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Nuclear Bombs: Is it just me?


Tex
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For the record:

The dark smudge in the Baker shot photo is the 27,000-ton, 562-foot-long retired battleship ex-Arkansas (former BB-33), which was located just 250 yards from the burst point. Also, Baker is one of the *least* common-looking nuclear tests, being a shallow underwater test in the humid South Pacific. The initial atmospheric shockwave (since the surface *was* breached by the blast, rather than it coupling to the surface and staying underwater) first caused what's called the "Wilson Cloud Chamber effect," basically compressing the air along the shock front to the point of condensing the humidity into an expanding spherical cloud that rode along the shockwave, leaving the cameras unable to see exactly what was happening for the first two seconds or so, until the cloud dissipated. Once it dissipated, what you see rising from the surface there isn't actually the explosion, the fireball, or the mushroom stem--it's a hollow column of water shot into the air by the blast, 6000 feet tall, with walls 300 feet thick. (The apparent "mushroom cap" in the photo is actually the still-lifting-and-dissipating Wilson cloud; photos later in the sequence show a "cauliflower head" to the water column, akin to the top of a geyser, where the water has stopped climbing and started to fall due to gravity.) In the image, Arkansas has her bow pinned to the bottom of the lagoon, with her stern 350 feet in the air. She's about to flip over backwards and land inverted to sink. She was then thoroughly crushed against the bottom by the weight of the water column falling back onto her.

As for the whole thing about the colors, much of the red and orange seen in color films of nuclear tests isn't actually original--it's a case of the film itself having badly deteriorated due to poor preservation by the US military. If you do look for Trinity and Beyond, find the DVD version, because after the DOD and DOE saw the VHS version, director Peter Kuran was given access to the original films instead of n'th-generation prints, under the condition that he do whatever he could to restore and preserve the films. This means that it has far sharper and more-accurately-colored versions of the test footage than anyone else has seen; there is also footage that was declassified specificially for him to use in the DVD version. (Likewise, his other nuclear testing documentaries saw him get freshly-declassified footage and get to work with the original films instead of the tenth-generation stock prints everyone else uses, due to his reputation for making an unbiased and high-quality documentary that he got with Trinity and Beyond.)

Personally, I like nuclear weapons on an engineer's level (they are an incredibly simple and elegant machine, in many respects), I have an appreciation for the aesthetics of a large explosion witnessed at a safe distance (mushroom clouds are... really pretty, honestly--and that's just as true of a one-gallon gasoline bomb's cloud as it is of a twenty-megaton nuke's cloud), and much like with tornadoes, I'd love to be able to witness the raw power of an atmospheric nuke test from a safe distance, plus I think that they *do* have certain peaceful uses that the whole "nuclear is EEEEEEEVIL!" taboo/propaganda makes politically unacceptable--but I desperately hope that they'll never be used in anger again. (That said, I fully expect there to be a limited nuclear exchange involving a rogue state--most likely Iran or North Korea--within my lifetime...)

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This is a common misconception. Tactical nukes can fulfil a number of useful roles in warfare, and IMO a limited exchange is possible. Well defended high value targets such as airfields, very deep bunkers and concentrations of enemy troops such as tanks massing for an attack, air or bridgeheads, and carrier battle groups are all perfectly sensible targets for a tactical nuclear strike. These weapons have a pretty low radiological impact, so contamination of the battlefield isn't an issue that prohibits their use. Tanks and mechanised infantry are trained and equipped to operate effectively on a nuclear battlefield. Use by navies in blue water would generally have no real impact on civilians at all.

High intensity conflict with conventional weapons contaminates battlefields with all sorts of toxic crud anyway. You can't blow up and burn modern technology without releasing a cocktail of toxic gunk, not to mention the risks from spent munitions, mines, etc. If you're concerned about making a mess of the ground you're trying to take, then you're out of luck.

All nuclear weapons have a serious radiological impact that shouldn't be downplayed. Contrary to the absolute contamination, relative contamination is smaller with weapons of larger yield, and larger with tactical weapons, meaning that if you use several small ones instead of one larger, the mess is larger.

Chemical toxicity of conventional weapons is much less of an issue than radioactive fallout. Chemical half-life is usually much shorter.

Truth is that nuclear warfare isn't re useful than conventional one unless you really want to obliberate the whole city at once, which is classified as a war crime.

I have an fascination with nukes. I'll either be a writer, a astronaut, or a nuclear scientist.

If by "nuclear scientist" you mean nuclear physicist, only a small fragment of them actually works with nuclear bombs (and today it's all about checking how the stockpiled ones are holding, and preparing some of them for recycling). Most of them find a different, normal job.

