Throughout the human history there has always been conflicts and wars in every region of the planet. Whilst centuries ago armies used to rely on physical strength and volumes, nowadays the scene has completely changed. Unfortunately for us, the change has been for the worst. In case of full scale WW, majority of people on earth will be doomed. Why? The simple answer is – nuclear weapons.
What is a nuclear weapon?
This is how it is described in Wikipedia: A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission (fission bomb) or a combination of fission and fusion (thermonuclear weapon). Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first test of a fission (“atomic”) bomb released the same amount of energy as approximately 20,000 tons of TNT (84 TJ). The first thermonuclear (“hydrogen”) bomb test released the same amount of energy as approximately 10 million tons of TNT (42 PJ).
OK, to put things into a perspective and a make it a bit more understandable, here is a short footage of what 1 ton of TNT can do:
Just to emphasise it – this is 1 ton of TNT. To make things even clearer here is one important conversion:
- 1 mt TNT = 1,000,000 tons of TNT.
Looks daunting, doesn’t it? Well, let me give you a few real life examples.
Probably the best known case of nuclear attack dates back to 1945 when the U.S dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – “Little Boy” & “Fat Man”.
- “Little Boy” – August 6th, Hiroshima, 0.015 mt (15,000 tons of TNT)
- “Fat Man” – August 9th, Nagasaki, 0.02 mt (20,000 tons of TNT)
The results of these attacks have been tragic. However, in terms of yield it does not even compare to the largest warhead ever tested by USSR in 1961. “Tsar Bomba”, which was denoted in Novaya Zemlya archipelago, had a yield of 50 mt (maximum 100 mt) which is 50,000,000 tons of TNT. This remains the largest and most powerful man-made explosion in human history.
As a comparison, North Korea tested their nuclear weapon in January this year which was relatively small if you think about the cases above – 0.009 mt (9,000 tons of TNT).
According to GlobalZero.org there are currently more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world. This has been a hot topic for many debates over the recent years as well as a one of the causes of major political conflicts.
What would happen to your city?
OK, let’s find out.
This very interesting interactive website created by Alex Wellerstein lets you choose any city, select from one of the historical or existing nuclear warheads, detonate and observe what happens.
Let’s take one example.
I have selected a “Fat Man” (20,000 tons of TNT) preset and “detonated” it in the heart of London, here’s what would happen:
Here are some numbers to support this image (working outwards):
- Yellow circle (in the middle): Fireball radius: 200 m (0.13 km²)
- Red circle: Air blast radius (20 psi): 0.76 km (1.82 km²)
- Green circle: Radiation radius (500 rem): 1.31 km (5.42 km²)
- Grey circle: Air blast radius (5 psi): 1.72 km (9.26 km²)
- Orange circle: Thermal radiation radius (3rd degree burns): 2.21 km (15.4 km²)
I am not going to go into long term effects of such an attack, but you can find more information about radiation on this website.
OK, I know that you cannot wait to test this yourself, so here is the link of the website I was referring to: http://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/.
Lastly, I just wanted to say that I really hope this will always be theoretical material only and that none of us will have experience anything like that in real life.