Friday, January 21, 2005

Louder Faster Smaller 

A briefcase nuke with a nanometal trigger? Just remember: if we're the ones building it, it's obviously in the service and peace and freedom -- and it will probably take a couple of years at least for the enemies of democracy to put their hands on one. From the MIT Technology Review:
Nanotechnology is grabbing headlines for its potential in advancing the life sciences and computing research, but the Department of Defense (DoD) found another use: a new class of weaponry that uses energy-packed nanometals to create powerful, compact bombs.

With funding from the U.S. government, Sandia National Laboratories, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are researching how to manipulate the flow of energy within and between molecules, a field known as nanoenergentics, which enables building more lethal weapons such as "cave-buster bombs" that have several times the detonation force of conventional bombs such as the "daisy cutter" or MOAB (mother of all bombs) . . . .

Nanotechnology "could completely change the face of weaponry," according to Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert with analyst firm and publisher Jane's Information Group. Oppenheimer says nations including the United States, Germany, and Russia are developing "mini-nuke" devices that use nanotechnology to create much smaller nuclear detonators.

Oppenheimer says the devices could fit inside a briefcase and would be powerful enough to destroy a building. Although the devices require nuclear materials, because of their small size "they blur the line with conventional weapons," Oppenheimer says.

The mini-nuke weapons are still in the research phase and may be surreptitiously funded since any form of nuclear proliferation is "politically contentious" because of the possibility that they could fall into the hands of terrorists, Oppenheimer says.

The creation of much smaller nuclear bombs adds new challenges to the effort to limit weapons of mass destruction, according to Oppenheimer.

"(The bombs) could blow open everything that is in place for arms control," Oppenheimer says. "Everything gets more dangerous."

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