Jeremy Bernstein is a theoretical physicist and the author, most recently, of A Bouquet of Numbers and Other Scientific Offerings, a collection of essays.
 (December 2016).


Great Scientists Against Terrible Odds

Physics in a Mad World

edited by M. Shifman and translated from the Russian by James Manteith
In the 1930s German and Russian scientists of Jewish origin were treated quite differently. The German scientists were automatically “guilty” if they had more than one eighth Jewish “blood.” In Russia they had to be guilty of doing something. Until October 1941 Jews were encouraged to leave Germany and most …


If Trump Blows Up the Deal, Iran Gets the Bomb

Donald Trump speaking at a protest in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 9, 2015

The IAEA has certified that—some minor violations aside—the Iranians have implemented the agreement. What happens if there is no agreement? The IAEA inspectors would leave the country and the program would restart at full bore. Most experts estimate that it would be a matter of months before the Iranians built their first bomb. The notion that President Trump has of somehow getting a “better deal” is delusional. There is no better deal. The Iranians have everything they need to make nuclear weapons—including uranium. The JCPOA is our best, and perhaps our only, chance of preventing Iran from getting the bomb.

Which Countries Will Get the Bomb?

Scientists inspecting Iraq’s first nuclear reactor in Baghdad, supplied by the Soviets, February 1968

The US now has a president-elect who has openly suggested that our allies take responsibility for their own nuclear deterrence. If, say, South Korea or Saudi Arabia began to pursue a bomb, how likely might they be to succeed? History offers us a number of insights about this. Among the countries that succeeded were Israel and South Africa and among those that didn’t were Libya and Iraq.

The Iran Deal: Myth and Reality

Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, Iran, January 15, 2011

Enough time has passed since the deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program that one can begin to make a rational assessment about how successful it has been at limiting Iran’s nuclear capacity and bringing its program under international oversight. My view is that the deal has been more successful than I expected, although there are flaws.