On saturday night somehow we got from talking about noir films to talking about nukes. The conversation had reminded me of something I had read/heard a little while ago about how, some years ago, after the cold war had ended between Russia and the USA. Basically the Russians were minutes away from launching a nuclear strike against America because they thought a missile, launched by the USA from a neighbouring army base was heading for them. Now that is pretty scary stuff, the world was a couple of minutes away from blasting itself to bits because the Russians thought a test missile was heading their way. Fortunately the missile turned away and headed away from Russia. (And just to prove I’m not talking out of my butt here is a link to back it up)

Basically despite the end of the cold war there is still a major threat from nuclear weapons (Albeit the threat of the US launching at Russia has diminished and visaversa).

Eventually all this thought of nukes got me wondering about how safe I was where I lived if a bomb was dropped on the centre of Sydney. Nukes are pretty powerful weapons and when the explode they release an enourmous amount of energy - which is very useful at causeing senseless distruction.

So to help me calculate the risk of where I live I googled around and eventually found this site. There are a few formulas in there that make it possible to get some idea of what can happen.

I live about 25km from the centre of Sydney. The yeild required to have a 10psi (this is a measure of pressure) blast wave hit my home ends up being about 40 megatons, which is quite big. 10psi will pretty much destroy any building and kill most people. So the chances of a 40 megaton nuke being dropped a quite small which makes my chance for survival against any sort of blast wave good.

But if you take a look at the “Thermal Injury” section a 20 megaton blast will easily produces enough heat to cause 3rd degree burns at 25Km and if I’m unlucky could leave 4-5th degree burns. They are scary, check this qoute out:

Even more serious burns are possible, which have been classified as fourth (even fifth) degree burns. These burns destroy tissue below the skin: muscle, connective tissue etc. They can be caused by thermal radiation exposures substantially in excess of those in the table for 3rd degree burns. Many people close to the hypocenter of the Hiroshima bomb suffered these types of burns. In the immediate vicinity of ground zero the thermal radiation exposure was 100 c/cm^2, some fifteen times the exposure required for 3rd degree burns, most of it within the first 0.3 seconds (which was the arrival time of the blast wave). This is sufficient to cause exposed flesh to flash into steam, flaying exposed body areas to the bone.

So basically its a good idea to stay inside when nukes go off. It’ll save your eyes, it’ll save your body from burns, it could save you from the effects of the blast. It probably wont save you from the radiation though (and I’ll leave the effects of that to be discovered at the discretion of the reader, they are not nice).

So I’m really hoping that terrorists don’t decide to nuke Sydney, cause frankly, I quite like living. The terrorists really have a much better chance at detonating one and getting away with it. At least if the US nuked Russia, Russia knew who to launch theirs at and so they both knew they’d get annihilated if they launched and so they don’t. But terrorists have no need to fear such a retalitory strike because they have no centralized governing body to attack.

What is even scarier is if they managed to launch a missile and make it look like the Russia was firing at another country. And with that I might stop. I’d much rather remain ignorant.

Btw, stay tuned for my javascript nuclear effects calculator that is soon to appear.