Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld

by Sharon Weinberger

Book cover for Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld

How did a fluke experiment in 1998, involving a used dental X-ray machine and a dubious sample of radioactive material, become the Pentagon’s pet weapons project? It had been rejected by one of the Pentagon’s most important advisory groups, but the Pentagon found an eccentric scientist who believed that a super “isomer” bomb could be built, and deliver the punch of a two-kiloton nuke packaged in a hand grenade. Ideologues at the Pentagon claimed that the Russians were in the process of building one of their own, and that the weapon was essential to the Pentagon’s arsenal.

Imaginary Weapons tells the story of the battle that ensued, pitting the nation’s leading nuclear physicists against the Pentagon’s top brass, and the military against nuclear arms control advocates, as funds and experiments for the “isomer weapon” miraculously reappeared even after the project had been shelved numerous times, even by Congress.

This book also illuminates the dangerous trend that the Bush administration continues to follow of putting politics before science. The bomb is imaginary, and the only explosion produced by the “isomer weapon” will leave a hole in the nation’s budget and a fallout of the nation’s best and brightest scientists.

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