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Submission + - "Tacit Knowledge" is a key determinant in bioweapons development (

Lasrick writes: The United States has submitted a proposal encouraging fellow members of the Biological Weapons Convention to develop a common understanding of 'tacit knowledge.'

Tacit knowledge is arguably the key determinant of bioweapons development, but one which past nonproliferation efforts have largely ignored in favor of more tangible threats.

As Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley writes:
'Tacit knowledge consists of unarticulated skills, know-how, or practices that cannot be easily translated into words, but are essential in the success of scientific endeavors. Often such skills amount to unarticulated “ways of doing things” special to individual scientists (personal knowledge) or shared among teams (communal knowledge).'

When it comes to nonproliferation, tacit knowledge is both a threat and a bulwark against the spread of dangerous technologies. Fascinating read.

Submission + - Lessons from Volkswagen: Use Open Source Software for Arms Control Verification (

Lasrick writes: Moritz Kutt, a PhD candidate in the Physics Department at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, wants to make arms control verification systems open source. He uses the Volkswagen cheating scandal as an example of why open source is a better choice for verification systems, and points out: 'As long as nations take the trouble and risks to construct clandestine facilities for weapon production, what would stop them from manipulating verification devices?'

Kutt believes that by using open source systems, verification software would 'attract more scrutiny from more places, from hackers to the general public. As Eric S. Raymond, one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative, famously said, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Put simply, with more people looking, the chances are greater of detecting and fixing both malicious malfunctions and innocent flaws.' Terrific idea.

Submission + - Why the excitement over post-nuclear-war game Fallout 4? (

Lasrick writes: Lovely Umayam, founder and chief writer of Bombshelltoe, a blog exploring the intersection of nuclear policy and pop culture, looks at next week's rollout of "Fallout" and tries to explain to the uninitiated what the excitement is all about: 'While harnessing these themes to create a thrilling premise, Fallout also presents a provocative and loaded question—what makes you S.P.E.C.I.A.L. enough to survive a nuclear war?—and invites players to answer on their own terms.'

Submission + - Emerging technologies and the future of humanity (

Lasrick writes: Brad Allenby, Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and founding chair of the Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security at Arizona State University, delivers a fascinating examination of resistance to technological developments over time. Allenby starts by breaking down discussions into 3 categories, and then focuses on the third: the 'apocalyptic' discussions. '[T]echnological evolution is accelerating, which has significant implications. Past rates of technological change were slow enough that psychological, social, and institutional adjustments were possible, but today technology changes so rapidly that technology systems decouple from governance mechanisms of all kinds. All these factors, operating together, synergistically increase the impact, speed, and depth of change.' Great, forward-thinking piece.

Submission + - A push to ratify the Comprenhensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty? ( 1

Lasrick writes: Hugh Gusterson thinks a symposium sponsored by the US Energy Department was the first sign that the Administration is readying a push to finally ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). 'Conceding that the earlier drive to ratify the treaty in 1999 ended in a humiliating defeat for the Clinton Administration, [Secretary of State John Kerry] said that “the factors that led some senators to oppose the treaty have changed, so [senators’] choices should change too.' The article goes into the technology that has developed over the last 15 years that make testing unnecessary. Great read.

Submission + - $10,000 Game Design Competition for Addressing Risk of Nuclear Weapons (

Lasrick writes: Games for Change is looking for ideas for games that address the risk of nuclear weapons.

The N Square Challenge is a $10,000 game design competition, sponsored by N Square, a two-year pilot working to inspire nuclear safety solutions.

The challenge invites anyone, anywhere, to conceptualize a game that will engage and educate players about the dynamics of nuclear weapons risk. No prior game design experience or subject matter expertise is required. You supply the idea, and we’ll design the game.

The winning design idea will receive a $10,000 cash prize!

Submission + - That time nukes were almost launched from Okinawa during Cuban Missile Crisis (

Lasrick writes: Aaron Tovish is calling on the US government to release documents pertaining to one of the scarier incidents of the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to an Air Force airman, the system designed to prevent an accidental launch of nuclear weapons failed as the codes ordering a launch were given in each of the three transmissions required for a launch: 'By Bordne's account, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Air Force crews on Okinawa were ordered to launch 32 missiles, each carrying a large nuclear warhead. Only caution and the common sense and decisive action of the line personnel receiving those orders prevented the launches—and averted the nuclear war that most likely would have ensued.' Terrific story.

