How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (Kinda)

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

I felt alienated from The Guardian’s graphic about stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Was there a better way to depict the data?

UPDATE: Aug – I’m in the process of revising this diagram in light of all the comments (and flames!). Thanks all. If you can help me research the data, please email

Guardian's Nuclear Weapons graphic

I felt the use of abstract figures made most of the data meaningless. Russia has 5192 warheads. America 4102. France 300. What does that mean? Is that a lot? I can’t relate to that.

There’s a single way I relate to nuclear weapons. By their destructive capability. I grew up watching Threads and The Day After. We were even made to watch those nuclear horror films at school. Those films branded our minds with the idea that nuclear weapons could destroy the world. They are Doomsday devices. They kill everybody. Nuclear War = End Of The World.

So, I thought of a better way to understand the data. Dump the raw totals. Instead visualize the stockpiles by how many times over they could destroy the world.  Yeah cool! And that would actually expose the ludicrous stupidly of nuclear weapons at the same time. *So clever*.

However, the idea rapidly unravelled. Here’s why…

How Many Nukes Will Destroy The World?

I wasn’t expecting that. We only actually have 0.83% of what’s required to completely wipe out civilisation. We couldn’t do it if we wanted to.

10 years ago we had 32,512 nuclear weapons. That’s a much better 2.6%. God damn you Non Nuclear Proliferation Pact!

Ah but we all live in cities now

I tried to recover a eye-popping stat with another quick calc. 50% of us live in densely populated cities now. Maybe we could wipe out all city-dwelling humanity. YES!

Nope. Still no good.

Unexpectedly, in making this image, the data forced me to change my mind.

In this case, it exposed the myth in my head, scorched long ago into my childhood imagination. The scene of many nightmares. That nuclear weapons could kill everything. Could wipe out civilisation.

No doubt, nuclear weapons are crazy devices. In the hands of mad people and mad regimes, they have a nightmarish potential for devastation. But they are not the end of humanity.

As the data reveals, we simply don’t have enough of them.


 

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Show Comments ( )

  • http://heyckendorff.blogspot.com/ Werner

    I think the environment would be rather polluted from the radio active fallout if all 10.227 nukes was brought to explosion. It would not be the end of the world, but I´m afraid it would be the end of the world as we know it.

  • Keith

    The Nuke that destroyed Hiroshima is not by any means the most powerful bomb in service.
    So if you’re using that as a reference for your data, you’re not going to get accurate forecasts for our possible demise.
    There are plenty of nukes way more destructive than the B83.
    The best example I can think of would be the ACTUAL most powerful nuke ever detonated…
    The AN602 also known by many other nicknames such as “Tsar Bomba” or “King of Bombs”.

    It used a nuclear weapon yield of 50 megatons. This is equivalent to 1,400 times the combined power of the two nuclear explosives used in World War II; Little Boy (13-18 kilotons) and Fat Man (21 kilotons), the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    In fact, when the soviet union decided to test it, they only used HALF of it’s explosive capabilities for fear that using it at maximum capacity would result in radioactive fallout.
    The initial three-stage design was capable of approximately 100 Mt, but would have caused too much radioactive fallout. To limit fallout, the third stage and possibly the second stage had a lead tamper instead of a uranium-238 fusion tamper (which greatly amplifies the reaction by fissioning uranium atoms with fast neutrons from the fusion reaction). This eliminated fast fission by the fusion-stage neutrons, so that approximately 97% of the total energy resulted from fusion alone.
    Even after deactivating it’s fullest potential, it was still the most powerful bomb in the world.
    And the effect was felt from around the world.
    Here’s a video on youtube I just found with all of the fact in the video description.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxD44HO8dNQ

    • Bryce

      You misread the graphic. It states the the warhead is 200 times as powerful as the Hiroshima nuke.

    • http://www.davidpredmond.com DPR

      Read the information, the author uses a bomb 200 times powerful than the Hiroshima bomb

  • Gealouple

    The action taken to local and national disasters is great but it’s a damn shame that so many citizens take advantage of the negative situations.

    I mean everytime there is an earthquake, a flood, an oil spill – there’s always a group of heartless people who rip off tax payers.

