SECTION FIVE: THE CONFUSION BROUGHT BY SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
As science and technology brings material comforts to humans, they also bring a series of problems. Some scientific and technological achievements have even seriously endangered the survival and happiness of humanity and come into direct conflict with human values. This has led to some confusion and reflection regarding the validity of such achievements; however, this confusion and reflection is generally limited to specific scientific and technological achievements.
One: Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear weapons were developed based on Einstein’s theory of mass-energy equivalence. According to this theory, one gram of matter releases energy equivalent to twenty thousand tons of explosive TNT. In order to prevent Hitler’s Germany from developing the atomic bomb first, US President Roosevelt accepted a proposal by a group of scientists led by Einstein and formally approved the Manhattan Project to conduct atomic bomb research. In the summer of 1945, the first three atomic bombs were created. At this point, as the Second World War was nearing its end, one of these three bombs was used in a test explosion, while the other two were dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
These two atomic bombs not only completely destroyed the buildings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they also impacted numerous people. At the time, Hiroshima had a population of 280,000 people. The bomb killed 71,000 people and injured 68,000 on the spot. Later, radiation and other related conditions caused the deaths of 120,000 people. Of the 200,000 people in Nagasaki, 35,000 died immediately, and 60,000 were injured directly in the explosion. Later, 74,000 died and 75,000 were injured due to radiation and other sequelae.
Nuclear weapons mainly cause damage to people through optical radiation, shock waves, nuclear radiation, radioactive contamination, and electromagnetic pulse. Apart from electromagnetic pulse, the four other kinds of injury can all cause death. At the moment of nuclear explosion, the temperature at the center of the blast can reach tens of millions of degrees. The light from the explosion is more dazzling than a thousand suns, and the scorching temperature can change steel into gas. The blistering explosion storms will also destroy all life in their path; the huge shock waves sometimes even destroy buildings and take lives dozens or even hundreds of kilometers away.
Nuclear radiation is a more silent killer. It exists in the form of harmful rays released from nuclear explosions. In serious cases, these rays can cause immediate death; in mild cases, they can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, hair loss, mild bleeding, and gastrointestinal disorders. Nuclear radiation often has latent effects and can lead to cancer, leukemia, and other diseases.
Radioactive contamination is caused by the large amount of radioactive dust generated by nuclear explosions. These dust particles contain a variety of harmful rays that affect the human body in a way similar to nuclear radiation; however, these effects will last much longer. After the atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many people were injured through nuclear radiation and radioactive contamination when searching for and treating others, as they didn’t understand the dangers posed.
Atomic bombs use nuclear fission to release energy. Many countries have also developed hydrogen bombs that rely on the release of hydrogen nuclear fusion energy. Hydrogen fusion has the advantage of being highly efficient—hydrogen releases four times more energy than its equivalent in uranium, and it is not affected by critical mass, making the explosive force of the hydrogen bomb theoretically infinite.
After successful hydrogen bomb tests, countries developed neutron bombs to deal with specific targets, like tanks. They produced electromagnetic bombs to target communication facilities, and shock bombs aimed towards hard targets. Together, these constitute the third generation of nuclear weapons.
Today, not only do the five permanent UN members have nuclear weapons, but many other countries, including India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, have them as well. Many more countries possess nuclear capabilities. It is estimated that nearly seventy countries in the world have the technical and economic ability to develop nuclear weapons.
Looking back now, the first three atomic bombs were mere playthings. Their power was only equivalent to ten thousand to twenty thousand tons of TNT—utterly primitive compared to the nuclear arsenal of today. The largest nuclear experiment to date was a hydrogen bomb exploded by the Soviet Union on October 30, 1961; its power rivaled fifty-six million tons of TNT.
By 1986, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China possessed a total of seventy thousand warheads altogether—equivalent to fifteen billion tons of TNT. After the Cold War, nuclear warheads were destroyed in large numbers, but fifteen thousand still exist in the world.
