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Tsar Bomba (wikipedia.org)
17 points by windowtoss on Aug 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

While this is about the largest nuclear bomb ever produced, I also find the stories of the smallest interesting. Project Orion was a classified effort by the US to produce minituarized nukes for use in dropping out the bottom of a spacecraft to accelerate to insane top speeds.

Wicked pollution but I think they could also get to Alpha Centuri at like 10% c or something like that. Human-lifetime achievable. Project was cancelled for a number of reasons, the top likely being the Atmosphere and Space Test Ban.


”I also find the stories of the smallest interesting“


2,100 produced.

I've always wondered what evidence remains at the test site. Has nature completely covered up what happened once there? Or is the destruction too indelible? Has any reporter gone and explored that site?

Looks like it, albeit, it's so remote nothing was really there before it was used [0].

[0]: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Tsar+Bomba+hypocenter/@73....

Right now there are 14 Ohio class submarines in the water, each with up to 24 ICBMs, each missile with up to 14 warheads of 100 kilotons.

As of 2014 there were 488 cities in the world with over a million people. If somehow even half of that arsenal was unleashed: 7x12x7=588 city centers (2 mile radius) could be wiped out instantly.

It's scary to think about anything that possibly can happen, will happen.. eventually..

That’s an eighth of that arsenal, not half of it.

It's unfortunate that we are so good at making weapons, and that we expend so many resources and so much brain power to the endeavor.

The space race was military based, but at least it was somewhat wholesome in the outward appearance of trying to better humanity. We need another one of those.

The more I study history, the more grateful I am that we invented these weapons. I look at the polarization in the United States today, for example, and I wonder what it would be like if we could kill each other less extremely. The fact that any real warfare is liable to escalate into the wholesale destruction of the species seems to be the only thing that keeps some of us from committing murder. Sad, but I'll take it.

You have a pretty valid point. At this point in history, all out warfare would destroy the species. Although on the flip side, that has not prevented us from having just shy of all out warfare.

The Green Energy race perhaps? I think its absolutely magical if we can run on 100% renewable energy.

Well, people were doing that with horses and natural resources like wood, sperm oil and others for centuries before us. I do love our modernity but as far as being sustainable, there is no way on earth we are not going to destroy this planet with all the plastic packaging and the short-term throwaway mentality of modern electronics. All-electric from renewable sources is such a small part of that equation that it is mostly lip service. After all, you will still need batteries with all the pollution that implies.

I think it would genuinely take magic, but I'll be happy if they can prove me wrong.

>>>It's unfortunate that we are so good at making weapons

How else do you think we became apex predators? We sure as hell didn't keep packs of wolves at bay with our fists. Security is a key requirement to enable all the eggheads to do egghead stuff without getting eaten.

Except at this point humans are unquestionably the apex predator. What animals are we going to need nukes for? This is humans fighting humans.

Unless your argument is that there’s a distinction between classes of humans comparable to that between species, which is a... problematic position, so I hope that’s not what you’re claiming.

HN Comment Guidelines: "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

Yeah, unfortunately the strongest plausible interpretation of that comment is not that great

Humanity has spent, what, close to 20,000 years fighting for survival in fairly austere conditions. A proclivity for tool-making, and turning those tools to violent purposes, is practically baked into our DNA. We've had a nuclear weapons-based MAD situation for barely 70 years, which is barely a blink of an eye in comparison to the totality of our existence. To think that our martial instincts would disappear from our species in just a few generations because of our latest destructive innovation is naive folly.

But instead if picking up on that position you instead lept to implications of thinly-veiled racism.....I swear these days people are seeing imaginary hate crimes everywhere.

50 megatons of TNT? When fat man and little boy were 15 and 20 kilotons respectively? This was really 3,000 times as big? I guess I didn't realize there was such a difference.

This three stage weapon was actually a 100 megaton bomb design, but the uranium fusion stage tamper of the tertiary (and possibly the secondary) stage(s) was replaced by one(s) made of lead. This reduced the yield by 50% by eliminating the fast fissioning of the uranium tamper by the fusion neutrons, and eliminated 97% of the fallout (1.5 megatons of fission, instead of about 51.5 Mt), yet still proved the full yield design. The result was the "cleanest" weapon ever tested with 97% of the energy coming from fusion reactions. The effect of this bomb at full yield on global fallout would have been tremendous. It would have increased the world's total fission fallout since the invention of the atomic bomb by 25%. [1]

1: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russia/TsarBomba.html

Yeah, and it could have been 100 megatons. But they chickened out.

As I understand it, the Soviet Union was way behind the US in modern electronics. Including targeting systems for reentry vehicles. But they were perhaps even ahead on launch capacity.

That's why they focused on such large bombs. They could deliver them, but they didn't need to worry so much about how accurately.

Dear HNers, when kids study Cold War as part of the history lessons in schools of your country, is Tsar Bomba mentioned?

Not in Singapore. Nuclear weapons that it was used against Japan, but not cold-war developments in that respect.

Maybe it's because it makes the militaries of non-nuclear states feel small.

I imagine so for most classes would that go into nuclear weapons, it's an easy fun/interesting fact to throw in to keep people interested.

In Venezuela as part of the universal history subject that starts with the Greeks all the way to the modern age, there is no mention of specific bombs but nuclear bombs overall and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I do remember that at the time they had a picture in the book of a nuclear submarine and I thought, sure it has nuclear weapons therefore a nuclear submarine :)

This is a neat calculator[1]which made the rounds. It has presets like the Tsar Bomba amongst the choices.


Mine did in passing.

Went to New York city public schools and nope

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