Nuclear Redux
December 10, 2008 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Photographer Paul Shambroom has spent the last sixteen years documenting a much-discussed but little seen aspect of American foreign policy -- our nuclear arsenal.

"More than ten years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. maintains 10,000 active warheads. Concerns about nuclear aspirations in Iraq and North Korea dominate foreign policy, and in the wake of September 11, the possibility that terrorists might obtain and use weapons of mass destruction has become frighteningly real. Paul has documented the nuclear reality we have created in a series of striking and eerily beautiful images that offer an inside look at America's nuclear arsenal."

Portfolio includes detailed images of missiles, warheads, bombers, submarines, and command centers, as well as new warhead designs and missile defense prototypes that may be deployed well into the twenty-first century. Also worth checking out Shambroom's website for more pretty pictures. (nukes, meetings, factories, and first responders)

Related links for Cold War junkies:

Press the little red button!

Truck driver John Coster-Mullen spends a decade researching and constructing a full-scale replica of the Little Boy atomic bomb. “Coster-Mullen sees his project as a diverting mental challenge—not unlike a crossword puzzle—whose goal is simply to present readers with accurate information about the past." (New Yorker slide show essay)

Studio 360 goes atomic: Oppenheimer, Strangelove, and Richard Rhodes (PRI link)

Complete back issues of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, now available (along with EVERYTHING ELSE!) via Google Books

(courtesy of Design Observer)
posted by puckish (19 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Flagged as superb.
Try out also the Library of Congress, in particular the Built in America collection of photographs and documents. Though there are no easy permalinks, search under "missile", "nuclear", "cold war" and other such categories.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:11 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seems like the place to mention DEFCON.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:31 PM on December 10, 2008

Homer: It's pronounced 'nucular'. Nucular.
posted by bwg at 10:54 PM on December 10, 2008

Awesome post. The Rhodes book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," is a superb read.
posted by maxwelton at 11:52 PM on December 10, 2008

If you can't find your wake-up, I think I've found another cold war fix....

Nuclear bomb effects calculators were handed out as promotional items at the first screenings of "Dr. Stangelove" apparently (it was the little circular slide rule dealie his right hand produces for him while he's searching with his left...), and you can even make one for yourself.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 12:15 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seems like the place to mention DEFCON.

Man, this deserves a FPP of its own.
posted by signalnine at 1:12 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, duh. It had one. Anyhow, scared the crap outta me.
posted by signalnine at 1:13 AM on December 11, 2008

There was a good Radio 4 radio program the other day on the history of the UK's nuclear deterrent with interviews with various people involved (from ex-politicians, to retired bomber pilots to current submarine crews) You can download the podcast here, if you are quick.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:48 AM on December 11, 2008

See also Robert del Tredici's 1987 book At Work in the Fields of the Bomb.
posted by Jode at 6:56 AM on December 11, 2008

This has quite knocked me out of contention in December's best-post contest and I'm not happy about it.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:57 AM on December 11, 2008

You know, I guess it's one of those generational things.

I'm 30, and part of the last generation to remember the Cold War. Sure, Glasnost and Perestroika were well underway by the time I was cognizant of world affairs. However, we still very much had our nukes pointed the USSR, and they certainly had theirs pointed at us. Russia was still "Communist," and thus "evil."

I remember being a child and seeing the movie Amazing Grace and Chuck, about a young boy (about my age at the time) who comes face to face with this nuclear reality while on a field trip to an ICBM silo. I remember asking my mom and dad, "What are nuclear missles?" and having them explain to me, in the gentlest terms possible, this awful thing that could wipe out everyone I know and love, and even the people who I didn't know and would never love.

I didn't sleep too well that night.

Fortunately for me, this was at the tail-end of the Reagan era, and most people were pretty sure that the world wasn't going to blow up. I can't imagine what it must have been like to grow up in my parents' time, what with Duck and Cover and all.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:29 AM on December 11, 2008

It sickens me to think that there are people who would use these things. How can anyone be willing to design, build, or use such a thing? How can they face themselves knowing that if any of these ever get used again it will be the greatest tragedy that has ever happened, and might be the last tragedy that ever happens.

They're fucking insane. Sometimes I think I and everyone else on this planet are also fucking insane not to go out and beat the living hell out of every single person who is associated with nuclear weapons.
posted by Reverend John at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2008

Well Reverend John, as a former Navy Fire Control Technician [FTB2(SS] and veteran of 6 Polaris deterrent patrols I'd say bring weapons and big friends.
posted by cmdnc0 at 2:11 PM on December 11, 2008

These are great photos.

Incidentally, if you'd like to check out bigger and/or higher-quality copies of any of the watermarked photographs, I recommend fiddling with the URL just a bit.
posted by Jairus at 4:36 PM on December 11, 2008

Nuclear weapons decision awaits Obama
posted by homunculus at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2008

First I thought his name was Paul Mushroom. Then I thought his name was Paul Sha-boom. Heh.
posted by notswedish at 9:26 PM on December 11, 2008

Well, maybe I would need to bring weapons and big friends to beat the living hell out of you, hell, lets make that certainly. Can you tell me why I shouldn't? Can you tell me how you could live with yourself during those days when you would have been willing to pull the trigger on millions of innocents?

Will you justify it by saying there was someone else somewhere else who was willing to do it to the particular innocents you favored? Do you suppose he would have justified his willingness the same way? Why shouldn't the rest of us who see the insanity of what the both of you were willing to do on someone else's say so beat the living hell out of you and him, to save ourselves?
posted by Reverend John at 8:13 PM on December 12, 2008

You know, after a little further reflection I'd just like to add that my first post was meant to be entirely abstract, I have no intention of going out, either alone and unarmed or armed and with large friends, and beating the hell out of any nuclear weapons designers, builders, or military personnel who have the responsibility for these disgusting weapons.

I mean no personal threat to you, cmdnc0, and I don't want to personalize this in such a way. Nevertheless, I do wonder how you, and people like you, can look at themselves in the mirror. I do wonder what it would take to wake you and people like you up and make you see the magnitude of the evil in which you participate.

I think that in an ideal world any person who would make the kind of threat you did, the threat to participate in the annihilation of millions of innocents and bring about an unimaginable tragedy, would be swiftly and harshly punished.
posted by Reverend John at 10:08 PM on December 12, 2008

Is there a way to get that Studio360 interview with Richard Rhodes without spending money?
posted by popechunk at 4:35 PM on December 15, 2008

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