Vast majority of the jobs connected with nuclear physics or nuclear chemistry has absolutely nothing to do with bombs.

Edited by lajoswinkler
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personaly i like nuclear power like a two year old liking guns because of video games.I like them because the sheer technological might they have,making me proud that i am from a race that can use and create technology even though im perfectly aware how dangerous this is.

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Well, I you detonated a nuke in the reactor, than it would be that booing up, nt the reactor.

Also, the reactor doesn't contain the critical mass of the uranium, the amount required to react fast enough to create an explosion.

I'm pretty sure detonating a nuclear bomb in the reactor would cause a nuclear explosion. Actually detonating a nuclear bomb anywhere would cause a nuclear explosion. :P

My point is that it is fundamentally impossible for the fissionable materials in a nuclear reactor to become supercritical and explode. The worst that could happen would be a catastrophic core containment failure, which would result in the leakage of radiation into the surrounding environment. Even then it wouldn't be anywhere near as bad as nuclear fallout from a nuclear weapon can cause.

This. The reactor geometry is designed specifically to make it impossible to form a supercritical mass. However reactors do indeed contain plenty more than critical mass at any given time. It just isn't dense enough to experience anything worse than prompt criticality. Chernobyl demonstrates a worst-case scenario for what a typical reactor will do, that reactor went prompt critical due to operator error. It resulted not in a nuclear explosion, but effectively a steam bomb after the water hammer from the rush of heat raised the lid.

A nuclear weapon detonating in close proximity to a nuclear reactor would cause the reactor to experience an excursion from the influx of neutrons. Depending on the intensity of the excursion it would range from nothing more than triggering safety devices to inducing a steam explosion and raising the lid.

This is a common misconception. Tactical nukes can fulfil a number of useful roles in warfare, and IMO a limited exchange is possible. Well defended high value targets such as airfields, very deep bunkers and concentrations of enemy troops such as tanks massing for an attack, air or bridgeheads, and carrier battle groups are all perfectly sensible targets for a tactical nuclear strike. These weapons have a pretty low radiological impact, so contamination of the battlefield isn't an issue that prohibits their use. Tanks and mechanised infantry are trained and equipped to operate effectively on a nuclear battlefield. Use by navies in blue water would generally have no real impact on civilians at all.

High intensity conflict with conventional weapons contaminates battlefields with all sorts of toxic crud anyway. You can't blow up and burn modern technology without releasing a cocktail of toxic gunk, not to mention the risks from spent munitions, mines, etc. If you're concerned about making a mess of the ground you're trying to take, then you're out of luck.

I think the reason why they don't use them is political. If you use a nuclear device of any kind you will instantly get the entire world's attention from the audacity of such an action, and you would very quickly find yourself on the receiving end of bigger devices.

Nuclear Deterrent only works because nobody dares throw that first punch. If somebody ever did it would be the death of us all.

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Well, I for my part don´t feel this anxiety.

While the conscious part of my brain knows about the dangers resulting from the actual use of these weapons (and the suffering of the people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki),

the subconscious parts of my brain think "Oh, beautiful", when they see video footages of a nuclear test

Explains my reaction :P

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personaly i like nuclear power like a two year old liking guns because of video games.I like them because the sheer technological might they have,making me proud that i am from a race that can use and create technology even though im perfectly aware how dangerous this is.

Are you talking about the bombs or the power plants or other applications liek measuring thickness of metal sheets, visualizing cancerous tissue in the body, etc?

Because there's a massive difference.

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I really don't understand why people are afraid of nuclear weapons. For example during WWII the american thermite bombings in Japan killed several timesmore people than the two atomic bombs combined. Also, how many people would have died if the U.S. Hadn't nuked japan and the war had continued for several more years without a peaceful surrender? And the Cold War. What would've happened between Russia and America if they hadn't been afraid of each others nuclear weapons? Or what if the Nazis had invented before the Americans? What horrors would they have done with it, even worse than those in Asia?

A historical note: Russian troops' massing on Japan's northern border, not the then month-old atomic bombings, caused Hirohito to surrender.

-Duxwing

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All nuclear weapons have a serious radiological impact that shouldn't be downplayed. Contrary to the absolute contamination, relative contamination is smaller with weapons of larger yield, and larger with tactical weapons, meaning that if you use several small ones instead of one larger, the mess is larger.

Chemical toxicity of conventional weapons is much less of an issue than radioactive fallout. Chemical half-life is usually much shorter.

Yes, but many people think it's that the radiological impact of nuclear weapons that precludes their tactical use. On land any contaminated zone wouldn't be a serious impediment to a mechanised attacker (who could move through the relatively small affected area quickly), and on defence would actually be tactically useful. Navies would be even less restricted.

