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Aliens (or atleast we presume it's aliens) have radio broadcasted from a distant part of the universe. They have provided a method to create a nuclear weapon powerful enough to blow up the entire solar system (maybe even more than that).

Now any lab in the world that has access to even a tiny bit of nuclear fuel can build such a weapon in a matter of days.

There appears to be no simple way to control the release of energy of the weapon (though it may be possible after a great deal of research). This weapon could be used by anyone to blackmail the world, but only if they are able to convince everyone that they can sacrifice their (and everyone else's) lives to the cause.

Is it more likely that the governments of the world will be successful in forging an agreement to not use such a weapon, or is it likely that there will be major political instability globally and possible formation of a new world order (or even the end of the world)?

P.S. There is no further contact with the anonymous beings who have leaked this method, or any explanation given as to why.

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    $\begingroup$ How tiny is "tiny"? And do you care about being realistic (because there is no way you can have enough explosive energy to destroy a solar system from just enriched uranium) or are there limitations you can impose? $\endgroup$ – Akshat Mahajan May 5 '16 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Akshat Tiny would mean you do need to mine the fuel, not just stumble upon it somewhere. $\endgroup$ – ghosts_in_the_code May 6 '16 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ Plot twist: the assembly instructions are BS, and kill the assembler. This is the only way Earth survives. It probably also solves literally every social problem. Which is why the aliens sent it in the first place. <waves a "Yay aliens!" flag> $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred May 22 '16 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ nice way to clear system, no reality-check so no problem. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg May 23 '16 at 0:43

11 Answers 11

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Forget governments or terrorists.

It takes one nutcase (there are thousands in the USA alone), an arms dealer with plutonium, and the bomb plans, to end the world. No blackmail, no advance warning. Just wait a few months or a year.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly what I thought. The people who want to gain something from it are not likely to blow up EVERYTHING- rather the insane and suicidal people are. $\endgroup$ – Tyrannosaur May 5 '16 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Not just one nutcase. He also needs a couple of skilled people to be willing to build it for him. $\endgroup$ – ghosts_in_the_code May 6 '16 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ A year is almost being generous. People are guaranteed to not fully believe in its capabilities and will think it does something different than what it claims to do. Some will claim it can only blow up a city, possibly a small country, or literally anything less than planet destruction applicable to a nuclear weapon, and then use it proactively as such to destroy their enemies, and boom, end of world. $\endgroup$ – Ryan May 6 '16 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan That depends on the exact nature of the bomb. If a physicist is required to build it, he may find it obvious as to why it will work. $\endgroup$ – ghosts_in_the_code May 16 '16 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ It's 2016 and I still can't buy plutonium in any corner drugstore! $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton May 22 '16 at 23:15
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This is a whole new form of MAD, and not a good one. Normally, MAD is premised on the idea that "If I'm going down, you're coming with me." This, however, is more along the lines of, "I'm killing me, my family, and my friends, and you're coming with us."

States go to war mostly because of a need to acquire or defend some resource. If you blow up the resource you're trying to acquire or defend, you've pretty much defeated the point of going to war in the first place.

A less common use of war is to demonstrate superiority. Genocide is an example of this. While total annihilation of the opposition is the end goal, total annihilation of oneself, once again, defeats the point of going to war in the first place.

I see three cases where a solar-system-destroying weapon would be deployed:

  1. Fanatical terrorists who are quite happy blowing themselves up, so long as they eliminate the opposition at the same time
  2. Depraved state power that ceases to care about its own existence and wants to eliminate the opposition
  3. A state power has developed the means to conduct warfare on a galactic scale

Barring those cases, there would be a world-wide ban on such a weapon. This may, however, start a new Cold War. The first state to achieve galactic consequence wins.

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  • $\begingroup$ 4. Someone trying to turn this technology into something usable, e.g. a source of energy or just a more manageable weapon. The idea is great but the first lab accident could be the last... $\endgroup$ – Peter S. May 6 '16 at 13:39
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If there is no more communication from the aliens, and the weapon cannot be tested short of actually blowing up the world, how do governments know the schematics are legit? It would be interesting to see if it devolves into a climate change-type argument between scientists and naysayers.

That aside, absolutely huge amounts of resources will be poured into researching how to mitigate damage caused by the bomb. You've basically told everyone that they can die at any time, anywhere, more certainly than anyone during the Cold War could have dreamed, and that no form of shelter ever devised (or that can be devised within the next few decades) can protect you. Every other military/political/economic/social conflict pales in comparison.

