A compendium of atomic bomb explosions

Here’s a compilation of various tests of atomic bombs which I’ve put up just because they’re mesmerizing and because this is one of the things that we have to worry about with North Korea.  It’s also amazing—and terrifying—that the human brain is able to manufacture something like this out of our neurons and substances in the earth’s crust.


  1. mfdempsey1946
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    If every human being — especially those with direct governmental, military, and financial power — were to watch and ponder this video, it would surely change humanity’s individual and collective mindsets.

    Wouldn’t it?

    As Pontius Pilate tells Jesus Christ in “The Last Temptation of Christ” (the words piercingly underplayed by none other than David Bowie): “No, probably not.”

    • ploubere
      Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see how mankind will ever develop the collective will to ban these weapons.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Trump knows all about it. He learned it from an uncle who told him about nuclear weapons years ago. But, aside from the Trump factor the bombs, by their very nature will probably never be used. Of course I did not think we would be starting wars either so what do I know.

    • eric
      Posted December 9, 2017 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      The vast majority of people who work in the nuclear power and defense industry have seen at least some recorded detonations. It’s sort of like telling a paleontologist they should watch Jurassic Park.

  2. ploubere
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s not a matter of if, but when one of these bombs will go off either accidentally or intentionally. And then whether that will trigger nuclear annihilation of mankind.

    Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser, is a great history of the development and deployment of nuclear weapons, and of all the near accidents to date. We have skirted fate so far.

    • mikeyc
      Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      They’ve already gone off intentionally. Twice.

      • mikeyc
        Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Sorry if that sounded…snarky. I know what you meant.

        However, I was wondering if anyone know what are the series of rocket contrails (?) near the blasts in the early bomb videos? Test equipment launched above the blasts?

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          Do not know what that is. Shows up right after the blast. Maybe caused by the heat of the desert?

        • a-non
          Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

          Not an expert, but I think they usually launched a string of rockets just to put some smoke at known positions in the sky. Then for instance the blast in wave would be made visible on film.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 9, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          As a-non says it’s rocket contrails. The rockets are on pads evenly spaced in a straight line radial to ground zero. The rockets launch vertically simultaneously & from the movie of the contrail distortions one can assess the speed & strength of the shock wave at different heights. They use big rockets – tall as a house.

  3. Mark R.
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”


  4. Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Indeed mesmerising. And thought-provoking and terrifying.

  5. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    If you like the above video watch:
    Trinity & Beyond
    the Atomic Bomb Movie

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.

    Nice mystery-theater-style soundtrack.

  7. Posted December 9, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink


    I wonder if similar compilations of hydrogen bombs exist.

  8. Historian
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Jeffrey Lewis in The Washington Post presents a scenario of how a nuclear war with North Korea could play out. It is not a pretty picture.


    • ploubere
      Posted December 9, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that’s a pretty likely and horrifying outcome.

  9. ealloc
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Dan Ellsberg’s new book about how fragile and volatile US nuclear war plans are, and how a nuclear war might actually play out, just came out this week. He was one of the US’s top nuclear strategists, working for Robert McNamara, so he has lots of insider’s knowledge. Dr Strangelove was less fictional than you think!

    There are fascinating aspects to his story. The Pentagon Papers were only a smaller (and in his opinion less important) part of the top-secret papers he planned to release, but he lost the rest in a hurricaine.

    He gives a preview in this recent interview:

    • Posted December 11, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Also: Command and Control by Eric Schlosser

  10. Posted December 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the cautionary conclusion of: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/11/coming-war-china-171128124059730.html

  11. rickflick
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    All I can add is, I’m grateful that at least here in our democratic system, we are assured that only the most level-headed, the most mature and serious elected officials are put in charge of these terrible weapons of destruction. Can you imagine the risk we’d be taking if just any schlock tycoon or boneheaded dictator had the reigns of power!

  12. claudia baker
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink


  13. starskeptic
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    So, it’s North Korea that we’re concerned about…interesting…

  14. phoffman56
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    “…this is one of the things that we have to worry about with North Korea”

    North Korea’s government is not now, and won’t likely become, capable of terminating the existence of homo sapiens. Quite likely both the U.S. and Russia are. So maybe

    ‘this is one of the things that our species has to worry about with the U.S., especially at present’

    would be more appropriate.

    And over time, the unwillingness to make ‘no first use of nuclear weapons’ into a public and definite policy may well be regarded as the worst ever state crime, if, at that point, anyone is still around to think about it.

    • eric
      Posted December 9, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      I think that’s an extreme exaggeration. While yes the US’ policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ is not the same as ‘no-first-strike,’ in practice they’ve played out exactly the same way.

      Moreover I’m not sure what you think it would really buy us. A US commitment to no-first-strike is only as trustworthy as our President…but so is strategic ambiguity. Eisenhower, for instance, opted not to use the bomb in Korea even while our forces were being completely overrun by surprise attack from a million-man Chinese army. Nixon and then Ford opted not to use the bomb when we were losing and then lost the Vietnam war. And if we had a no-first-strike policy now, I doubt very much such a paper would stop Trump from ordering a strike if that’s what he wanted to do.

      Lastly, this is just IMO but our policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ has nothing to do with whether we’d decide to fire first if we thought a nuclear exchange was coming. IMO it’s intended to deter large conventional attacks on US and allied territories (like: Europe). It’s supposed to make Russia think twice about a European invasion. Small nuclear powers didn’t even exist when we fashioned that doctrine, so it’s clearly not about them or how we expect to respond to them threatening us with nukes.

      • phoffman56
        Posted December 10, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        To be clear to start, your use of “us” in several places makes it likely that you are a USian. But this is not a little argument between two USians. I’m Canadian, so North American (so I guess American in the geographical sense, rather than the Monroe Doctrine/exceptionalism sense). I have lived in Hyde Park a couple of times for a few month’s U. Chicago work, and have many USian colleagues. I experienced the Cuban missile crisis while an undergraduate in one of Kruschev’s targets, i.e. Toronto, and later spent 5 assorted years in U.K. ones, Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge. In particular, on a selfish note, you could deduce that dropping dead from a Drumpfian nuclear holocaust will take many fewer years away from me than from most of you.

        If by “exaggeration” you refer to my ‘extinction of species as a result of all-out thermonuclear war’, I suggest you read up on the topic of nuclear winter.

        If it refers to something else, please be specific.

        The remainder of your “red scare” propaganda is unconvincing. It is the huge nuclear powers, U.S. and Russia and China, who need to make a very public policy of No First Strike (and further reduce their arsenals).

        As far as Drumpf is concerned, there are constraints, not very good, but that policy would be one more, and a major factor, in hopefully convincing someone(s) in the U.S. military to refuse an illegal order from him (or perhaps later from Alabama’s boy Mooron, if Tuesday is his big day, Pence later takes the criminal fall for Drumpf, Republicans need another christo-taliban-man as VP, and Drumpf drops dead, perhaps because of the penchant for politician assassination in the country which is the christian version Pakistan-analog religio-dysfunctional land. (I realize this is mildly contradictory, but the variety of evangelical loons is wide.)

        Off topic a bit here: I suppose Phillippines is the another candidate for that analogue other than U.S. Pakistan is probably the other main worry with regards to initiating nuclear annihilation, besides Drumpf. The initial North Korean atom bomb expertise was sold to them by a Pakistani, in case that’s new info for any youngster reading this.

        Russia has effectively already invaded eastern Ukraine (Crimea too, though the history there is certainly something popular U.S. news seem to be utterly ignorant of). At what European or Korean invasion point is it U.S. policy to let loose the ICBMs and Polaris hydrogen bombs? Of smaller atomic powers, noticeably less dangerous to homo sapiens, I’m sure that U.K. and France are more than sufficient to deter any conventional, hardly still likely, red scare Europe invasion. The Russian army is two generations behind the country whose military budget is larger than the sum of those from the next 8 countries.

        And I am appreciative in an appropriate amount for U.S. military strength and diplomatic efforts over the earlier days after WWII.

        In the 90’s the U.S. had a golden opportunity (and only them) to lead the world to a much less threatening level of thermonuclear disaster. But the existence of large numbers of ignorami, such as the Alabama peasants who’ll be child-molester-voters in a few days, and of various Pentagon characters who could have had roles in Dr. Strangelove, is perhaps the main factor that kept Bill Clinton from trying to seize that opportunity to any really useful extent (as a few people are finally realizing now).

  15. Posted December 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    There have been long term repercussions from the nuclear testing and bombing. Soldiers who watched the testing in Nevada developed radiation-related illnesses and died. Many of the actors in a John Wayne movie that was filmed later in the vicinity of the testing in Nevada died of cancer. Some of the Marshall Islanders lost their islands to total destruction by testing, or if part or all of an island was left, radiation. Many deaths due to radiation, and ongoing cancers and other
    debilities (i.e. blindness). Many, many people died. Some are still dying. Some deal with radiation-related handicaps all the time. I don’t know the loss of health or life due to the scientific investigations, the processing of materials to make the bombs, putting the bombs together,or any other aspect of bomb construction and transportation. I do know that “down-winders” near Hanford developed cancers such as thyroid cancer. Our government has not shared the total costs with “we the people”.

    • Vaal
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 1:36 am | Permalink

      As someone with Tinnitus one shot that stuck out to me were the smiling soldiers(?) sitting watching one of the explosions. Then all of a sudden they are hit by the shockwave.

      I can’t imagine how loud that was. Why wouldn’t they all be deaf after? Or at least it’s hard to imagine that didn’t cause quite a number of bouts of tinnitus in that group.

  16. starskeptic
    Posted December 10, 2017 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    So, a group of atomic explosions is called a ‘compendium’….good to know;)

  17. Posted December 11, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I highly recommend Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control a history of nuclear weapons and the cold war from the US perspective.

    The gummint lied their asses off to us, all the time, and we were damned lucky to get through the period of 1946-1992. The number of accidents was pretty astonishing.

  18. Hempenstein
    Posted December 11, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    My uncle, Loren C Hurd (PhD, Chemistry, U Wisconsin 1929) was part of the Manhattan Project, something I didn’t learn until the ’80s. His daughter’s son told me last week that he found a paper published by my uncle and J Robert Oppenheimer about removal of silicon in water. He didn’t provide further details except that LCH was first au, and I haven’t been able to find it. If anyone knows of something like that, pls post it here.

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