    This is in response to reading that 4 of Oprah Winfreys “angels” got busted ripping off the system. Shame on them!
    http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/08/19/crimesider/entry5251471.shtml

  • http://www.dancass.com Dan Cass

    Did you have a look at any *authoritative* studies or just rely on your (impressive) native wits?

    Your illustrations are great but I’m thinking that there might be more to this than just some simple calculations…

    Think about the damage and cost inflicted by the 9/11 attacks. The total area destroyed was relatively tiny, but the consequences for the world were profound.

    Or think about the ‘crisis’ caused by electricity blackouts, or internet failures that happen from time to time and destroy no real estate.

    Do you really think that life in the UK, for example, would continue in any meaningful sense if every City was partially destroyed by even a small nuke each? No electricity, almost no communications, no water or sewage, no news, almost no surviving doctors, few deliveries of imported or domestic food, radiation pollution, vast numbers of injured people, barely any law and order….

    Your other visualisations are great but this one needs to go back to the drawing board.

    Like you, I grew up under the ‘nuclear cloud’, so I am interested to see you do it again with more sophisticated thinking, that captures the impact of a nuke on the complex systems that sustain our cities.

  • Mark K.

    While insightful, this illustration only shows what it would take to destroy the inhabitable landmasses of Earth. But you completely ignore the environmental impact a nuclear warhead has. You’ve heard of a nuclear winter yes? It would only take a fraction of the nukes we currently have to make the surface of our planet uninhabitable through, not a massive explosion, but by radiation, and the effect of massive amounts of dust and debris being thrown into the atmosphere.

  • http://www.mundodelamor.com/v219a/index.php?lang=english MdAmor

    It’s a relief to know that we can’t destroy the world!

  • Daniel

    You are, however, ignoring the side-effects of open-air nuclear detonation. Taking the Hiroshima bomb as an example, the instant deaths are estimated at about 66,000. Deaths due to radiation contamination are estimated at 69,000. For about three generations in the areas of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were very significantly heightened levels of other disorders such as leukemia.

    You also fail to take into account the types of bombs. The aforementioned ones were fairly low-yield – using today’s technology in design and manufacture the same bombs, using the same amount of fissionable material, would be about 12 times more powerful. In addition to just fission bombs we also have fusion and neutron bombs. Fission and fusion are fairly “dirty” with very long-lasting background contamination while neutron bombs are hugely “dirty” but with a very short half-life of contamination.

    What is the effect on the water supply? On arable land? On the air in general? Your study ignores all these factors and chooses instead to only focus on the immediate blast which, as history has shown, is only the beginning.

  • http://lovingjacqui.net/ Christoph Dollis

    “I think the environment would be rather polluted from the radio active fallout if all 10.227 nukes was brought to explosion.”

    You’d never, ever, ever, ever get all weapons to be deployed efficiently. In what war are 100% of warheads actually deployed?

    Lots of warheads’ delivery systems would be wiped out, malfunction, held in reserve as a post-war negotiation bargaining chip counterstrike deterrent, miss their targets, etc., etc.

    And even if somehow the world’s best politicians and military leaders got together with the top international scientists and said, “Screw that! How can we coordinate and deploy these puppies to do the most damage?”

    you still couldn’t deploy them as efficiently as the author of this post’s grossly over-optimistic (pessimistic?) example.

    It’s not like the world’s population lives in equally dense concentric circles for extermination-convenience.

    Mark K. and others are also wrong about the effects of radiation, which awful, are limited by wind patterns, diminish in severity due to radioctive half lives, and for air bursts are pretty minimal anyway due to the fact the main blast radius doesn’t touch the Earth and so contaminate soil: Nuclear winter appears to be a real worry, but at the same time is similar to what one would expect from a volcanic caldera putting material in the atmosphere… bad, but not likely enough to make the world uninhabitable.

    Now, all of the above said, a nuclear war could still mess up your day.

  • http://lovingjacqui.net/ Christoph Dollis

    “On the air in general?”

    What do you think nuclear weapons are going to do to “air”?

  • k. verweij

    i don’t agree. this is worse. i always thought we did have enough to kill everything, so nobody would use them because of the concern that the whole world would be destroyed in, lets say, a nuclear war between the US en russia. but now it seems that the bombs could actually be used with relatively low impact. my concern is that they will be used much easier.

