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[cdn-nucl-l] Quotes from the memoirs of nuclear scientist Edward Teller
Posted on the Canadian Press on September 10, 2003 and at:
Quotes from the memoirs of nuclear scientist Edward Teller, who died at age
(AP) - Some quotations from Edward Teller's 2001 "Memoirs: A
Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics."
"The misinformation and scare tactics that the media has used in reporting
events connected with nuclear energy, coupled with a lack of adequate
science education, has made it impossible for most people to make
intelligent decisions about what constitutes a danger, a risk, or an
unimportant change in a natural phenomenon. ...
"The total number of deaths resulting from the Chernobyl accident is similar
to the number of lives lost in the crash of a large jet airliner. One can
only wish that people would apply just one-tenth of the objectivity with
which they assess the risks of air travel to the risks of nuclear energy."
"How should the twentieth century, during which I lived more than nine
decades, be described? Its culture was science and technology; its course
was unpredictable change; its fate was to suffer two major wars and a
confrontation between two visions of mankind that threatened to lead to a
third. My own life has been shaped by each of these forces, and I have been
a bystander and also a participant in many of the events connected with
these major upheavals."
"The first thing I noticed on arriving (in Los Alamos) was that we were all
going to be locked up together for better or for worse: The one road up the
mesa was barely passable; once we were on top we were confined to the
immediate grounds by barbed wire. Our badges were checked by guards when we
entered; our mail was censored; our privacy became a distant memory."
"(T)he day after peace was established, Oppenheimer came to my office to
tell me that 'with the war over, there is no reason to continue the work on
the hydrogen bomb.' His statement was unexpected. It was also final. There
was no way I could argue; no way I could change Oppenheimer's mind.
"Beginning with his strange comment after the Trinity test (a quotation from
the Bhagavad Gita, 'I am become the Destroyer of Worlds'), Oppenheimer had
seemed to lose his sense of balance, his perspective. After seeing the
pictures from Hiroshima, he appeared determined that Los Alamos, the unique
and outstanding laboratory he had created, should vanish. When asked about
its future, he responded, 'Give it back to the Indians."'
"To my mind, in a democracy, using nuclear weapons is an issue entirely
different from that of working on their development. Research on nuclear
weapons has provided the United States with the ability to deter the use of
nuclear weapons throughout the past half century."
"When, in 1982, he (President Reagan) called the Soviet Union 'the evil
empire,' he was called reckless and impolitic for the statement. Yet none of
his critics offered a more factual or descriptive phrase. What, after all,
should we call a government that swallowed its near neighbors, that
dispossessed and starved to death millions of its subjects, and that
imprisoned millions in concentration camps (from which they did not return)
for the political crime of thinking independently?"
C The Canadian Press, 2003