There’s been lots of creepy saber-rattling lately on the nuclear front, with multiple nations’ leaders comparing the size of their buttons and the potency of their missiles (I think Sigmund Freud would have had a lot to say about that). The most recent event on this doomsday timeline was Russia’s test of their “Satan-2” ICBM, along with the claim this particular weapon could deliver a nuclear payload to virtually any city on Earth.
Ego-flexing aside, it’s a nightmarish prospect for any sane individual… and since nightmares are just part of our job here, I thought we might lighten the mood a bit by directing you to this online calculator created by Outrider.org, an organization founded to increase public awareness of the dangers posed by nuclear escalation, including collateral hazards connected to the creation of weapons-grade materials and the stockpiling of nuclear arsenals.
The data used for this app was provided by Alex Wellerstein, historian of nuclear weapons and Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Okay, so it’s not really a fun afternoon pastime… but it’s both morbidly fascinating and educational. Well, at least that’s my takeaway. Your results may vary.
It’s simple enough to use, though: just input your location (cities, counties, states or just a ZIP code all seem to work, or the app can just tap your device’s location data) into this calculator, and “Experience the power of a nuclear blast in your area.”
From there, you can customize the blast zone based on the make of bomb (for the example below, I chose the default US W-87 warhead delivered by a Minuteman III missile (the US’s primary ground-launched ICBM) with a yield of 300 kilotons, and chose a surface detonation (versus a fused airburst) at the heart of Los Angeles, CA.
The result is presented with this graphic depicting the range of the blast fireball (0.73 square miles), the initial spread of radiation (5.56 square miles, not counting additional fallout), the blast’s shock wave (11.39 square miles), and heat wave (48.54 square miles).
That’s not even the scariest part… the big number on the left lists estimated deaths (206,903) and injuries (345,292) resulting from this single strike. (A fused airburst would yield much higher casualties, by the way.)
Want to really ruin your day? Switch the bomb type to the “Tsar Bomba,” the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the Soviets, with a yield of 50,000 kilotons. The results ain’t pretty… but there’s some consolation in the fact that even the largest missile in any modern arsenal would still be incapable of delivering a payload that large… at least for now.
Now… off to watch some funny kitten videos! (Sorry, we don’t host those here… we have a reputation to uphold!)