May 31, 2009

You + me = monsters

I remember sometime in March having watched an interview of a French government official who wants to pass a bill in their parliament about the compensation for victims of nuclear testing in the Pacific atolls in Micronesia. This will pave the way for recognition of accountability of a nation of their previous harmful activities and will serve as a strong warning of the dangers being posed by nuclear arms.

The thing is, nuclear weapons are WMD simply because they are weapons against nature, against ecology, against a living breathing part of the ecosphere, and (so) against human life and human health. It goes against ‘nature’ (human and environmental) because it upholds the gradual and sudden drive toward extinction, which is the permanent condition of irreversible loss.

The word ‘mass’ has punning and permutating meanings. The scientific (physical) definition is debatable but we commonly understand it as the property that measures how heavy an object is. Newton, in his second law of motion, equated force as the product of a particle's mass and its acceleration. Einstein, on the other hand, in his general theory of relativity defined rest energy as the energy of a particle equal to its mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light. The speed of light itself – roughly equal to 300,000 m/s – is so large that it's hard to believe that it defines the upper limit of how fast a particle can be accelerated. Any particle accelerator is bound to approach the value of the speed of light but not the exact value.

So what gives? The rapid development of modern physics at the first half of the twentieth century, through the work of geniuses such as Einstein et al., ushered in the Nuclear Age. It is an era fraught with optimism that the nuclear energy, via fission and fusion, will increase the planetary security (not from aliens, mind you) and will produce ultra-efficient energy for humankind. Enter the race for the mass testing and mass production of nuclear 'products.' Unheard-of inventions called the nuclear bomb and the hydrogen bomb are now available (in retail and wholesale) and they can be hoarded and, yes, mass-produced.

Are we all the better then for the achievement of Einstein in improving upon Newtonian mechanics and ushering in modern physics?

Here lies the great paradox in Amis’s collection of stories, the perfectly titled Einstein's Monsters: that men has advanced scientific knowledge, but applied it to ever backward, unethical, and immoral pursuits. As Amis pointed out in his preface to the collection: Einstein's monsters refer not only to nuclear weapons but also to ourselves. “We are Einstein’s monsters, not fully human, not for now.” Amis's criticism of the present nuclear world is short of a criticism of intellectual human heritage. It is a powerful criticism of human nature in the face of self-destruction.

This is not to blame Einstein for conceiving and setting into motion a paradigm shift from a pre-nuclear world to a nuclear world. In synthesizing the behavior of particles and pulling the rug from under Newton’s nose to produce what has to be the watershed theory in physics, Einstein unwittingly(?) altered the behavior of man. It is the interpretation of his theory, its demonic application and perverted disposition that has put us in a quandary of global insecurity among nations. Russia, United States, France, North Korea, Iran. These nations are the most forward and the most backward at the same time. We can’t blame Einstein, but we can blame his monsters, ourselves in fact. It is not too late to hope that we, potent 'weapons' in our own right, can be fashioned into articulate dismantler of nuclear weapons.

Will we ever rise above it all? Just consider the United States’ selfish stance to not ratify the KyotoProtocol and so contribute hugely to the deceleration of global warming. This is another clear path toward self-destruction. Will we ever rise above it all? I believe that the answer, for the moment, is the negative.

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