Technology and Social Process

By Brian Elliott | Go to book overview
that 'there is no magical escape from the pangs of uncertainty'.If social research on technology can help do this, then it will indeed make a worthwhile contribution to policy-making. It is no easy task, for those faced with difficult decisions naturally seek certainty. But, in the field of nuclear weaponry at least, we would assert that the task is worth it, for it is in all our interests that those who take decisions bearing on such matters as nuclear pre-emption keep firmly in mind the contingency of all human knowledge and the fallibility of all human endeavours.
Appendix: Single-shot kill probability -- The conventional treatment
Let x and y be the errors around the target in any two mutually perpendicular horizontal directions. Assume
1. x and y both normally distributed
2. x and y independent
3. standard deviation of x = standard deviation of y. Let the joint standard deviation be σ
4. mean of x = mean of y = 0.

That is, we are assuming a 'circular' normal distribution of errors around the target, and no 'bias'.

Let p(x) be the probability distribution of x, p(y) the probability distribution of y, and p(x,y) their joint probability distribution. Then

To obtain the single-shot kill probability we need to find the probability of the bomb exploding within the 'lethal radius' of its target. Simplifying some complex issues, a dimensional argument establishes that the lethal radius rk is a function of the one-third power of bomb's yield y. It is also inversely related to the hardness h of the target i.e. the degree of pounds per square inch overpressure the target can withstand. The relation is mathematically

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