Film & TV

Jan 29, 2014

It’s strange, but we never really had to learn to love the bomb

Fifty years on from Dr Strangelove, it's amazing we never had to learn to love nuclear weapons like he did. Crikey conducts a timely audit of global military stockpiles.

Stilgherrian — Technology writer and broadcaster


Technology writer and broadcaster

Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent Cold War satire Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb hit the cinemas exactly 50 years ago today — if you haven’t seen it, you can watch it online for free — and quite frankly it’s a wonder we’re even here to celebrate that fact.

Sure, the superpowers’ political and military leaders managed to keep cool heads when international tensions were insanely high. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD, that is) actually worked. But we also never saw a nuke go off by accident, taking a city and a few million inhabitants with it. Nor did we see, as the movie portrays, a rogue officer launch an attack without presidential authority.

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9 thoughts on “It’s strange, but we never really had to learn to love the bomb

  1. MJPC

    Fascinating article, thank you. In all the talk about war crimes and dictators and the need to make the world safe for democracy I could never understand the hypocrisy of the East and West willing to destroy all life on earth (or a greater proportion of it) in the name of peace.
    Then there was Oppenheimer who was happy for the A Bomb to be used on the Nazi’s, but uncomfortable to be used on the Japanese after he and his crew had let the genie out.
    As stated, it was probably more luck than good planning the world has not been destroyed, particularly during the Cuban Missile crises where aircraft bomber crews were dispersed to regional US airports on cockpit alerts to launch immediately the order came; it was that serious.

  2. Liamj

    While no known uses of nuclear bombs in war since Nagasaki, the ~2000 open air nuclear tests conducted since WW2 have almost certainly played a role in the still-increasing incidence of cancers globally. Then theres the incompetent handling of nuclear waste, eg. widespread dumping into rivers & sea, pumping into wells, shallow burial. Slower & less obvious death toll, not necessarily lower.

  3. DiddyWrote

    Hi Liamj,
    yes all those above ground nuclear tests did increase background radiation across the globe quite substantially.
    Virtually all steel created after WW2 has been contaminated by radionuclides, particularly Cobalt 60.
    It actually got so bad that it made manufacturing certain devices that need low radiation materials very difficult. Geiger counters, Full body counters and certain instruments needed in experimental physics were all compromised.
    Fortunately a large source of low background radiation steel was realised to exist. The scuttled WW1 German Fleet at Scapa Flow. As all the ships were manufactured prior to Hiroshima the steel inside the massively thick hulls has not been contaminated.

  4. Vlad the Impala

    Atmospheric nuclear testing also rendered carbon dating useless after about 1956. That minuteman launch code is a bit scary- that’s the kind of combination an idiot would have on his luggage

  5. AR

    Even as a new teen it puzzled me that the arrogance of the ruling class, deciding for us “better dead than Red” or “necessary to destroy civilisation in order to save it” wasn’t laughed off the flcikering B&W screen.
    I was especially amused at the assumption of the many instructive article (w/e papers were full of such verbiage in the early 60s, like cake recipes..)solemnly instructing survivors (if any) to adhere to a strict hierarchy of command, down to the local mayor or police sergeant,… or priest or teacher (FFS!).

  6. Electric Lardyland

    Good post, Diddy. In response to Liam, I was just about to look up what was made from the German fleet at Scapa Flow, when I noticed that you got there before me.
    And Vlad, are you any relation to a dope smoking Russian that I used to know, Vlad the Inhaler?

  7. Liamj

    Ok wow, didn’t know that about post-nukes metals, ta.

  8. zut alors

    Have the various heads of government god-botherers (on all continents) pondered what strife they’ll be in with the almighty should they obliterate their particular god’s creation?

    Thanks to Diddy for the information on pre/post Hiroshima steel.

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