Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All About Area 51

Terry Gross interviewed Annie Jacobsen on yesterday's Fresh Air about the secret Nevada test site, Area 51. Area 51 was used for the Plumbbob tests. The most scary thing for me was the nuclear test that involved scattering plutonium around the desert via a conventional explosion. I think this test was to simulate possible accident scenarios, such as, a B-52 crash, an accidental bomb drop of an unarmed weapon, etc. I think that the accident scenarios assume that the conventional explosive detonates, but does not cause a nuclear explosion- a dirty bomb scenario. The explosion scatters the core of the weapon, contaminating a wide area with plutonium particles. People were beyond crazy in this era. For whatever reason, after the army got their test results (which showed, I guess, the extent of the contamination), they did minimal cleanup at the test site. That sets up a scenario for desert dust storms containing very nasty radioactive particles. The author notes that this was a missed opportunity to learn how to deal with possible methods of cleanup. I am guessing that they army realized that it was very difficult to deal with the magnitude of the contaminated area- many square miles. Jacobsen notes that whatever they might have learned would've been useful in some accidents that have occurred since that test. Some accidents were actually very similar to the initial test parameters; the author cites a B-52 crash in Spain. The latest similar accident is the explosion of the spent fuel pool at reactor 3 at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The Fairewinds report stated that nuclear material (spent fuel pellets) have been found a mile or more from the site after one of the large explosions.

On to the UFO claims of Area 51. Those involve Mengele designing bodies which would look alien for the Soviet military. Area 51 houses a crashed flying object, but it's not from outer space; it's a Soviet jet-powered hover craft that was piloted by surgically modified dwarfs. Pause, and let that sink in... This strange idea has some value (I guess) for some world war three attack scenarios. Jacobsen cites cases where both Hitler and Stalin expressed interest in this idea because they wanted to repeat the scenario created during Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, and use it to their advantage. Stalin was especially interested in using the idea to mask a nuclear first strike. The idea is to induce confusion and mass panic preceding or during the attack. If the enemy doesn't know for sure where an attack is coming from, they might delay retaliation. It might make more sense to wait and see, especially when the "end of the world" is at stake, and especially when an attack is perceived as coming from outer space, and not the cold war rival. Actually, George C. Scott's General Turgidsen did the best job explaining this strategy for winning a nuclear war using the first strike strategy. The idea is to severely disable the enemy from the outset. Von Neumann's game theory is at play, too. (Some people also claim that the Dr. Stranglove character is modeled on Von Neumann.) Coincidentally, Von Neumann actually advocated the first strike strategy, especially when the enemy cannot be trusted to not defect and use a first strike strategy. It's a classic 4-square game theory payoff matrix, a slight variant of the classic prisoner's dilemma puzzle.

That Mengele based claim is pretty far out there. I guess when all of the layers are stripped back, then what is left has to be the truth. Still, whoah!

Note: This post required some edits.

First Update:
The author made the rounds on the media circuit, culminating with a visit to Jon Stewart.

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