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Thoughts on ballistic missile defense and NATO


Niels Bohr: his idea of the open world concept
John Wheeler Scientist
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His idea was that in the world of nuclear weapons, safety would only come if we had complete openness, so people could travel freely from one country to another, talk with one another. And have full disclosure, so there would be no surprise that one country would spring on another. An open world, for him, was the necessary condition for a peaceful world. And he thought of it as a world, also, where each country could exert itself, contribute to the common welfare of everybody, by new inventions, new medicines, and so on. I'm afraid I'm not as optimistic as he was. He sent his letter proposing the open world concept to the United Nations at an unfavorable time, when the Korean War had just begun and people's attention was taken up with that and took away from the impact of his carefully drafted open world proposal. I'm afraid I have the feeling that the nuclear weapons that have been developed make it inevitable that there will develop a world government. How that comes about may lead through many a tragic valley until we get to the mountain and the peaceful world.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008