Science Fiction Problems: Nuclear Weapons (Part II)
Posted by erikthereddest
Hello again, and welcome back for another Science Fiction Problems! This is the second part of my talk on Nuclear Weapons in sci-fi, so if you want to see the first part, click here.
Last week I outlined how current day defenses worked against nuclear attacks and how those defenses are countered with the use of multiple warhead systems, so this time I want to take a look at a few things one of my favorite sci-fi stories has done and where I think current technology will go in the future.
The Japanese Miracle
I’ve mentioned before how much I like the Ghost in the Shell anime tv series (not the movies), and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes cyberpunk anime. Aside from the cyborgs and other cool stuff, the writer Shirow Masamune’s world is intricately political and speculative regarding both immerging technologies and immerging relationships between countries in our world. Being Japanese, it’s no surprise that Masamune’s world has Japan emerging as a superpower, but given the reasons he devises, it’s not at all farfetched.
In Masamune’s world, the arms race has brought nuclear missile defense and offense to a relative standstill, the delivery systems becoming extremely mobile and unpredictable, but the defenses getting to the point where they can eliminate practically any threat. As a result, nukes have become almost exclusively political, since the use of them in any case has become extremely inconvenient. Even in an all-out strike situation, a country could empty practically all of their warheads at another country, and it’s not likely that any one would hit, leaving the attacker to have to explain themselves and meet the retaliation of the victim nation and all his allies, probably by precision air and ground assault and surgical strikes.
Additionally, the world now has the “Japanese Miracle”, specially designed nano-machines that “scrub radiation”, eliminating the fallout from nuclear weapons. They only work effectively if distributed at the site of impact before the strike, but they can also slowly clean an irradiated zone after the fact, making regions like Chernobyl inhabitable again. What this means is that in certain cases, the use of nuclear weapons can be authorized as a reasonable use of force by the UN, because the radiation can be controlled and eliminated, making the nuke nothing more than a really effective bomb. As a result of all of this, the international governmental organizations now actually have some power over rouge nations, and the threat of nukes has almost exclusively degenerated into terrorist activity.
Because Masamune wrote this series back in the 80’s and 90’s (the anime was updated and aired in 2002 and 2003), he wasn’t apprised of several technologies I think will have a role in the development of nuclear weapons in our future.
Where We Might Go From HereI’ll be clear, first, that I have no actual authority on this subject. This is pure speculation from the perspective of a civilian, but I figure that my observations and predictions are far off enough that I could be right, and there’s not really any way for me to be proven wrong at the moment. So I’m going to go right on ahead!
- Laser Defense Systems: We are already working toward laser systems in air and ground defenses that would be effective in destroying incoming missiles, and so far the progress is promising. While as primary weapons, lasers are not as effective, you can’t really armor a missile all that well, so it’s relatively easy to burn a hole in them if you have enough power. Using lasers eliminates the risk of a ballistic missile missing its target, or failing to destroy it before MIRV’s can be launched. Lasers would also be much more effective in destroying multiple MIRV warheads because it is instantaneous, and it would be much more difficult to overwhelm a laser-based defense system with multiple warheads as long as it was sufficiently equipped.
- Railgun-based Delivery Systems: Because of the probable future development of laser-based systems and the rapid development of railguns, I think it is likely that nukes will someday be replaced with either railgun-delivered warheads or shear kinetic railgun “bullets”. Capable of delivering a round thousands of miles with accuracy and precision, railguns will likely become the future’s favorite threat against nuclear aggression. Additionally, while railguns could reasonably deliver nuclear warheads, they wouldn’t really need to, since the basic solid slug that they fire can have enough kinetic energy to be almost as destructive as tactical nukes on hardened targets.
Over all, I think Masamune’s prediction that nukes would shift to an almost exclusively terrorist weapon has already come true, for the most part, and will continue to become true as time passes and these technologies develop. Nukes will probably always be a threat, but the problem of who actually has them and will use them is shifting from scary dictatorial powers to crazed nutjobs closer to home- which is not really any better, if you ask me.
I’ll ask you instead- which do think is better in the long run? Dictators threatening the use of nukes, or terrorists? Also, what are some other sci-fi worlds that have done away with the problem of nukes in a way you think was effective? Let me know in the comments below!