Via Joe.My.God., here’s a… um… fun browser-based mapping application you can use to simulate the detonation of a nuclear warhead over the city of you choice. By selecting from a drop-down menu, you can drop anything from “Davy Crockett,” the smallest nuclear warhead ever produced by the United States, to the potential* nuclear blast yield of “Tsar Bomba,” the largest hydrogen warhead ever produced by humankind.
Aside from being a morbid distraction, I’m trying to decide if this would be an appropriate teaching tool to help students visualize a) the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II or b) the damage that could have been caused by a nuclear attack during the Cold War, such that they better understand the nuclear paranoia of mid-century. One thing that struck me when I “detonated” Little Boy and Fat Man over my house in South Philadelphia was that the destruction didn’t reach out nearly as far as I expected, so I’m concerned that students would be… underwhelmed? And although the program will show you how large an area would be immediately consumed by a fireball versus merely leveled by the resulting shock wave, the map is a little clinical for my taste. When I’m teaching this kind of material, I really try to get students to empathize with the bombing victims, so for teaching Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I’ll probably stick to something like this:
Or this excerpt from one of my favorite documentaries:
No joke, Fog of War makes me cry pretty much every time I watch it. Stupid Philip Glass score.
And as long as I’m basically free-associating YouTube clips here, this whole thing reminds me of Isao Hashimoto’s wonderful piece of video art, “1945-1998”:
When I watched this for the first time, I didn’t know about the history of French nuclear weapons testing in North Africa–I’m sure there’s an interesting study to be done there, if one hasn’t been done already.
Have fun bombing the crap out of your respective neighborhoods, y’all!
*When the Soviets tested it in 1961, they did so at only half yield–a measly 50 megatons. Here’s more video!