the first instants of an atomic blast

I've given myself a sig and posted this link to commemorate North Korea testing inter-continetal ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching Australia with a nuclear strike.

To give some idea of the power of nuclear weapons these photos are of the first 1/10,000,000 of a second of a FISSION weapon from 8 miles distance. The "legs" of the blast are the tremendous energy travelling down the guy cables used to anchor the tower the bomb detonated on.

This is a TINY nuclear blast.

lorien's picture

Fission weapons these days are mostly used to set off fusion weapons.

This sort of bomb is a detonator now.

Caroo's picture


Well..if you're dead.. you can't complan about being dead.. *shrugs shoulders*

CynicalFan's picture

I know it was not the effect you wanted Lorien but I just want to say: cool! [8D]

lorien's picture

quote:Originally posted by Caroo


[:)] Hope not- just these toys are far too crazy to play with, and the people who get to play with them can't be trusted with a box of matches imho...

Cool is not the word I'd use- they are amazing photos. Mindboggling.

lorien's picture

I gather China has stopped sending food and fuel aid to NK not because of the missile tests, but because NK stole the trains the last aid shipment was sent on. They sent the crew back over the border without the trains.

edit: that's not quite what the link I provided says- I found something a couple of days ago and googled "north korea train theft china" to get this one. Take with a grain of salt. It looks likely NK have been stealing aid trains, and China has kept on sending them.

lorien's picture

You can find more photos at

and here with some tidbits

Before long a professor of electrical engineering from MIT named Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton invented the rapatronic camera, a device capable of capturing images from the fleeting instant directly following a nuclear explosion. These single-use cameras were able to snap a photo one ten-millionth of a second after detonation from about seven miles away, with an exposure time of as little as ten nanoseconds. At that instant, a typical fireball had already reached about 100 feet in diameter, with temperatures three times hotter than the surface of the sun.

Thanks to here are a bunch more still. Colour photos (I don't think they were made with a raptronic). The 2nd and last in particular are f**cking scary.

Grover's picture

Theres actually a brilliant BBC show specially about this, with some tremendous live footage of fusion tests from both US and Russia - some 180 odd air tests, before they decided they should prolly be doing it underground. The Russian one was the freakiest, it was the supposedly largest ever above surface test ever done, and the plane that dropped it barely escaped the blast (was apparently quite busted when it got back to base). I'll see if I can find the vid.. really quite unbeleivable - esp putting so much radioactive material into our atmosphere.. way to go big thinkers..

Not BBC.. was this one. If you want a serious scare.. you gotta see that 58 Megaton mother going off.. its a little unnerving to think these are 'old' weapons.

lorien's picture

The bomb that took out Hiroshima was around 1 kiloton (equivalent to a million tons of TNT- except that all the energy is released in the first few microseconds, making it far worse).

58 Megatons is 58 000 times worse... And although a larger bomb has never been made all they have to do is keep pumping in more hydrogen isotopes to get more yield.

Here's the wikipedia writeup of this russian monster

Apparently the mushroom cloud was over 60 kilometers high, and this bomb would have caused people 100kms distant third degree burns.

People like Caroo are lucky- you guys/girls have grown up without anything like the threat of total anihilation that us oldies remember. Sting put it well:

But what could just save us me and you is if the Russians love their children too.

I hope the North Koreans do.

Caroo's picture

There was a great quote a man said once.. can't remember who it was. but it's a valid quote.

"Every generation of the human race past 1900 beleaved for a time that they would be the last generation to be alive on this world."

And it is true. But guess what... They havn't been. And this event will stand testiment to it.

North Korea will not nuke anyone. The concept of total annhilation, while maybe appealing to the dictator, would be the last thing wanted by all the generals around him. And the people as a whole in North Korea wouldn't exacaly find the idea of being the worlds undoing an appealing title ether.

victory through total devastation has only been done once. And it changed the world for the better, Including the country it was thrust upon.

lorien's picture

I think the Americans are more likely to nuke someone (again! the US is the only nation to have used WMDs in war). Only a few months ago the worlds top 1000 physicists felt they had to remind Stupid George that using nukes is suicidally insane- he'd been making noises about wanting to use bunker-busting "tactical" nukes.

That doesn't make this OK at all though.

I think my generation (I'm firmly in X, heading up to 34 all too soon) has alwas hoped we wouldn't be the last alive. We are probably more aware of how close things came than generation Y though.