What would happen if the world broke out in nuclear war? Scientists and scholars from all over the world have reached a common understanding. Since the power of the explosion is concentrated and not evenly distributed, nuclear war would not destroy all of mankind. After the initial massive nuclear explosions, billions of people would die, and the smoke and debris from the explosion would blanket the sky, blocking the sun. In a period of weeks or even months, sun exposure would be greatly reduced and global temperature would drop sharply to 10 or 20 below zero (Celsius). This is what we commonly refer to as a “nuclear winter.”
A nuclear winter would seriously affect Earth’s ecosystem and greatly impact crop production. Many people would die from the extreme cold and food shortages. The loss of energy, electricity, running water, medical care, communication, and other essential life systems would drive survivors into panic mode, and as time went by, they would become increasingly numb and desperate. Nuclear radiation and radioactive dust would destroy the internal organization of human bodies; hospitals would be overcrowded with patients, and most would die in extreme pain. Nuclear explosions would also damage the ozone layer so that people would face strong radiation from ultraviolet rays after the darkness lifted. Many new illnesses would hit.
Human civilization would be devastated, and it would be extremely difficult to recover. Hunger, cold, disease, and fear would rob humanity of basic dignity, and literature, art, and music would become meaningless. Humanity would revert back to primitive foraging days, and it would take many years for the social order to re-form. Some have even asserted that nuclear war would destroy human civilization, leaving no chance for recovery.
Two: Biochemical Weapons
Biochemical weapons are a collective reference to biological weapons and chemical weapons. Many experts believe that biochemical weapons have the potential to be even more lethal than nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons destroy life and structures in earth-shattering explosions, but biochemical weapons snuff out life silently and without a trace. Due to the lower manufacturing cost of biochemical weapons, they are sometimes called the “atomic bombs of poor countries.” This also makes them a popular attack tactic for terrorist organizations.
1. Chemical Weapons
Chemical weapons were first use by the German army in World War I. The Allied Powers retaliated in kind, and both sides repeatedly used poison gas thereafter.
Chemical weapons have a variety of different agents and can be divided into three main categories. The first category is the neurotoxic agent. Such agents can penetrate the human body and quickly combine with human choline enzymes to destroy their vitality. They can inhibit nerve impulses and produce muscle spasms, thus paralyzing the respiratory muscles, leading to death of humans and animals. Organic phosphorus poison—known as the king of modern poison—is one such chemical agent.
The second category is the corrosive agent. This kind of poison can seriously damage human muscle tissue cells and will cause blisters and corrosion to appear at any point of contact. Victims will suffer painful blisters, corrosion, eye photophobia, and respiratory mucosal necrosis. Mustard gas (double chlorine ethyl sulfide) belongs to this category.
The third category is asphyxiating and hemolytic agents. These agents mainly destroy human and animal respiratory systems. They prevent cells from absorbing oxygen in the blood and damage the lungs, causing death through pulmonary edema. Phosgene and diphosgene are some such examples.
Chemical weapons are not only brutal weapons of warfare, but they are also perpetrators of terrible aftermaths. After World War II, over 120,000 tons of chemical weapons were discarded offshore in the UK, polluting over 100,000 square kilometers of ocean and land. Every year, gas bombs left by the Japanese army are discovered in China. Two million gas bombs have been discovered in the northeast region alone, and many people have been poisoned as a result.
2. Biological Weapons
Compared to chemical weapons, biological weapons are even more harmful, lethal, and brutal.
The core of biological weapons lies in biological agents, which refers to a variety of infectious disease pathogens. They are able to self-propagate and transmit disease.
The starting number of biological agents is usually very small, but pathogens are able to propagate rapidly, and silently invade the human body. Once an outbreak occurs, the damage is vast and long-term. Soldiers and civilians will suffer alike from this weapon that is basically an artificial plague.
Bio-agents are usually composed of microorganism too small to see. At present, we know of about 160 kinds of pathogenic microorganisms. They can be divided into six categories in terms of harm and transmission: bacteria, viruses, chlamydia, rickettsia, toxins, and fungi.
The descriptions of bio-weapons are often nerve-wracking. Under certain conditions, one gram of infected Q rickettsia chicken embryo tissue can disperse into micron-sized aerosol particles and infect more than one million people; twelve eggs infected by Chlamydomonas can infect all of humanity; inhalation of one single Q rickettsia particle can cause Q fever infection.
Biological weapons also cause lasting damage. Cholera bacteria can survive for more than forty days in appropriate conditions; yellow fever virus can be stored for three to four months in appropriate conditions, and biological toxins can cause disease as long as they survive.
Due to the lethal nature of biological weapons, their use is generally condemned, and no large-scale bio-weapons have been released to date. One of the more notable uses of bio-weapons was by the Japanese army in China during World War II when the Unit 731, formed by the Kwantung army surgeon, General Shirō Ishii, tested bio-weapons on human subjects. During a period of twelve years, the Japanese army repeatedly used biological weapons, causing the death of 270,000 Chinese people. The transmissible nature of bio-weapons affected the Japanese as well; it is estimated that one thousand Japanese soldiers died as a result of their own bio-weapons.
The development of genetic technology means that the lethality of modern transgenic toxins has far exceeded that of traditional biological toxins. Genetically modified toxins use transgenic technology to re-combine the DNA molecules of different biological toxins to form new bio-toxins. Transgenic technology can combine all the attributes of existing bio-toxins as well as manufacture new forms of bio-attack, and it can also produce super bio-toxins that target specific organs, races, or sexes.
The lethality of genetically modified toxins is a whole new concept com- pared to that of traditional toxins, and it can be thousands or even millions of times more lethal. Some have calculated that a few hundred tons of genetically modified toxins could replace the hundreds of thousands of tons of bio-toxins existent today.
Three: Cyber Crime
At midnight on June 20, 1980, the computer at the Command Center of the US Strategic Air Command in Omaha suddenly issued signals indicating an attack from Soviet nuclear submarines and intercontinental missiles. At the same time, corresponding large screens started showing the measures to be taken in reaction to a nuclear attack. Duty officers immediately pressed the alarm button and issued an alarm to all air force strategic forces using code words.
The president of the United States was notified of the situation at once, and Air Force One was prepared for takeoff. Five minutes later, 153 strategic missile launch units entered their positions, 1,054 intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons readied for launch, 100 B-52 strategic bombers prepared for takeoff, and the E-4 Airborne Command Post was airborne.
Soldiers waited nervously for counterattack commands, only to receive word that alarms were being lifted and that the whole situation had been caused by a computer virus. A massive cyber joke had been played on the top decision-makers of the United States.
When the 1991 Gulf War was in full swing, a Dutch teenager broke into the US Department of Defense’s computer system and released many of the Ministry of Defense’s confidential materials. He also modified the contents of the computer system extensively.
In the internet age, information leaks occur frequently. In 2016, more than ten million people had their personal information leaked more than fifteen times. According to incomplete 2016 statistics, over 6.5 billion pieces of personal information were leaked in China’s black market alone, meaning every Chinese person experienced an average of five leaks.
The world’s computers suffer virus attacks every day, and hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of computers are paralyzed by viruses at a time. Cyber criminals also extort through computer viruses. The largest cyber extortion attack to date occurred in May 2017. At the time, a ransomware entitled “WannaCry” attacked computers from at least 150 countries and encrypted all their files. Ransoms ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars in bitcoin, and files were deleted in a week if the ransom was not paid. The hacker also threatened to raise the ransom with time.
Only a few months passed before a new computer ransomware attacked computers in over sixty countries. Local enterprises, ports, airports, and urban management suffered greatly. Some organizations estimate that these two computer viruses alone caused more than $8 billion in losses.
The internet has only been developing for forty years, yet cybercrime has become a widespread phenomenon. Cyber criminals set up financial frauds, marriage traps, and gambling traps. They also set up logic bombs that cause entire system programs to fail; the possibilities for disaster are endless. States, organizations, businesses, schools, research institutions, and even families have to devote much effort to prevent these attacks. Judicial institutions, police, and security agencies have devoted increasing amounts of human, financial, and material resources to dealing with cybercrime. Many agencies have even set up special anti-cybercrime departments. Cybercrime and computer pranks are causing serious harm to human society; they have become a major public hazard.