  • bob

    This is to Kieth

    Kieth, idiot, he said that the B83 is 200X the power of the Hiroshima nuke. He did not say that he is referencing the Hiroshima nuke itself. Also, he is talking about individual warheads being 200X the Hiroshima bomb. Each Weapon can have multiple warheads. So the writer is correct and you need to brush up on those reading skills brother.

    And as for the impact…just detonate a few special purpose nukes at high altitude in various locations around the globe. The EMP will take down much of the infrastructure. Whatever is left after 6 months will be taken down by bands of marauding canibals.

  • passerbyer

    Does anybody actually read other people’s comments? There must be at least 10 comments reading, “But what about fallout?” Jeez

    Btw, good one Robo Sapien :P

    Keith: First of all, I second bob’s statement. But to add to that, you gave an example of a bomb that no longer exists. You do know that “in service” means basically, accessible now, right? What I’m saying is, it might help to name a bomb more powerful than that B83 that exists TODAY, not some bomb that’s been gone for around 40 years. I’m not even sure there are any nuclear bombs as powerful as the Tzar Bomba today, And I guess you don’t know, either.

  • rg

    The effects of EMP from a nuclear blast are not much of a factor assuming the detonation occurs at ground level. A ground level detonation is the most effective at casualties. However, in a ground level detonation the EMP stops having much of an effect in an area that is still experiencing significant effects from the overpressure and heat from the detonation. At this distance, the blastwave is still capable of causing buildings to collapse. IIRC the casualty rates are expected to be 75% in that area anyway. I’m not sure if this figure includes those who will die in a few days from radiation poisoning. I’m going to guess that any survivors potentially may not be rescued, it doesn’t pay to irradiate and cause the deaths of rescue workers to rescue people who are already beyond help and will die in days anyway.

    That bit of grimness aside, to actually have an effective EMP event that causes damage to electrical devices over a large area one must detonate the nuclear device several miles above the surface of the earth somewhere in the stratosphere. This will probably not cause deaths immediately (patients in the ICU at a hospital and airline passengers in the air may disagree).

    Additionally, electronic devices known as “Nuclear Event Detectors” exist that are capable of detecting an incoming EMP as soon as the gamma rays from an explosion are detected, but before the increased neutron flux occurs. The neutron flux comes in tens of nanoseconds after the gamma rays are detected. Photons travel at the speed of light while neutron, due to being a particle with mass cannot travel the speed of light. So only nanoseconds exist for a system to power off.

    The increased neutron flux is the blast effect that is damaging to operating electronic devices. However, if electronic devices are not operating, they should remain undamaged.

  • Jez Weston

    The majority of deaths from a large-scale nuclear exchange may come from the the disruption of agriculture. If transport infrastructure is destroyed, then fuel and fertiliser cannot be moved to farming nations; and food cannot be moved to hungry nations.

    ICSU’s report, “Environmental consequences of nuclear war”, predicts roughly 1-2 billion deaths from starvation, on top of the hundreds of millions of deaths from explosion and fallout. That’s without nuclear winter. With nuclear winter the deaths are over 2 billion.

    The whole report is online and as chilling as you would expect:
    http://globalecology.stanford.edu/SCOPE/SCOPE_28_2/SCOPE_28II.html

  • RF

    I agree with the comment about disrupting the necessary supply chains as an interesting means of destruction and death. Killing people instantly with bombs is a big task – especially if you’re trying to wipe out the world. But strategically contaminate the food supply so that a large percentage starves out and the soil becomes unusable for some time, and it could have a much larger effect. Also don’t discount the fact that millions of hungry people will turn on each other as desperation sets in (particularly once the governments seal borders and stop imports, a logical progression). Affect basic survival and societal collapse may cause a sort of self-induced genocide.

    Also consider that we don’t have a gigantic nuke stockpile to eliminate the world, but rather specific targets. I’d like to see your graphs, with current technology taken into consideration, adjusted for something like a US-USSR bombfest. Is the concept of Mutually-Assured Destruction technically valid from a pure instant-annihilation standpoint, like we’ve all been led to believe? I’m skeptical, but I think nuking and contaminating important functions of a country would lead to the same result, albeit taking a bit more time.

    In some sort of ultimate nuclear lapse of reason, were they to all be deployed, I think life would be significantly disrupted. Some massive areas would become uninhabitable, or otherwise abandoned due to lack of resources. Ultimately the amount of supportable life on the planet would decrease by possibly immeasurable amounts, so while the human species would continue, I think it would ultimately end up a tiny fraction of what it is now.