I think the reason why they don't use them is political. If you use a nuclear device of any kind you will instantly get the entire world's attention from the audacity of such an action, and you would very quickly find yourself on the receiving end of bigger devices.

I agree. However, if an antagonist felt they were backed into a corner and had nothing to lose...

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I agree. However, if an antagonist felt they were backed into a corner and had nothing to lose...

Once nuclear war is initiated there is no going back. It is basically guaranteed (depending on the number of warheads available to both sides) that both sides will suffer massive casualties. Even a desperate opponent would likely see surrender preferable to complete annihilation. The only time I suspect we will see nuclear weapons being used to attack someone is when some sort of radical group gets ahold of one and detonates it during a terrorist attack.

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Unfortunately one of the grim truths of the modern age is nuclear weapons keep the peace (or at least did during the Cold War). It may sound weird, but if the Atom Bomb had never been invented the world might have had a Third World War rather than a cold one. Mutually assured destruction keeps everyone in line.

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Once nuclear war is initiated there is no going back. It is basically guaranteed (depending on the number of warheads available to both sides) that both sides will suffer massive casualties. Even a desperate opponent would likely see surrender preferable to complete annihilation. The only time I suspect we will see nuclear weapons being used to attack someone is when some sort of radical group gets ahold of one and detonates it during a terrorist attack.

I wouldn't be so sure. Like it or not, nuclear weapons are proliferating, and you can't account for every possible permutation of political and strategic circumstances.

You're also assuming that both sides have nukes, which is not necessarily the case. For example, if Israel ever looked like it was on the edge of suffering a total defeat by an Arab nation they'd almost certainly use their nuclear arsenal in a one-way exchange.

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A historical note: Russian troops' massing on Japan's northern border, not the then month-old atomic bombings, caused Hirohito to surrender.

-Duxwing

Citation needed.

I highly doubt that the nuclear bombs had no effect whatsoever on Japan's decision to surrender.

Also, it wasn't one month apart, it was about one week apart (Second bomb on August 9th, Surrender August 15th).

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Unfortunately one of the grim truths of the modern age is nuclear weapons keep the peace (or at least did during the Cold War). It may sound weird, but if the Atom Bomb had never been invented the world might have had a Third World War rather than a cold one. Mutually assured destruction keeps everyone in line.

Ironically enough, this is probably true.

It's almost Machiavellian, although it's more peacekeeping by fear than leading by fear.

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To me, watching the explosions themselves aren't what cause that fear and chilling feeling. From those I feel more awe at the sheer power than fear of their use.

But it's when I think about the things other than the bomb itself, things like how close they came to being used, that makes me nervous. Things like the fact that there were moments the leaders of the Cold War had the red button in front of them, codes in hand, a finger movement away from launch. Things like the US launch code, a number that can wipe out humanity, being 00000000 and common knowledge to the silo crews for decades. That's when nuclear weapons frighten me.

I also recommend that anyone who hasn't seen this video should watch it. Pretty scary too.

Edited by Extemporary
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How the heck to you embed YouTube videos? I tried for about half an hour and NOTHING worked. Everything I found said , but that doesn't seem to work. I tried seeing what it said when I quoted a video and even that didn't work.

If you say [vid eo]<url of video here>[/vid eo] (without those spaces between "vid" and "eo") and then "Go Advanced", it formats it correctly.

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Once nuclear war is initiated there is no going back. It is basically guaranteed (depending on the number of warheads available to both sides) that both sides will suffer massive casualties. Even a desperate opponent would likely see surrender preferable to complete annihilation. The only time I suspect we will see nuclear weapons being used to attack someone is when some sort of radical group gets ahold of one and detonates it during a terrorist attack.

It depends on how sane the opponent is.

I guess, if Hitler would have had access to nuclear weapons, he would have used them when the soviets invaded Berlin, as he thought his fate to be connected to the one of the german people (with other words, he would have seen it as just and well deserved if he had taken the whole of rest germany with him in his suicide).

I also think that North Koreas divine leader would have no problems with using nuclear weapons (if present), if there ever comes a time of UN / US troops invading NK without China doing anything against it.

IMHO the only real question in those 2 cases is, if there are people down in the chain of command who refuse to carry out their orders.

While in the hypothetical case of WW2 I suspect that there would have been generals who had been sane enough to not carry out the orders for the nuclear strike, I have severe doubts if the same can be said for Kim Jong Uns regime ... the deification of the leader and brainwashing of ordinary people in NK seems to be on a level, that even Maoist China and Stalinist Russia never attained ... if Kim Jong Un gives the order of a nuclear strike, there may be enough people who just carry out the orders, without thinking of the consequences for their country and/or their loved ones

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Citation needed.

