Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Very Scary Fireworks Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space : NPR

A Very Scary Fireworks Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space : NPRJul 4, '10 7:16 PM
for everyone

As part of my recent research into our bizarre fascination with nuclear testing, I came across this on my Facebook page. In 1962, as part of our last series of Nuclear tests, several Thor rockets were launched from Johnson Atoll in the Pacific with Nuclear bombs as a payload. Rather than returning to Earth, they detonated their payloads high in the atmosphere, above it actually, in the Van Allen radiation belts. The strange fact was that they were shot over the Fourth of July holiday in 1962 may have been a coincidence, but it made for some really spectacular fireworks.

Another, unintended discovery of these tests was the discovery of an effect called EMP or Electro-Magnetic Pulse. This is an effect that can affect things on the ground. Fortune smiled on us that these tests were conducted in the Pacific, so few were affected. What happened was the EMP propagated to Earth and shorted out electrical transformers in Hawa'ii over 800 miles away. Back then, computers filled a room and were about as capable as a pocket calculator is today. Now, we have computers in our cars, homes, and lives. If such an explosion happened today, over the US, we would be back in the stone age.

Such an event has been contemplated by anti-terrorism officials. As such, this would be the ultimate terrorist device. It would affect everyone. Estimates are that while the initial effects would kill immediately 10-20,000 people (every airliner would in all likelihood crash, people on life support in hospitals, people with pacemakers, car accidents and the like) the ultimate effects would be devastating. As civilization and the transportation infrastructure that supported it broke down, people would slowly die of starvation as food shipments would be stopped. People dependent on medications would die as that aspect of manufacturing and transportation would stop as well. Within a year, according to a prominent report, perhaps 10% of Americans would still be alive and America would no longer be a world power. The rough estimates would be that a similar calamity would happen if such detonations occurred over China and/or Japan, over Europe, you get the picture.

So, these weapons, even without the horror of blast or radiation could significantly affect all of us. A country with just one of these weapons could make us ineffectual as a world power in a second. Say one bomb launched from a rocket on a container ship in the Gulf of Mexico and the US would cease to exist as a power. The people, the buildings would still be there. But we would still be doomed as we all died from starvation and the fact that we depend on our technology way too much.

Let us hope that never happens.

A good book to read, portraying a fictional account of what might happen in the scenario is called "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen.

1 comment:

Naila Moon of the Grey Wolf said...

Pretty but definately scary!

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I am interested in CNG vehicles because they are good for the environment and aren't powered by dead Marines. I still have a little hope for the world. Read the musings and enjoy.