August 14, 2014 at 10:04AM
"The human mind cannot construct something that is infallible" - Oskar Morgenstern #readingToday

THE ENGINEERS AT SANDIA knew that nuclear weapons could never be made perfectly safe. Oskar Morgenstern— an eminent Princeton economist, military strategist, and Pentagon adviser— noted the futility of seeking that goal. "Some day there will be an accidental explosion of a nuclear weapon," Morgenstern wrote. "The human mind cannot construct something that is infallible . . . the laws of probability virtually guarantee such an accident." Every nation that possessed nuclear weapons had to confront the inherent risk. "Maintaining a nuclear capability in some state of readiness is fundamentally a matter of playing percentages," a Sandia report acknowledged. In order to reduce the danger, weapon designers and military officials wrestled with two difficult but interconnected questions: What was the "acceptable" probability of an accidental nuclear explosion? And what were the technical means to keep the odds as low as possible?

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser