear attack by likening the damage to sunburn, fires, etc. While duck and cover may sound like a joke, I was shown that film in elementary school, and we practiced duck and cover on a regular basis, just like fire drills.
Meeting #3, 8 OCT 2012: Prof. Barton Bernstein, one of the world's leading experts on the Cuban Missile Crisis, will give a guest lecture on those events from 1962. Read pages 1-5 of "Fifty Years After the Cuban Missile Crisis: Time to Stop Bluffing at Nuclear Poker."
Meeting #4, 15 OCT 2012: Read Handout #4 applying critical thinking to two questions: "Did the A-bombs end World War II?" and "Did President Eisenhower object to the use of the A-bombs on Japan?"
Meeting #5, 22 OCT 2012: Instead of our usual class meeting, we will be attending the 2012 Drell Lecture, "What Lessons Have We Learned From the Cuban Missile Crisis?" The lecture will be on the second floor of Tresidder Union, from 4:00 to 5:30 PM, but please try to arrive half an hour early. We have reserved seats, but an overflow audience is expected, and we will have to relinquish the seats some time before 4:00. If you are unable to attend, please contact me for ways to make up this class. There is no new reading for this meeting, so please use this week to review past readings and to get ahead on next week's assignment.
Meeting #6, 29 OCT 2012: Read Handout #5 applying critical thinking to North Korea and Iran.
Meeting #7, 5 NOV 2012: Read Handout #6 on "Risk Analysis, Cuba, and the Golden Rule." I have extracted the most important material for our next class to this relatively short handout, so please ake sure you read it before the class. I have also created an optional Handout #6a, "Optional Reading on Risk Analysis and The Cuban Missile Crisis." Those of you who want to know how I justify saying my research indicates that a child born today has at least a 10% chance of not living out his or her natural life due to our reliance on nuclear weapons will find the first part answers that question. Even if you are not interested in those technical details, there is lots of interesting information on the Cuban Missile Crisis interspersed, such as details on the Soviet nuclear torpedo that came close to being used during the crisis. You can skim over the technical analysis and pick up just those parts.
Meeting #8, 12 NOV 2012: Read Handout #7 on "Critical Thinking and the 2008 Georgian War."
Preparation for Meeting #9, 26 NOV 2012: Re-read Handout #8 on "Hope."
Preparation for Meeting #10, 3 DEC 2012: Review how your thinking has changed on the issues covered in this seminar. What were its strongest and weakest areas of coverage?
Winter Quarter 1994-1995
This handout is included here primarily for sections 5.2 and 5.3 on Richard Schroeppel's Linear Sieve factoring algorithm, which was the inspiration for Carl Pomerance's Quadratic Sieve.