  • Jeremy

    This guy is a complete moron. According to a report done by the united nations it would take the detonation of 10 nuclear weapons across the planet within a week long period to put the entire planet into a nuclear winter (i.e. ICE AGE)…and not just your typical ice age…but one precursed with radiation levels 1000% higher than the human body can safely absorb. Do I need say more?

  • Anthony Henry

    Interesting debate…. But Jamie is stoned… :)… Between the U.S., Russia and other nations there have been over 2000 nuclear detonations already to date…. I don’t think 10 tsar bombas (which no longer exist) could cause a nuclear winter.

    I think the nuclear winter scenario was useful to sway public perception against the bomb but is extreme worst case speculation at best. I would think infrastructure disruption and possible wide spread starvation would be great problems but fall far short of world wide distruction. 2 billion humans is far short of 50% of the human race (sucks if you happen to be in that group).

  • Mr. Nitpicker

    Well, being a nitpicker I have, too, done some research. According to my 10 minute research 100% of the human population live on about 12.5% of the world, the area of all the land on earth being about 150,000,000 sq km. This means the area that people live on is approximately 18,750,000 sq km. ( World land area multiplied by 0.125)

    According to http://www.nucleardarkness.org/nuclear/nuclearexplosionsimulator/ the most powerful nuclear weapon in the US arsenal is the B-83 bomb, this bomb has a killzone area of 541 sq km with an almost-certain-kill zone of up to 1036 sq km on a very clear day, and I don’t think this is a very unlikely scenario since the only factor in getting to the perfect day is time, which you have a lot of if you’re going to kill absolutely everyone anyway.

    18,750,000 / 1,036 = 18098,4555984556, or approximately 18098 bombs required to absolutely obliterate every single human on earth with nuclear bombs.

    But yeah, like many have stated the required amount of nukes to actually -kill- the world population of humans is significantly lower than the amount of nukes required to individually kill each one with the use of the explosive radius of nukes.

    Still, a cool graph with excellent design, and I love the website.

  • Dylan

    I think this actually overestimate the power of nuclear weapons. The vast majority of strategic and tactical nuclear weapon we have in our arsenal is the variable yield B61. It’s rated from 0.3 to 340 kt. Compared to the B83, which can be dialed up to 1.2 mt. So divide the kill radius by roughly four. And times the number of bombs necessary by four.

    Either way, it’s a bad idea to start using nuclear weapons because of all the stated issues with radioactive contamination.

    Anyways, I think the point of the the graph is point out the fallacy of the often heard phrase, “we have enough nuclear weapons to blow the whole world up like…five times over or something”. That is obviously false. But it shouldn’t have to be true to scare us enough to not use nuclear weapons.

  • ICBMR COOL

    umm what about the radiation that would certainly kills us even if we live in remote areas theres a thing called the wind and if all the 10000+ bombs were to blow up i would think that this would cause a world wide radiation spread. You really should add the fact that radiation is also half the reason why people die from a nuke detonation

  • Patrick

    According this this website there are 3158 cities of over 100,000 inhabitants, and only 413 cities of over 1 million.
    The worlds’ 10,000 nukes couldnt kill everyone but they would make a big dent. Enough to still be worried about them anyway :).

    http://www.mongabay.com/cities_urban_01.htm

  • Patrick

    Here is another good website

    http://www.oism.org/nwss/s73p912.htm

    Basically it says that you can survive a nuclear attack as long as you stay in a fallout shelter for the first few weeks until radiation levels fall.

  • Ian

    The destructive radius of nuclear weapons grows only as the 1/3rd power of power, so to maximize destruction, you would have to use more smaller bombs (e.g. 20kT). Assuming a total worldwide nuclear explosive power of 5,000,000kT, and a blast radius of 5km for a 20kT bomb (1psi overpressure for “moderate” damage), 20 million km^2 of the earth can be destroyed. That’s just about equal to the populated landmass of the earth.
    So the world’s arsenal can’t kill the world multiple times over, but it can come close, and that doesn’t include any secondary effects, like nuclear winter and such, which would surely be significant.
    Then again, if we could “parcel out” 0.8kT per person, then everyone could indeed be killed many many times over….

