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Alex Wellerstein
Lives in Hoboken, NJ
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Alex Wellerstein

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A new blog post: Some further thoughts (and a response to various comments I've gotten to the pieces) on the question of presidential authority to use nuclear weapons. This is a topic I am actively still working on (more on that eventually), but it seemed worth addressing a few specific questions that keep coming up.

Yes, the president has the unilateral authority to order nuclear strike; yes, there is something we can do about that if that disturbs you.
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Alex Wellerstein

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Can the President unilaterally order the use of nuclear weapons? Of course — that’s what the whole system is set up to accomplish. In this post I touch on the historical reasons why this is the case.

Why asking whether there are checks on the US President's ability to order a nuclear attack gets the issue exactly backwards.
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New blog post: on secrecy, treaties, verification, and "zero knowledge protocols"...
With nuclear weapons, sometimes you have to agree to know less if you want to know anything.
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New blog post: how the US got the technology behind its nuclear triad, and why it started talking about it as a "triad."
How the US came to have three major strategic nuclear platforms, and why it started calling them a "triad."
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My latest piece for the New Yorker's Elements Blog.
There was a flash of blue and a surge of radioactive heat. Nine days later, Louis Slotin was dead.
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New blog post — something short and sweet on what the silhouette of an atomic bomb tells us, and what it obscures. (Also, "silhouette" is apparently a word I cannot spell correctly on the first time no matter how many times I have recently typed it.)
What do the shapes of nuclear weapons reveal, and what do they hide?
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I have an op-ed up at the Washington Post, discussing why the US nuclear system is in the hands of one person, and ways in which that could be changed, if that idea disturbs people.
The whole system is set up so the president — and only the president — can decide when to launch.
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New blog post! (See, I'm keeping to my schedule.) This one is a more standard sort of thing that I haven't done in awhile, looking at an interesting question that I get a lot. What would FDR have done with the atomic bomb had he lived? What kinds of evidence do we even have on FDR's inner views on the purpose of the bomb? I have done a run-down of the documents that I find most useful in getting inside FDR's head, but there isn't a lot of actual data available. 
If he had lived to make the decision, would Roosevelt have dropped the atomic bomb? An examination of the evidence.
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New article  — on Operation Crossroads. Today is the 70th anniversary of the Baker shot.
Rita Hayworth’s image affixed to the side of the bomb used in the Able test. Photograph Courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory / Peter Kuran, VCE Films
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I was asked by my editor at the New Yorker if I had any historical perspective to bring to the Obama Hiroshima visit, so yesterday I patched together a short piece about how Presidents have talked about (and haven't talked about) the atomic bombings of Japan. (Only two — Truman and Eisenhower — spilled much ink on this topic, and if you're not familiar with Eisenhower's views on Hiroshima, they may surprise you.) I am pleased to say that my guess in how Obama would talk about it (extreme use of passive voice) was completely accurate, and made the finalizing of the piece this morning very easy.
Only two American heads of state have spoken at length about the bombing of Hiroshima—one defending it, one criticizing it.
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New blog post: something special for your Monday. A few months ago, the National Security Archive released a target list of a US nuclear war plan for 1956. I have run it through the NUKEMAP's fallout and casualty simulators, using a few different types of targeting scenarios. The results are kind of amazing and at times surprising. Also linked inside is an interactive visualization of the targets and various fallout plumes (ones which will not crash your browser, as loading +1000 plus targets into NUKEMAP is prone to doing). I am happy with how this came out.
Taking a close look at the targets and consequences of a declassified US nuclear war plan.
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Very interesting information!
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For The ‪#‎Maintainers‬ conference here at Stevens, I wrote a blog post (and will say similar things in my talk tomorrow) about the question of maintenance and the bomb. The post focuses on two episodes — the first on the near-collapse of the Manhattan Project infrastructure in the immediate postwar (the Manhattan Project had been all about "innovation" at the expense of long-term "maintenance," both social and technical), and the second on the way in which "maintenance" has been controversially mobilized with regards to the missions of the laboratories in the post-Cold War world (with huge political and economic stakes attached to it).
Inventing the bomb is hard. Maintaining the bomb is harder.
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Strange, but not a stranger.
Introduction
The only known Alex Wellerstein in existence, for better or worse.
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Hoboken, NJ
Previously
Washington, DC - Medford, Massachusetts - Berkeley, California - Stockton, California
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Historian
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Male