Grover's picture

I think its actually the opposite, but we dont have the constant percieved threat (like the 70's and 80's), but the threat is alot more likely. There was an excellent documentary about the Russian security problems with their nuclear arsenal (an ex-nuclear scientist even took the reporter into a nuclear research facility, through a hole in the fence out the back!). The real problem is the US though - they produce threats to maintian their control of their free-thinking population. And they have shown in the past how happy they are to use nuclear weapons even when it was unnecessary (Nagasaki and Hiroshima were scientific tests - the Japanesse ambassaor had already given the US a peace offer). Way to go, to kill 70,000 people on the premise of science.. eh. More interesting is straight after those tests the Japanesse allowed many hundereds of US 'personel' to go and inspect the sites and take samples.... sad really.

Just a thought.. do you think it interesting/odd that there be a suddenely huge threat created to the US, just 4 months before their elections? Do you think it a little odd that NK suddenly not decide to launch one test missile.. but a whole flurry of them (apparently a good portion of their long range stock)? Seems very convienient .. especially if it escalates and requires a 'strong president' to take action... :)

.. Roosevelt was the only president to have a more than 2 terms in office.. do you know why :)

Nomads's picture

"Today I am become Death"
Quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer

mcdrewski's picture

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains [url=""]The Doomsday clock[/url]

1991 : seventeen minutes to midnight
Today : seven minutes to midnight

1980 : seven minutes to midnight
1981 : four minutes to midnight
1984 : three minutes to midnight

and in 1953: two minutes to midnight is as low as it has yet been.

Grover's picture

Another freaky stat - 330 total atmospheric 'acknowledged' nuclear tests by US and Russia combined (with US having the 180 odd on their own). Alot of researchers put this total at only half of the actual tests though - since there were a massive number of 'secret' tests that violated the treaties both the US and Russia signed (as well as other non signees like China). Just a single megaton atmospheric test was shown to have dropped radioactive fallout around the entire circumference of the earth (at about 11 degrees latittude from where the test was done in the pacific). Makes you wonder - with many of the fallout isotopes having half-life's measuring thousands of years.... and most are deadly if inhaled.... how silly we are...

lorien's picture

Here's another example of how silly we are

the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha had decided that these locks might interfere with any wartime launch orders; so in order to circumvent this safeguard, they pre-set the launch code on all Minuteman silos to the same eight digits: 00000000.

For seventeen years, during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War, the code remained all zeros, and was even printed in each silo's launch checklist for all to see. The codes remained this way up until 1977, when the service was pressed into activating the McNamara locks with real launch codes in place. Before that time, the the lack of safeguards would have made it relatively easy for a small group of rogue silo officers or visitors to implement an unauthorized nuclear missile launch.

God Bless America...

Edit: seems to be some contaversy over this- people calling each other liars and such. HOWEVER I can't imagine the Amercian military being overly enthusiastic about this coming out, and one of the sources cited in the link is very reputable indeed.

As one of the comments says "For some reason the words 'Military Intelligence' are coming to me, in a rather sarcastic tone."

lorien's picture

Painting found in a minuteman launch control facility

From (site now down for bandwidth over utilisation)


nexx's picture

I love those rapatronic photos.

*finds copy of Trinity & Beyond to watch again* - such a great doco.

Caroo's picture

you know with all this talk about nukes..and the power of a nuke.. i think it would good to put things in perspective..

watch this.. then your nukes arn't all that scary:

and remember. We have NO defence against meteors X3

lorien's picture

:) thing is meteors are one offs, we don't make them or chuck them at each other when having our little tantrums, and there's something like 30 000 nuclear bombs around still.

Grover's picture

Amen - the doco on Russias deteriorating arsenal of nuclear warheads, was far scarrier than even Trinity. The fact that the gov often doesnt have enough money to pay the guards maintaining security at storage sites is insane. They even showed how easy it was to get inside these places. Id also take an asteroid anyday... death by radiation sickness .. or by vapourisation, or a tun of rock / water landing on you. :)

Also.. nuclear arms are just another example of how utterly infinitely stupid we are as a collective. You cant blame a rock for stupidity - really would be doing the galaxy a bit of a favour I think :) It always make me laugh how important we think we are, in the grand scheme of things we are a blip in the evolutionary tree.

lorien's picture

Totally off-topic, but are you sure you're not an atheist Grover? [;)]

palantir's picture

You think that?s scary, then try looking up [url=""]Peak Oil[/url]
There are a lot of sites around now describing very scary outlooks on the future, like [url=""]this one[/url] for example.

Apparently civilisation as we know it is about to end.[:0]

unknownuser2's picture

Im glad Peak Oil is finally becoming a talked about thing. Pity its too late to actually do anything about it.