  • Tim Bits

    And what about the fallout spread way beond the 14km destruction radius?

  • kkzxak47

    Actually I don’t think we only have 10,227 nuclear bombs. Those governments just lie about everything.

  • 0bx

    One Megaton has a destructive radius for civilian buildings of 120Km², not 14,9Km² (that’s the blast radius).

    But, even then, instead of the “blast radius”, it would be more accurate to use the range where the thermal radiation causes second degree burns. A nuclear explosion at that range in a city will cause random fires everywhere.

    Assuming this a 1MT thermal nuke, like the B83, it has a range of 15Km where it causes at least that much destruction, which is a 706Km² zone.

    So, to wipe out all the largest cities, according to your stats, you’ll only need 212 megatons. The worlds arsenal passes with flying colors!

  • Stan Penner

    Yes, what about the air? (see Christoph Dollis above).

  • Packman

    Sorry not to double post but there should be noted that there is also a difference between the blast radius, the pressure damage radius, and the radioactive death radius.

    The listed 14.9 km is probably the pressure radius which would literally tear apart almost any structure within that zone. The fireball radius is the instant death part where your in the fusion center. If your gonna get hit thats the best place of your three options to be in. Instant death by fire, being ripped apart, or getting a cancer instantly (radioactive burn) that kills you like leprosy over a longer period of time where you suffer immense pain.

    Its morbid to think about, but in some ways your conclusion is right though we don’t have enough nukes to fireball us all to death Independence Day style. The people who happened to be behind large concrete walls (once skyscrapers) in Japan survived; however, if their stories are viewed and this is the true value of the history channel here, there is worth in knowing of how horrible war is and what being alive afterwards is like. They are almost all sterile and never lived a life you would wish for.

  • http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2009/how-i-l ????????

    Isn’t this information based on the fact that it would completely obliterate the world? What about a Nuclear Fallout? Wouldn’t you need far less warheads to cause on, and if so…… How many???

  • James

    I just have to drop in here and say that we still have the capability of destroying our ~10,000 largest cities. I believe if you start down that list they get pretty damn small by the time you run out of weapons. At ~1,000 you’re talking about populations of half a million so I imagine at ~10,000 you’re talking about populations of a hundred thousand. Which means you’ve probably gone and wiped out a billion or so. Then there is the environmental and societal impact of destroying so much of our industry and dispersing so much radiation.

  • Mulenco

    One nuclear weapon is enough to kill, so why focus on what it would take to blow up the entire planet? The fact that we could take out millions of people is enough for me to consider reducing our nuclear arms.

  • Norman Clarke

    Does this take into consideration the radiation fallout?

  • Ryan Powell

    The conclusions drawn from this visualization prove how fundamentally fragile visualizations are and prone to the level of knowledge (or lack thereof) of their creators. As mentioned many times in these comments, even if we ignore the serious environmental consequences even 100 nukes, the world economy would collapse due to uncertainty and destruction of human capital and physical infrastructure. The gross oversimplifications that made this visualization POSSIBLE also render is equally USELESS.

  • Howard

    this is a general critique of your visualisations – you hide the interdependencies between the elements e.g. take out a city and all the towns and villages would go down. cut money to one budget (billion dollar o gram) and the others would suffer.

    maybe we need to start building interactive emergent simulations next?

  • cavan

    your ignorance is astounding. 10,000 nukes is a hell of a lot more raw power than you estimate. When mankind mixes it’s technological ingenuity with nature the outcome can never be correctly calculated. I just hope that nobody finds this article and uses it as a resource because you are fucking wrong.

  • Flo

    You may want to read On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn. Though being quite dated – first published in 1960 based on lectures given in the 50s – it quite nicely does away with the idea of overkill and mutually assured annihilation. Kahn analyses in depth the possible scenarios of an all-out nuclear war and the issues the survivors would be dealing with, including elevated radiation levels, genetic mutations, unusable land and destroyed infrastructure.

  • Mike

    I have been interested in nuclear issues for over 20 years now and I have to say this is the most stupid thing I have read so far . The math is absolute rubbish, completely ignoring heat effects, radiation, nuclear winter and damage to vital infraestructure on a worldwide basis.

