Enlarge / Nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in the 1940s. That's a scene some of us would rather not revisit in the near future. (credit: James Vaughan)

Last Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump issued a few statements (guess where) about America's military, with this statement as a kicker: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its sense regarding nukes." Though much remains to be seen about how Trump's tweets will actually translate into policy, it seems likely that nuclear war will be back on the table. Are we going to roll back decades of policy and technology to return to the Atomic Age?

Despite Trump's assertion, the world has come to its senses about nukes (and not just in Hollywood). Political consensus over issues like denuclearization has been fairly stable since the 1980s, thanks in part to scientific researchers showing what would happen to a world ravaged by nuclear bombs. One such study was The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, published by Fred Solomon and Robert Q. Marston in 1986. This rigorous and grim estimate of nuclear war's effects on our planet is written in a bleak manner for good reason: to scare us straight.

"Our national security for the past 40 years has been based on the perception that nuclear war would be unhealthy," the study begins. "Understanding what the health consequences of a nuclear war would be, as best we can know them, is very important for informed opinions and actions by citizens and by government."

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