http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,797850-1,00.html "Better" than the Bomb During a routine House debate on naval appropriations last week, Representative Albert Thomas opened his mouth a millimeter too wide. Out popped a shocker. Said Thomas: "We have something far more deadly than the atomic bomb. We have it todayâ€”not tomorrowâ€”and furthermore, it's in usable shape." Then Representative Harry Sheppard, chairman of the Naval Appropriations subcommittee, let out more. Said Sheppard: "This nation is in possession of scientific factors which place it in an enviable position. The scientific factors at hand would result in devastation equal to, if not greater than, the atomic bomb. Remember, there are different kinds of devastation." Skeptics suspected that the Navy, fighting doggedly against unification of the services and jealous of the Army's atomic bomb, might be tooting its horn too loudly. But there was still a fair chance that the Congressmen's scuttlebutt was based on well-hidden fact. Two novel and dreadful weapons have long been discussed, in whispers. Radiant Death. One of them, radioactive poisons, was mentioned briefly and guardedly in the Smyth Report. Wrote Professor Smyth: ". . . The fission products produced in one day's run of a 100,000 kw. chain-reacting pile might be sufficient to make a large area uninhabitable." The three plutonium piles at Richland, Wash. are enormously more powerful. If Professor Smyth's estimate was right, each pile has been producing, every day for more than a year, enough radioactive poisons to depopulate many "large areas." The other possibility, biological warfare, also had impressive scientific scripture behind it. Wrote General H. H. Arnold in the book One World or None: "It is worth while pointing out that biological warfare, consisting of the spreading of disease, could occupy a position similar to atomic warfare." Living Killers. For three years, U.S. biological warfare research has been carried on at the University of California under Navy auspices. Virtually nothing has been published about it except that the principal disease under study was "hundreds of years old and one of the greatest killers." But the day after Thomas' original break, other Congressmen, popeyed and anonymous, announced that the Navy had a weapon which could wipe out "all forms of life" in a large city. "It is a germ proposition and is sprayed from airplanes that can fly high enough to be reasonably safe from ground fire. It is quick and certain death."* While germs are usually specialists, attacking only a limited number of species, some form of biological warfare might be only too practicable. Chances are that pestilence-spreaders would not use old, familiar diseases, but would create new ones by modifying standard bacteria or viruses. With modern knowledge of genetics and biochemistry, this should not be impossible. Human beings would have little natural resistance against such synthetic diseases, which might conceivably spread, in a biological chain reaction, through the world's entire population. Perhaps suitable diseases have already been created in several countries, their organisms kept alive in secret, guarded incubators. The only defense would be mass immunization in advance. A nation planning aggression would protect its own soldiers and citizens before loosing its high-bred germs upon enemies and innocent bystanders. If all went well, its territory would be left an island of health in a world of poisonous corpses. So far, no nation's agents had publicly reported such a suspicious "health campaign."