Nuclear risk: and how we can work to reduce it- Video

On May 23 the Physics Department at Oxford University hosted two British Pugwash Executive Committee members (Dr David Ellwood and Dr Peter Collecott) who spoke on the subject of ‘Nuclear risk: and how we can work to reduce it’.

Event description

90 years ago, while waiting to cross the road at Russell Square, the refugee physicist Leo Szilard had a thought that could unleash the awesome power locked inside the nucleus of an atom. Seven years later Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls wrote a secret memo to the British Government outlining the characteristics of a “super-bomb” based on Szilard’s idea. That memo led to the establishment of a top secret programme that would soon cross the Atlantic and build the world’s first nuclear weapon. One physicist at the heart of that project, Sir Józef Rotblat, had the moral courage to walk away from that research and spawn a movement of scientists that would play a central role in tempering, and ultimately reversing the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

Today, those achievements are under threat like never before and physicists are again called upon to warn humanity of the special dangers posed by nuclear weapons. We will explain what these weapons are, how physicists have mobilized to contain them, and the new challenge to prevent their use in a multipolar world where the risk of proliferation is increasing and current nuclear-armed states are modernizing their arsenals with little regard to the new threats posed to or by these weapons.

Speaker bios

David Ellwood is the former Research Director of the Clay Mathematics Institute. He has held positions at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, Université de Paris VI, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Université de Strasbourg, Boston University and Harvard University. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of British Pugwash.

Peter Collecott obtained a PhD in quantum field theory, but only had one post-doctoral year as a Royal Society Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics in Munich before joining the British Diplomatic Service, retiring after being Ambassador in Brazil.

Watch the video on the British Pugwash YouTube channel: