Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Let's Play Global Thermonuclear War"

And now, a post for those of you who came of age in the era of Fail Safe, "Russians," The Day After, "Two Tribes", Threads, The Cold And The Dark, "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes," Testament, "Christmas At Ground Zero," Alas Babylon, "Forever Young," Warday, Miracle Mile and all those other wonderful, high-cultural paeans to the ideal of Mutual Assured Destruction ...

Ever really wanted to know what a nuke strike would do to your backyard (but were afraid to ask)? Fear no more! There are a couple of family-safe, non-radioactive ways to find out courtesy of your best friend and mine: The Internet!

First up, courtesy of meyerweb, we have the High-Yield Detonation Effects Simulator, which blends Google Maps technology with publically-available weapons data to create a graphical simulator of the effects of a nuclear detonation over just about any location you can bop in terrestrial coordinates for (you'll probably need to Google your own locale's longitude and latitude unless you have this shit memorized), as well as a few preset named locales like New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle (but not Las Vegas? Boo!).

Adding more fun to the fracas, you can also adjust the yield of your desired airburst anywhere from 1 kiloton (boooring) upwards to 99,999 kilotons (holyshit), with a shaded bullseye indicating different levels of overpressure (which indicates the radius of total vs. partial destruction) radiating from your hypothetical ground zero. Put another way: the former setting knocks down a few square blocks of downtown Los Angeles, while the latter pretty much wipes the entire region from the map.

While this is certainly a very interesting exercise, the 99,999 kiloton limit (that's basically 100 megatons, if my brain serves me well) may seem a hindrance to the more boredom-crazed individuals out there who wish to destroy whole continents at a shot. For those sociopaths, another site exists called the Nuclear Weapon Effects Calculator. Sadly, the NWEC lacks the ability to plot your weapon's effects on a city map, but it more than makes up for this deficiency by giving you the ability to ramp up the firepower of your theoretical nuke: taking it, in effect, from a merely catastrophic "destroy Los Angeles basin" scale event to an Ultimate Superweapon on a similar level as the Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

While the Calculator (located, appropriately enough, on may look boringly plain-Jane in comparison to the Detonation Effects Simulator, it thinks on a much larger scale: the lowest setting is 1 megaton and it spirals up to truly dizzy heights from there. So, what is a healthy American male to do but try and throttle the bastard?

Filling the little white box with nines, I decided to witness the effects of a nuclear weapon with a yield of 999 trillion 999 billion 999 million 999 thousand 999 megatons.


Oh dear.

Thermal radiation radius (3rd degree burns): 16475727.4 kilometres

Yes, everyone in a 10,238,016 mile radius of this blast is in for a really bad day.

Air blast radius (widespread destruction): 643694.5 kilometres

Oh jeez, that's 400,000 miles.

Well, I was getting sick of looking at the damn moon anyway...

Fireball duration: 25305359.6 seconds

Woof. Let's see, that works out to... 421,756 minutes, which is 7029 hours, which is 293 days. A little short of an NBA season, isn't it? That's one pretty amazing fireball.

Fireball radius (airburst): 528297.7 kilometres

The fireball radius for an airburst is 328,284 miles. You could roast smores n' weenies on Mars just by waving 'em up in the air for a few. I suppose the radiation would kill you dead as Elvis in a few moments, too, but that would be one tasty last meal.

Pretty amazing number-crunching on an epic scale, eh? Here's the kicker: what I thought was the biggest number you can possibly enter for megaton yield isn't even close. Lots of decimal points in this sucker. Hours of potential amusement.

Anyway, have a nice Sunday, all. I'm headed back to that site to calculate the yield specs on a 100 octillion megaton warhead.

NP Various Artists No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion