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Nuclear Anxiety Returns to America – The Atlantic

“As an expert, I say, no, not quite,” she said. “We could really walk back on these words and develop de-escalation mechanisms. It’s horrible [Trump and Kim Jong Un] are talking this way, but it’s not the end of the world yet.”

“But then, as an anthropologist, I want to say: Yes, you should be concerned! You should always be concerned. And that you have to ask an expert that question—what does it say about your literacy of [nuclear] issues?” she said.

Kristyn Karl, a professor of political science at Stevens Institute of Technology, agreed that the public’s interest in nuclear weapons was way up—even if their understanding wasn’t. “The public is currently more aware of nuclear threats than they have been since the end of the Cold War,” she told me in an email.

That doesn’t mean they know much about them.

Americans flunk questions about basic nuclear security, Karl said, “such as identifying nuclear states, the scale of nuclear arsenals, etc.” Younger Americans also have little experience with nuclear weapons, especially compared with Baby Boomers.

Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons, also at the Stevens Institute, agreed that people seem more interested now. But he worries that they won’t stay that way once this crisis passes.

“It’s clear there is a sharp uptick of interest on nuclear questions,”  he said in an email. “The question is, what kind of interest is it? Is it the kind of interest that will lead to a more sustained public interest on these topics? Or is it an ephemeral fear of the sort that comes and goes in a crisis?”

Nuclear Anxiety Returns to America – The Atlantic

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