A collaboration between Sharon K. Weiner (School of International Service) and Moritz Kütt (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg), The Nuclear Biscuit uses a Virtual Reality (VR) experience to better understand decision-making during a nuclear crisis. Using VR to immerse participants in a crisis scenario, the project analyses which retaliatory options people consider valid, plus the information, advice, and other variables that are likely to prove important as people seek to make decisions in situations of high stress and uncertainty.
From September to December 2021, Sharon and Moritz used experiments and controlled observations to collect data about how decision makers are likely to behave in a nuclear crisis. Participants were recruited among Princeton University students and Washington DC-based policy professionals. Sharon and Moritz are currently analyzing this data with preliminary results expected in summer 2022.
In December 2021 and January 2022, The Nuclear Biscuit was shown to policy makers, non-governmental organizations, congressional staff, and members of Congress, including demonstrations in the Rayburn House Office Building. Members of the media, including The Guardian’s Julian Borger and CNBC’s Eamon Javer’s also tried their hand at managing a nuclear crisis.
The VR experience was demonstrated in February 2020 at the Munich Security Conference, where it helped officials experience the pressure and uncertainty inherent in any nuclear crisis.
The Nuclear Biscuit is made possible thanks to the generous support of Global Zero as well as additional support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, the School of International Service at American University, and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.
VR programming, troubleshooting, and inspiration were provided by Holosphere VR.
In 2022, the Nuclear Biscuit will return to Capitol Hill with additional demonstrations in European capitals. Plans are also underway to produce a version for classroom use.
Billie Jean Burnett, Troup, Texas