Martial law will be imposed immediately and any facilities capable of preparing this bomb will be seized by the government. Ironically, nations that are open about their nuclear capabilities will probably be left alone because they are assumed to be somewhat responsible enough not to mess with the weapon. On the other hand, nations that like to tease nuclear threats, like North Korea and even Israel, will be under extreme pressure to publicly declare their nuclear capabilities, if they aren't invaded outright.

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It depends on how hard it is to build.

While you could argue that there are a lot of nutcases in the world who would be willing to blow it all up, these are generally people with nothing to lose - neither money, nor power, nor the talent necessary to improve their own lives. People who have something worth living for are generally not so quick to give it up.

Some people have mentioned religious fanatics, but not all religious fanatics are of the same type. The homeless preacher on the streets holding up a "the end is near" sign is not the same as the wealthy sheikh who mainly wants to spread their sphere of influence further. Most religious leaders and religiously-oriented terrorist groups - even those who are branded as 'crazy' by other people - are out for goals that will benefit themselves in some way, and blowing up the world is not conductive to those goals.

The natural human aversion to self-destruction is strong, and the aversion to being responsible for the death of billions (including family, friends, and citizens of your own nation) is even stronger.

So the question is, will a poor, powerless, talentless nutjob be capable of acquiring the materials and building such a weapon? You said 'a tiny bit of nuclear fuel and a lab' but nuclear fuel isn't exactly something you can pick up at the local grocery store and laboratories come in many different varieties, many of which have extremely expensive equipment. Moreover, I expect that once this thing comes along nuclear fuel and laboratories will be a lot harder to get a hold of. I would say that if you need to be high-up in at least a medium-sized corporation to build the weapon the world will be pretty safe.

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The only real danger comes from a terrorist group which eventually acquire the weapon and is ready to use it, also if this means they own destruction.

Otherwise is a completely useless weapon, from a practical point of view, since the nation that use it destroy itself in the process, so no gain. It is not even useful as a threat, since it is obviously a empty one.

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The destruction of the world is basically certain.

Consider what happens when you get two groups that say my-way-or-else and the two objectives are incompatible. Somebody's going to push the button.

It's obvious the aliens intend to destroy the Earth with that message.

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We will die.

Modern governments spend many orders of magnitude more effort protecting nuclear secrets that are dozens of orders of magnitude weaker. Even with that, we still see nuclear proliferation slowly creeping forward. Now even the tiniest of groups can produce a nuclear weapon capable of Armageddon.

With the weapon you describe, there's a nearly 100% chance that someone who doesn't fear death will have access to enough materials and make the bomb. You've simply set the bar too low, too suddenly.

The odds of us all dying are, in fact, so great, that I could see writing an entire series of books about all of the coincidences that need to line up in a row to keep us from dying. A massive sudden epiphany of all 7 billion people at once to simultaneously follow some new religion might be enough... maybe. It would at least be a start.

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The problem is, there are enough religious fanatics in the world who are more than ready for the Apocalypse to come in their time. We have had people running for President, in the US, who I fear would set it off as "God calling us home" without even a moment's hesitation. No, I think the world would end abruptly, with no blackmail needed, shortly after such a thing was made available.

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Well, both answers are true, at least partially.


There's few chances someone would actually use it for at least 2 reasons :
First, nuclear weapons aren't that easy to get your hands on. Even if the secret is simple, the raw materials needed are extremely hard to find.
Second reason is, even the dangerous North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, but they still don't use it. Why ? Because everyone is suspicious of one another, and you won't be able to use one so easily- even if you're among the most powerful persons in the world.


But it will still change the balance of powers and maybe lead to another 'arms race'.

So it will change the world and how we see each other, but it will remain mostly a psychological warfare. I don't think anyone will want and will be able to use it at the same time.

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I'd say it generates a new age of total internet / public domain control.

Governments will give it their all to get the plans off the internet, and then try to instate new laws that demand everything must be screened before it goes online (to prevent a second such information leak disaster). And contrary to the Snowden files or all the other wikileaks stuff, they will get a lot of support from the population. Everyone will be afraid of that one mad guy who just HAS to try this out and HAS to press the red button, and if the governments are clever they will use the media to push that fear even further.

Additionally, a huge man-hunt for the elusive aliens (those who disseminated the information) will begin. Both in the hopes of stopping them from sending more such destructive information (official reason) and to get more technology from them through highly secure and secret channels (inofficial reason).

So, I guess we will land in a new age of information censure. And, if things fall right, a global unity against the Alien Threat.

Unless we manage to blow ourselves up, of course.

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This situation has already been covered by one of the great maestros of our age:

"Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.”― Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

If it's possible, someone will do it. You wouldn't have time for a new world order, you might just have enough time to run and hide.

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