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Entering the Nuclear Age

Enrico Fermi defends Los Alamos

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Enrico Fermi


In your issue of Dec. 3 under Science, you imply that U.S. scientists are a group of madmen who are itching to exterminate life on earth in order to prove their theories. The possibility of an uncontrollable, disastrous chain reaction has been carefully considered, and there is no known or foreseeable way of starting one. Furthermore, your statement that Dr. Fermi bet that the New Mexico test would end in worldwide disaster is completely false.

We need only point out that in a development so new and so dangerous, in which many thousands of people were involved, only one fatal casualty occurred, aside from ordinary industrial accidents. As a matter of record, it has been stated officially that every possible consideration was given to all conceivable dangers of every step in the development and use of nuclear bombs and other chain reactions. This is true in any potentially hazardous research undertaking. Where calculated risks were taken, the extent of the worst conceivable damage that could occur was considered.

The purpose of science is to extend our knowledge and thereby our control of the forces of nature. The whole history of civilization is witness to the compelling necessity of this process. Any danger to mankind lies in the destructive use of discoveries which could have been used for its benefit. It does not lie in the discoveries themselves, least of all in the possibility that they may get physically out of control as you suggest in your article. . . .

Enrico Fermi and the Executive Committee Association of Los Alamos Scientists, SANTA FE, N.M.