December 6, 2013
Detonate Your Own Nuke
I have always been fascinated and absolutely terrified by nuclear weapons. It quite often occurs to me how strange it is that any of us can just carry on as normal, laughing, drinking and being merry, knowing that these things exist. God knows how people managed in the Cold War.
My fear and fascination started, I think, when I watched the 1984 British movie Threads about a fictional (as I’m sure you know, you would have heard) nuclear attack by the Russians on the UK city of Sheffield as part of a worldwide nuclear conflict. The worst-case scenario, basically. Perhaps even worse than the utter horror of the initial blast, the film goes on to demonstrate the longer term effects, where ten years later the UK, and presumably the rest of the world, is at pre-medieval population levels; a population living a pre-medieval existence trying to coax crops from the devastated land.
So, when I came across a site called nuclearsecrecy.com and their ‘nuke map,’ where you can choose any city and see the effects of a nuclear bomb on it, having selected options such as casualty numbers and size of bomb, I naturally had a play around with it. Facing my fears? Boyish belligerence? I’m not sure why you would want to pretend to detonate bombs over maps on the Internet, but the site says the purpose is to be ‘evocative,’ to remind us to be diligent. That was the purpose of Threads, too; it wasn’t for gratuitous entertainment and the cheap thrill of horrors. I admit there might be a touch of cheap thrill in there too, though.
The site has New York City as its default setting, so I went with that, naturally choosing the biggest bomb ever made: a 100 megaton “Tsar Bomba” designed by the Russians (5000 times more powerful than those used by the US in Japan at the end of World War Two). The initial blast, if detonated in the air rather than on the ground (another option you can select), would extend half way to Philadelphia. The fallout zone would extend way past Nova Scotia, almost to Newfoundland. Okay, I am aware some people might have thought that nuclear weapons were actually more powerful than that, given the way they are talked about. That I might have been writing ‘the initial blast radius extended to Sweden and the fallout would go as far as New Zealand’ – but this is only one bomb we’re talking about!
The initial deaths for the New York bomb would be more than 7 million. The site doesn’t calculate longer-term deaths from fallout, but as an expert in the field, I can inform you that the numbers would be ‘absolutely shitting massive.’
Given the recent story about how a plane carrying a hydrogen bomb started to break up over North Carolina in 1961, leaving the residents below inches from total disaster (it was apparently just a case of the wrong wires not quite touching, through sheer luck), and the tales of various presidents such as Clinton and Carter losing detonation codes, I reiterate my point that it is a wonder any of us sleep at night.
But at the time of this festive season, let’s look at potential annihilation as a reason to enjoy ourselves while we can, and share good times with those we love. Or, depending on your outlook, be happy for a potential excuse for not having to visit the in-laws this Christmas.
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