Submission + - Technology's role in a climate solution ( 1

Lasrick writes: If the world is to avoid severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts, carbon emissions must decrease quickly—and achieving such cuts, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, depends in part on the availability of "key technologies." But arguments abound against faith in technological solutions to the climate problem. Electricity grids may be ill equipped to accommodate renewable energy produced on a massive scale. Many technological innovations touted in the past have failed to achieve practical success. Even successful technologies will do little good if they mature too late to help avert climate disaster. In this debate in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, experts from India, the United States, and Bangladesh address the following questions: To what extent can the world depend on technological innovation to address climate change? And what promising technologies—in generating, storing, and saving energy, and in storing greenhouse gases or removing them from the atmosphere—show most potential to help the world come to terms with global warming?

Submission + - Japan should restart more nuclear power plants (

Lasrick writes: Seth Baum, executive director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that Japan should restart more of its nuclear reactors (the Sendai nuclear plant was restarted in August). The reason is simple, writes Baum: 'Japan is now building 45 new coal power plants, but if it turned its nuclear power plants back on... it could cut coal consumption in half. And coal poses more health and climate change dangers than nuclear power.' An interesting read.

Submission + - Holding the Department of Energy accountable in Idaho (

Lasrick writes: 'I have been involved in government at the state and federal level for a long time and have had my share of political and legal run-ins with government agencies, but rarely in more than 50 years in politics have I encountered a government agency more committed to secrecy—perhaps even deception—than the US Department of Energy.' So writes governor of Idaho Cecil D. Andrus in this account of the US government's plan to ship commercial spent fuel to the Idaho National Lab for what the feds call 'research' but what the governor (and his predecessor) feel is an attempt to store high level nuclear waste in Idaho. According to Governor Andrus, despite Freedom of Information Act requests, the federal government is not sharing its plan for the waste once it gets to Idaho. This is a disturbing tale of government secrecy and stonewalling, and the problem with nuclear waste: no one wants it in their backyard. Great read.

Submission + - SPAM: Now is the time for another Green Revolution

Lasrick writes: Worrying signs already exist that climate change is adversely affecting agriculture in many parts of the world. Laura Kahn examines the national security implications of food insecurity caused by climate change, and argues that a second Green Revolution needs to happen, now, so that the world's population can be fed. Kahn is calling for a "Science Solution," including the science of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but also recognizes that global agricultural practices need to improve to lessen carbon emissions and erosion. Terrific examination of the bad habits that need to change in agriculture.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Antineutrino detection is about to change the game in nuclear verification (

Lasrick writes: There may be a new option for the detection of illicit nuclear weapons programs worldwide: Antineutrino detection is an existing technology that, if political and diplomatic hurdles are overcome, could be put in place before the 10-year ban on Iranian enrichment R&D is lifted. Difficult to evade, antineutrino detection technology could allow the international community to reliably monitor a country’s nuclear activities in real-time, potentially without setting foot in the country. Similar in cost and technological scale to the space-borne reconnaissance methods governments use for detection today, antineutrino detection could not only help identify undeclared nuclear reactors, but could monitor nuclear facilities and detonations throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Submission + - The Islamic State is using mustard agents (

Lasrick writes: Gabrielle Tarini reports on the Islamic State's use of mustard chemicals, and the fact that it now appears they manufacture the chemicals on their own: 'US officials have identified at least four occasions in the last two months when the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has used mustard agents on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. While early claims by US officials suggested that ISIS militants obtained the deadly chemicals from caches in Syria, officials now believe the group has developed the capacity to manufacture its own mustard on a small scale.'

Submission + - Move Iran out of nuclear and into energy efficiency and renewables (

Lasrick writes: Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has a plan to keep Iran from drifting back towards the nuclear path, and it involves energy efficiency and renewables. Lovins sees 'legendary possibilities' for renewables in Iran, because, 'Iran uses about three times the world average amount of energy per dollar of gross domestic product, due partly to huge and budget-busting energy subsidies now slated for phase-out. Technical studies have confirmed that Iran’s energy use is pervasively inefficient, offering vast scope for lucrative savings.' Lovins points out that Iran enjoys Arizona-like sunshine and average windspeeds equivalent to the American Midwest: 'Consequently, Iran’s New England-sized, 70-gigawatt grid could quickly shift from three-quarter gas- and one-quarter oil-fired generation (plus 10 gigawatts of less reliable hydropower) to modern renewables.' Great read.

Submission + - Rogue biohacking is not a problem (

Lasrick writes: Although biosecurity experts have long warned that biohackers will eventually engineer pathogens in the same way that computer enthusiasts in the 1970s developed viruses and adware, UC Berkeley's Zian Liu thinks fears about "rogue biohackers" are overblown. He lists the five barriers that make it much more difficult to bioengineer in your garage than people think, but also suggests some important chokeholds regulators can take to prevent a would-be bioweaponeer from getting lucky. Great read.

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux