Physicists against a nuclear Bush

Originally published 2/3/07:

This is a wonderful effort by 22 of the most amazing minds in the world in the field of physics to take the destructive power of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations out of the hands of the Pres. of the USA.  It is so delicious that I reprint this letter to Congress here in full:

  February 1, 2007

United States Congress
Washington, DC

Dear Member of Congress:

As physicists, members of the profession that brought nuclear weapons into existence, we write to urge you to pass binding legislation to restrict the authority of the President to order nuclear strikes against non-nuclear-weapon states.

Last year, the American Physical Society issued a statement of “deep concern” about the “possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states and for pre-emptive counterproliferation purposes”. In addition, 2000 of our fellow physicists have joined in a petition opposing recent changes in US nuclear weapons policies that contemplate the use of nuclear weapons against underground facilities of non-nuclear-weapon countries and for “rapid and favorable war termination on US terms”. Some of us wrote to the President last year urging him to refrain from considering nuclear weapons use against non-nuclear adversaries.

Nuclear weapons are unique among weapons of mass destruction. Employment of nuclear weapons would kill untold number of innocent civilians in the target area, and the associated radioactive fallout could kill many thousands in other countries very far from the target. There are no sharp lines between small “tactical” nuclear weapons and large ones, nor between nuclear weapons targeting facilities and those targeting armies or cities. Crossing the nuclear threshold, even with a low-yield weapon, would erase the 60-year old taboo against the use of nuclear weapons and make their use by others more likely. If the victim is a non-nuclear-weapon state, such action would destroy, or at the very least severely undermine, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with disastrous consequences for United States and world security.

In view of the rising tensions with Iran and the potential for military confrontation, as well as the public statement by President Bush on April 18, 2006, that a nuclear strike against Iran is an option “on the table”, we believe it is essential that Congress address this issue at the earliest possible time. In the case of non-nuclear adversaries there is no extreme urgency associated with response or preemption of nuclear attack against our country or our allies. We are firmly convinced that Congress should have a say on which course of action would best serve the American people on the use of the terrible weapons our profession helped create.

A decision that would have a major impact on the course of history and could ultimately threaten the survival of civilization should not be in the sole hands of the President unless absolutely unavoidable. We urge Congress to pass binding legislation to forbid the use of nuclear weapons by the United States against countries which do not possess nuclear weapons, except with explicit prior Congressional authorization for such action.


Philip Anderson, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Michael Fisher, Wolf Laureate, Physics
Jerome Friedman, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Kurt Gottfried, Chair, Union of Concerned Scientists
David Gross, Nobel Laureate, Physics
John Hall, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Jorge Hirsch, Professor of Physics
Leo Kadanoff, National Medal of Science, Physical Sciences
Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Daniel Kleppner, Wolf Laureate, Physics
Walter Kohn, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry
Joel Lebowitz, Boltzmann Medalist
Anthony Leggett, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Eugen Merzbacher, President, American Physical Society, 1990
Douglas Osheroff, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Norman Ramsey, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Edwin Salpeter, Dirac Medalist
Andrew Sessler, President, American Physical Society, 1998
Jack Steinberger, Nobel Laureate, Physics
George Trilling, President, American Physical Society, 2001
Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate, Physics
Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate, Physics

Titles and addresses of authors

Philip W. Anderson: Joseph Henry Professor of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. Tel: 609-258-5850, Email:

Michael E. Fisher: Distinguished University Professor and Regents Professor, Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-2431. Tel: 301-405-4819, Fax: (301) 314-9404, Email:

Jerome Friedman: Institute Professor and Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307. Tel: (617) 253-7585, Email:

Kurt Gottfried: Emeritus Professor of Physics, Newman Lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-2501. Tel: 607-255-2387, Email:

David J. Gross: Frederick W. Gluck Professor of Theoretical Physics, Director-Kavli Institute For Theoretical Physics, University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4030. Tel: 805-893-7337, FAX: (805) 893-2431, Email:

John L. Hall, NIST Senior Fellow, Emeritus, and Lecturer, Department of Physics, and JILA Fellow, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 80309 – 0440. Tel: 303 497-3126, E-mail:

Jorge E. Hirsch: Professor, Department of Physics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093. Tel: 858-534-3931, Fax: 858-534-0173, Email:

Leo P. Kadanoff: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Emeritus University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637. Tel: 773-702-7189, 773-702-7184 (messages), Email:

Wolfgang Ketterle, John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics, Massachussets Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. Tel: 617.253.6815, Email:

Daniel Kleppner, Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, Emeritus and Co Director, MIT—Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307. Tel: (617) 253-6811, Email:

Walter Kohn: Professor of Physics, Emeritus and Research Professor University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. Tel: 805-893-3061, Email:

Joel L. Lebowitz: George William Hill Professor of Mathematics and Physics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 110 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8019. Tel.: 732-445-3117, Email:

Anthony J. Leggett: John D. and Catherine T.MacArthur Professor and Professor of Physics and Professor in the Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1110 West Green Street, Urbana, IL 61801-3080. Tel: 217-333-2077, Email:

Eugen Merzbacher: Kenan Professor Em. of Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3255. Tel: 919-942-5429, Email:

Douglas D. Osheroff: J.G. Jackson and C.J. Wood Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4060. Tel: 650-723-4228, Fax: 650-725-6544, Email:

Norman Ramsey: Higgins Professor of Physics, Emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138. Tel: 617-495-2864, Email:

Edwin Salpeter: James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor of the Physical Sciences, Emeritus, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Tel: 607-255-4937, Email:

Andrew M. Sessler: Distinguished Director, Emeritus, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California, mS71-259, Berkeley, CA 94720. Tel: 510-486-4992, Email:

Jack Steinberger: European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: 41-22-7678125, Email:

George H. Trilling: Professor Emeritus of Physics, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, MS 50B-6222, Berkeley, CA 94720. Tel: (510) 486-6801, Email:

Steven Weinberg: Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Chair in Science and Regental Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712-1081. Tel: 512-471-4394, Email:

Frank Wilczek: Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, Massachussets Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307. Tel: 617-253-0284, Email:

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