I highly doubt that the nuclear bombs had no effect whatsoever on Japan's decision to surrender.

Also, it wasn't one month apart, it was about one week apart (Second bomb on August 9th, Surrender August 15th).

Hrm. You're right. The surrender came six days later. I stand corrected on that fact. Thanks! :) I read the timeline on Wikipedia and collected relevant events:

6 August - Little Boy drops.

8 August - USSR declares war against Japan.

9 August - USSR invades Manchuria. Fat Man drops.

15 August - Japan Surrenders

The events so quickly occurred as to impede distinguishing their effects. I retract my categorical claim.

-Duxwing

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Yeah... the mass media sometimes makes me want to limit the first amendment...

Mainstream media makes me want to outlaw mainstream media. IMO it's more based on manipulation and fearmongering than reporting and informing. When I see a broadcast from any of the major outlets I ask myself "How did we go from Walter Cronkite to this!?!?" It's sickening to see such misinformation on such a large scale.

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just to add to clarification i would like to point out that a nuclear reactor must necessarily have a critical mass of uranium to be able to work, however while this critical mass can cause meltdown if the k factor of the reactor core is permitted to remain above 1 for extended periods of time, a detonation reaction requires deliberate mating into a critical mass of a subcritical mass of fissionable material in a strong enough tamper to allow for a highly energetic reaction in a sufficiently short period of time, which is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE in a nuclear reactor powered power generation facility.

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way i understand it you need heu (90% u235) to make a bomb, reactor grade fuel is only like 3-4% u235. a critical mass of u238 wont explode, but it will probibly melt (unless we add coolant, and run that coolant through a turbine, in which case we get a powerplant). scifi teaches us that the reactor "going critical" is a bad thing. it really just means that the reactor is on.

Edited by Nuke
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Nuclear weapons are used as peacekeeping devices (am I the only one to see irony here?), and due to Mutually Assured Destruction, no one wants a war. So I don't know if they've saved more lives than they've taken... Or maybe, eventually, the amount of people killed by them will be small compared to the lives saved by the lack of war (helped by nukes).

EDIT: yeah that isn't a clear explanation is it...

EDIT 2: Explanation: Nuke stops war. War kills people. Nuke also kills people, but at some point people killed by war > people killed by nuke.

Edited by Javster
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Nuclear weapons use highly-enriched uranium or plutonium, because these will explode when they are mashed into a critical mass, basically they produce more neutrons through fission than can escape through the surface of the mass, so the neutrons meet a nucleus and cause it to split before they can escape. This releases more neutrons, which cause more fissions, causing a chain reaction

Nuclear reactors generally use only lightly-enriched or naturally-occurring uranium or plutonium (except for some submarine reactors where a higher power density is required). The critical mass of these is absolutely (even infinitely) huge. The only way they get them to undergo a chain reaction at all is to stack them in a very specific configuration, and surround them with moderator, which slows down the neutrons to a level where they are more likely to cause fission. Detonating a nuclear device inside a nuclear reactor will just blow the fuel and moderator everywhere, and actually stop the reaction in the reactor, although the high neutron flux from the detonation could cause some of the fuel to fission, boosting the yield. The major problem would really be with fallout, as you'd blow fuel fragments, fission products, and contaminated coolant, moderator and shielding all over the landscape. Not good for your health!

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Part of me says, we won't be nuked due to Mutually Assured Destruction and countless treaties. But the other part of me says, what happens IF we are nuked? Hear an emergency siren and message on TV, waiting, mass panic, gone....

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Part of me says, we won't be nuked due to Mutually Assured Destruction and countless treaties. But the other part of me says, what happens IF we are nuked? Hear an emergency siren and message on TV, waiting, mass panic, gone....

Actually we would probably just see some sort of news headline like this the next day: Classified US Satellite Shoots Down ICBM! :P

In all seriousness though, some sort of space-based antimissile system would be the best defense against ICBMs, and the traditional military should be able to intercept bombers and other threats. It's the terrorists we have to worry about...

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If I was a world superpower trying to nuke my rivals, I wouldn't go for ICMBs at all, or at least, I wouldn't rely on them. They're too obvious, and too easy to shoot down with a massive big orbital laser if your enemies are so inclined. I'd go for an extremely fast, low-flying cruise missile, like a longer-range version of the BrahMos II. Almost impossible to intercept.

That's if I was so inclined. In reality, I love military hardware as pieces of engineering, but the thought of killing another human being makes me physically sick. It's an annoying situation!

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