News & Awards

Glaser Named a 2014 Global Thinker by Foreign Policy Magazine

Nov 17, 2014
B. Rose Huber | 609-258-0157
Woodrow Wilson School

Alexander Glaser, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and international affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, was named one of Foreign Policy magazine's “100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014.” The list annually recognizes individuals who have made measurable differences in the fields of politics, business, technology, the arts, the sciences and more.

A physicist by training, Glaser's research has focused on the technical and policy aspects of reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. He has pioneered the development of a novel approach to nuclear verification using a “zero-knowledge protocol,” a method that combines cryptography and nuclear physics to identify the presence of nuclear warheads without collecting any classified information at all. This technique could be used to verify future nuclear arms reduction treaties.

Today, more than 16,000 nuclear warheads exist across the world. About 3,000 of these warheads are regularly verified under a treaty between the United States and Russia that entered into force in 2011. The remaining 13,000 nuclear warheads however, are not monitored by any arms control agreements. Thus, attention has turned toward determining the best way to account for all these nuclear warheads.

“By almost any standard, current nuclear arsenals are enormous and oversized," said Glaser. “Future arms control agreements are likely to place limits on the total number of warheads in the arsenals. Our goal with the development of our ‘zero-knowledge protocol’ approach is to provide the means for international inspectors to confirm that something is a nuclear warhead while something else is not a nuclear warhead without giving away any national secrets.”

In addition to this research, Glaser is involved with many collaborations related to nuclear arms control. He is a faculty associate in the Wilson School’s Program on Science and Global Security, a group that has carried out research and policy analysis as well as education and training in nuclear arms control and nonproliferation for more than three decades. He also is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, an independent group of arms-control and nonproliferation experts from 18 countries that works to develop policies to reduce global stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the key ingredients in nuclear weapons.

Most recently, Glaser published a book with Princeton’s Harold Feiveson, Zia Mian and Frank von Hippel titled, “Unmaking the Bomb: A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation,” which proposes a new approach to achieving nuclear disarmament, stopping nuclear proliferation and preventing nuclear terrorism.

“Nuclear arms control has been around for fifty years but remains an important and challenging issue, and we still need fresh ideas if we are to end the nuclear danger,” said Glaser. “It is fantastic that our research at Princeton is pushing technical boundaries and gaining the attention of the international policy community.”

Two of Glaser's collaborators for the zero-knowledge protocol also made Foreign Policy magazine's list of “100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014.” This includes Robert Goldston, professor of astrophysical sciences at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Boaz Barak, a former Princeton professor who now works for Microsoft Research.

The editors of Foreign Policy honored the 2014 Global Thinkers at an event in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 17.

Founded in 1970, Foreign Policy magazine focuses on global affairs, current events and domestic and international affairs. It produces daily content on its website, and publishes six print issues annually.