Scientists who Collaborate with the Military

  A memorable scene in the 1983 film The Dead Zone provides an ethical justification for actions that harm innocent people. The protagonist presents his friend and psychiatrist with a well-worn hypothetical query: If he could travel back in time to pre-Nazi Germany, would he kill the young Hitler? His friend responds cannily, “I’m a…

Plutonium Towns in the Cold War

Note: this is my contribution to an online roundtable on Kate Brown’s book Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford, 2013). The roundtable was published in H-Environment Roundtable Reviews 4:5 (2014). For the full roundtable, including Kate Brown’s response, click here. Few places encapsulate the concept of the Faustian bargain more…

Does Crisis in Ukraine Shatter the Nuclear Order?

Ukraine’s inability to stop Russia from seizing Crimea may sound the death knell for the global nuclear order. For years I have written about the environmental dimensions of nuclear power and nuclear weapons programs, and more recently I have been exploring the connection between environmental crisis rhetoric and the proliferation of nuclear communities all over…

The Grim Logic of Biological Weapons

Biological weapons are not weapons of mass destruction.  They are weapons of widespread death. The recent bombing of a Syrian research facility by Israel has brought into our view once again the future of the Middle East as a place of continuing political, religious and ethnic conflict, and a place where the worst manifestations of…

Can’t Historians Predict the Future?

Nostradamus could have been a policy wonk. My favorite not-so-witty quip during my public talks is “historians are always asked to predict the future.”  It usually gets a chuckle.  I say it as a cop-out when someone asks me about anything controversial: the future of nuclear power, the future face of warfare, or whether Iran…