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Page three of The New Penguin English Dictionary (1986) starts off with a blast: A-bomb. If you don’t know, the A stands for atomic. Even if you do know, the A still stands for atomic.

This is not your standard, run-of-the-mill, lunatic/terrorist sort of bomb. And let’s hope it never becomes one.

This is the big boom; the really, really, really big boom. Or at least one of the really, really, really big booms. Any discussion of the A-bomb should include the warnings that are sometimes used on children’s television shows, “Don’t try this at home.”

The A-bomb has been used only twice in war. In both cases, it was America dropping it on Japan (once on Hiroshima and once on Nagasaki) to end the Second World War. Various versions have also been tested a number of times, without being dropped on a major population area.

Let’s hope there is not a Third World War.

The late Albert Einstein devised the famous E=MC2 equation describing the relationship between energy and matter. Arguably, it was the recognition of that relationship that initiated the race to develop the atomic bomb.

Einstein initially urged the United States to develop the A-bomb because reliable sources told him that Germany, the place he left because being an absolute genius wasn’t sufficient to keep a Jew alive when the Nazis took power, was close to successfully developing the bomb. Nevertheless, he saw the potential horrors of the bomb and became a champion of peace in his final years after the war. Einstein once said this concerning the A-bomb: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Smart man, that Einstein. In my opinion, for what exceptionally little it is worth, he was probably right about that.

People significantly younger than I am may not be aware of this, but during the cold war American school kids were trained in what to do in the event of a nuclear attack: Duck and cover. That’s right. Duck and cover.

Really. I’m not making that up. Google “duck and cover” if you don’t believe me.

Kids were told to duck down, hide under their wooden school desks and cover their heads with their hands. I think the idea was that this would give them a small fraction of a second of additional life as the blast incinerated their desks before it got around to incinerating them. If so, I believe that thinking was flawed somewhat. The covering their heads with their hands part was probably just to delude the kids into thinking the exercise served some useful purpose.

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