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private_messaging comments on Being Half-Rational About Pascal's Wager is Even Worse - Less Wrong

19 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 April 2013 05:20AM

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Comment author: private_messaging 20 April 2013 04:24:37AM *  4 points [-]

They were not hell bent on obtaining grant money for a fission bomb no-matter-what. The first thing they had to do was to measure fission cross sections over the neutron spectra, and in the counter-factual world where U235 does not exist but they detected fission anyway (because high energy neutrons do fission U238), they did the founding effort for the accelerator driven fission, the fission products of which heal the cancer around the world (the radiation sources in medicine would still be produced somehow), and in that world maybe you go on using it in some other sequence going on how Szilard was wrong and Fermi dramatically overestimated and how obviously the chance was far lower because they were talking of one isotope and not a single isotope works and how stupid it is to think that fissioning and producing neutrons is enough for chain reaction (the bar on that is tad higher) etc etc. In that alternate world, today, maybe there's even an enormous project of trying to produce - in an accelerator or something more clever - enough plutonium to kick-start breeder reactor economy. Or maybe we got fusion power plants there, because a lot of effort was put into that (plus Manhattan project never happened and some scientists perhaps didn't get cancer) . edit: Or actually, combination of the two could have happened at some point much later than 1945: sub-unity tokamak which produces neutrons via fusion, to irradiate uranium-238 and breed enough plutonium to kick start breeder reactors. Or maybe not, because it could have took a long while there until someone measures properties of plutonium. Either way, Fermi and Szilard end up looking awesome.