PD Smith

Mankind’s strange love of superweapons

23 August 2007 | cold war, Doomsday Machine, Doomsday Men, Herken, Oppenheimer, Teller | 2 comments

There's a very good review of Doomsday Men in the current edition of Nature (vol 448, number 7156). It's by Gregg Herken, author of the excellent study of Oppenheimer, Teller and Lawrence, Brotherhood of the Bomb. Unfortunately, the review is not available online unless you have a subscription, but here's the first paragraph:

"There is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons," said the Devil in George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman. Shaw's adage could almost be the leitmotiv of P.D. Smith's well-researched and altogether depressing account of humankind's long hunt for the ultimate superweapon: a doomsday device that, by its very terribleness, would make war forevermore unwinnable, and hence unthinkable. Although we all know how this tale turns out, it is a journey well worth taking. Along the way, Smith includes some fascinating asides about the men - and it was, almost exclusively, a fraternity - who, in seeking to make war obsolete, have only made it more deadly.

Herken concludes:

One can only sympathize with the author's observation that, since the end of the Cold War, global warming and Islamist terrorism have distracted our attention from the weapons that remain in the arsenals of nations, numerous, primed and waiting. Although not as deadly as Smith's fictive doomsday bomb, they are cause for us to be more fearful, for they are real.

2 comments so far:

  1. Alan Summers | 23 August 2007

    Good to see yet another well-deserved review!

  2. PD Smith | 23 August 2007

    Thanks Alan!

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