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Weapons of Mass Destruction

Course number: W3018

A review of the history and environmental consequences of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD); of how these weapons work, what they cost, how they have spread, how they might be used, how they are currently controlled by international treaties and domestic legislation; and what technical issues, and policy issues, arise in current WMD debates. This is a science course, but one that emphasizes particular applications of science, and it has been taken mostly by non-science majors. Informed discussion of WMD requires an appreciation of technical issues. Therefore, several classes at the beginning of the course will focus on the basic nuclear physics that is needed to appreciate how nuclear weapons work, and how they are made. Other classes come back to technical issues, such as the effects -- on people and on the environment -- of blast, prompt radiation, and nuclear fallout, when a nuclear weapon explodes at various yields, and at different heights. Students are not expected to have much background knowledge of the sciences.