    A recent study in which India and Pakistan use 50 Hiroshima sized weapons each, against cities revealed a substantial global reduction in temperature enough to ruin crops worldwide and make Billions (not Millions) starve to death. If all nukes were used life above the surface will be over for good no question, because large targets will be hit, realeasing billions of tons of soot, and what if they are targets that contain chemical or radioactive substances, the realease from those will make the radiation from the weapon itself pale in comparison.

  • Rodak

    The OP is seriously missing the point. A good historical comparison here would be medieval warfare, where only a fraction of casualties came from battle — the majority, often the great majority, came from its side effects.

    Human civilization could be brought down with mere dozens of nukes — note that for best effect, most of these should be near-ground strikes, optimized for fallout yield. Start with the oil fields — all of them, not just the Middle East. Throw a few at the world’s largest dams; millions could be killed by the consequent floods, besides bringing down more energy sources as well as irrigation. Pick the top three dozen railroad- and highway- transportation hubs (which tend to be the same), throw in all port cities with a million people or more — down to half a million in the tropics, and things stop moving. For good measure, toss low-yield nukes at major highway passes, splintering the land situation.

    You absolutely don’t want to just wipe out major cities, though a dozen well-placed high-altitude blasts to generate EMP blasts to kill communications are recommended.. Civilization will collapse quite well under the weight of numbers who no longer have energy and quickly run out of food. The great scourge of the Middle Ages would do the most work: plagues.

    To be thorough, this should be done in two stages: just at the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, first, and six months later in the Southern.

    About the time the lucky folks in the tropics who weren’t near any cities begin to get organized, global temperatures will plunge, and not recover for years.

    Would it end the human race? Likely not.

  • David Michael

    Nuclear winter would is a huge misnomer. It’s been revealed to be about the equivalent of Nuclear Fall. A pain in the ass, but it isn’t going to kill the majority of survivors of the initial attack. Fallout is a problem. It will render targetted areas uninhabitable for years. It can only travel SO FAR, however, and since the vast majority of the earth is not touched, most people will survive. How many stories have you heard of people near Hiroshima getting cancer years later? Compare that to the number of people who never went there and got cancer as a result of the fallout in Okinawa. (0) The air may travel and occasionally make some people very ill, or it may come downstream, wiping out wildlife and anyone unlucky enough to drink that particular water, and so on- but most people will survive.

    Rodak made a good point on picking targets— but what country is going to be nuking dams and power plants instead of high profile targets like cities, the Pentagon, Buckingham Palace, the White House, military bases, and so on. And how likely is it that the profile of this issue will, as another uses stated, be utilized to maximum effect? It won’t. Bases will be taken before launch, operators will refuse to do so, missiles will misfire or not go off at all, and others will be held for post-war negotiations.

    If people were very determined, it could end our lives as we know it, but civilization would recover. Population centers will not be wiped out, in general, they will be damaged and moved to safer locations. People in the USA will spread out and populate the midwest, amongst other things.

    We cannot end humanity with nukes. There are many much easier ways to do it, none of which anyone sane will employ in warfare.

  • http://www.rubikus.net Rui

    Dear David,

    I really enjoyed your TED talk so I decided to visit your website. I did find this graphic very disappointing though, because despite your research I firmly believe that any further detonation of nuclear weapons will have a catastrophic effect on human civilisation and the ecological systems on our planet.

    Your figure for ‘complete destruction radius’ is misleading on first principle. You will notice for example that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 100,000 people in the first few seconds after detonation (more powerful than any other single weapon I know), but even this figure does not reflect the numbers who suffered from radiation sickness and who died painfully in the ensuing days and weeks. Many suffered agonising and humiliating injuries, fetuses exposed in-utero were born with deformities or did not survive while others have been afflicted with various cancers, genetic disorders and various mental disorders. The people in bomb affected areas were also stigmatised as a result of paranoia and fear of passing on the effects to others. All of these and more continue for many decades and in fact, court cases continue to this day regarding the recognition of bomb victims for compensation and assistance with medical and living expenses.

    Perhaps the world is a big place and it will take many bombs to wipe it our entirely, but the human costs are enormous and persist, well basically forever.

    Imagine the devastation then that a modern nuclear weapon could cause.

    Before you finish your update I most strongly urge you to visit my country and see for yourself the records of the destructive force of these weapons. In the background of the New Start Treaty and Barack Obama’s declaration for a nuclear free world, I think that your graphic can have a positive effect to educate a younger audience that is unaware of the significance of these commitments. As a journalist and statistician, you carry a huge responsibility to the claims you have made here but I am very sure you be up to the task.

    Yours,
    Rui

  • Tom Kha Gai

    Quoting from Wikipedia, it is the same info you can find on several other websites and in books:

    “The radius of total destruction was about one mile (1.6 km), with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles (11 km^2). Americans estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 km^2) of the city were destroyed.”

    So a bomb 100 times that strong (not 200) should have a total destruction radius much bigger than you suggest (about 15 km^2 vs. 1.6 km in Hiroshima => 8 km^2). Additionally in countries with industrialization you only have to destroy infrastructure to trigger famine and epidemics. Radioactive fallout will misbuild people for dozens of generations.

    I agree that it is not the end of the world, but propably it will feel the same for the living after that event. In the 80s, a slogan of the german peace movement was: “The surviving will envy the death”.

  • Michael Wilson

    its not the explosion, its the fallout, that kills the most.

  • Leo

    Your calculus is ridiculous!
    What an example of statistics missing the real world, I would not have believed it could happen this starkly.

    Ever heard of nuclear fall-out? Nuclear winter?
    Detonations are only the small part of the picture. Nuclear weapons don’t work their way towards destruction m² per m². The radioactivity kills far beyond the actual destroy range.
    Also, you cannot count all nuclear weapons to be 200 times as powerful as Hiroshima’s. That one hat approximately 15 kt TNT-equivalent. The maximum just as well isn’t a good indicator, but the biggest such bomb ever detonated had a 59 mt TNT-equivalent, which is almost 4000 as much, its shock-waves were measurable on their third round around the earth.

    For a good assessment of how many nuclear warheads have to be detonated to wipe out humanity, take 4 minutes and have a look at this interview: http://npt-tv.net/index.php/video/on_the_consequences_of_nuclear_war

    But please, do not soothe yourself nor any readers with headlines like “I stopped worrying”, because the weapons stationed around the globe and in submarines, mounted on ICBMs etc. can wipe out the entire earth many, many times over. What you talk about is melting every spot away. You don’t need to melt away the earth underneath your feet in order to kill the human population. It is enough to worsen the conditions for agriculture, dim the sunlight, hinder rainfall, on top of the destruction of major hubs and communication/transportation lines.

  • ptitz
  • Tim
  • Axt

    What you are insinuating is totally dangerous! Please change this graphics, before you spread this wrong knowledge on the possibility of surviving nuclear war! I am begging you, with the complacency about nuclear weaponry, please don’t help people lull into a false feeling security! Please! You know the power of imagery. So stop it from manipulating perceptions further…

    • Mitchell

      Well said

  • Bruno

    Excuse me. But What if several targets are all nuclear power plants?

  • Mitchell

    This has to be the stupidest, most misinformed piece of information i have seen in 7 years. You do not take into account the amount of earth and smoke and dust and not to mention radiation that is plunged into the earths troposphere. A russian scientist in the 1990′s stated that as little as 20 nuclear detonations could cause enough dust to blot out the sun long enough for nuclear winter.

    Also coastal cities are toast because the United States government has already stated that a large enough nuclear detonation at sea out could cause a tidal wave as big as 120 feet tall going 300 miles an hour. So you can pretty much say that cities like San Francisco and Hong Kong are as good as gone with a single detonation.

    Also you forgot to take into account High altitude detonations which causes a bigger EMP effect, Permanently knocking out power in large enough areas as say New York City. This would cause Hospitals, Grocery Stores, Gas Stations and Sewage Facilities to all fail, effectively killing millions in the long run with a single high altitude det.

    ALSO are you really dumb enough to not realize the effect of nuclear radiation!? God this article makes me so angry it should be taken down immediatly! You are spewing nonsense and false information into everyone that sees this!

  • PM

    I say screw this silly arm chair math problem and do some practical science. We can’t really know what will happen until we actually put his little conjecture to practice. See, all you need to do is read Aristotle (i.e. the speed of falling objects) to know why word problems such as these can fail miserably. Call your “leaders” ask them to detonate the bombs in the name of scientific investigation. What an experiment!

  • David

    Surely the radioactive aftermath would finish off all our genomes to the point where survival is of questionable value in a completely trashed biosphere.