Hugh Gusterson

Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar


Simulating Armageddon: Nuclear Weapons Scientists after the Cold War

Hugh Gusterson, 2016 Summer ScholarHugh Gusterson, 2016 Summer Scholar© School for Advanced ResearchHugh Gusterson, 2016 Summer Scholar© School for Advanced Research

Dr. Gusterson plans to spend the summer at SAR completing a manuscript based on over twenty years of research on nuclear weapons scientists in New Mexico and California. During the cold war nuclear weapons scientists relied on nuclear testing both to validate the reliability of weapons and, in the context of intimate apprenticeship relationships, to train the next generation of weapons scientists. They have not been allowed to test a nuclear weapon since 1992. Although there are now few weapons scientists who have experienced a nuclear test, this scientific community must continue to certify the reliability of the U.S. stockpile and to train a new generation of weapons scientists. Gusterson’s book reconstructs the process through which the U.S. government decided to overrule the expert advice of its weapons labs, ending nuclear testing and replacing it with a lavishly funded program of simulations called Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship. It asks how this fundamental reorientation in scientific practice has changed the epistemology and the institutional culture of the weapons labs, and how you know a weapon works if you can’t test it.

Affiliation at time of award:
Professor, Department of Anthropology and International Affairs, George Washington University

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