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Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell on North Carolina (nationalgeographic.com)
116 points by longdefeat 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments



Interesting story.

There's also one missing off the coast of GA:

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=185876...

"On Feb. 5, 1958, a B-47 bomber dropped a 7,000-pound nuclear bomb into the waters off Tybee Island, Ga., after it collided with another Air Force jet. Fifty years later, the bomb -- which has unknown quantities of radioactive material -- has never been found."


There's also the Damascus incident, where a Titan II missile silo exploded during a fuelling accident and sent a 9 megaton thermonuclear warhead out of the silo and several hundred meters away. They don't officially say whether or not the core was inside the weapon, or if it was armed at the time... Either way, it's terrifying. Humans don't deserve these weapons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980_Damascus_Titan_missile_ex...


Humans don't deserve these weapons.

> You sure? Nuclear weapons are guaranteed to bite you eventually, being stupid enough to have them sorta implies you deserve your eventual reward.


We're going to need a lot worse if we're ever planning to deflect/mine asteroids. Sometimes there are good reasons to invent abusable techonology.

And well, of all the ways the millennia old weapons race could have ended, it could have been worse.


If we're going to colonize the Solar System, nuclear weapons are going to feel like child's play. Any propulsion system capable of interplanetary travel in reasonable time frames (weeks to months) is also a weapon of mass destruction, just due to energies involved.


Colonizing the Solar system is slightly more attainable than mining asteroids, but yeah the energies involved are pretty massive.


You going to blow up your enemies with a solar sail?


No, just with the lasers that propel that sail.

(I did mention reasonable durations of travel.)


A big asteroid, a rocket to get there and a whole bunch of paint would already be a weapon of mass destruction.


Where does the paint come into it?


If you can change the reflectance/albedo of the asteroid the pressure of sunlight will push it into a slightly different orbit. That different orbit is one where it hits what you want it to hit.


If you paint the asteroid red racing stripes, it gets faster.


I'm going to guess it's a reference to the most recent season / one of the later books in Expanse series. Spoiler (rot13):

Fbzr Orygref fgbyr ohpxrgf bs fgrnygu cnvag sebz Znef zvyvgnel, hfrq gurz gb znxr n srj nfgrebvqf zhpu uneqre gb qrgrpg, naq gura chg gur ebpxf n pbyyvfvba pbhefr jvgu Rnegu sebz nsne.


I'm not sure about The Expanse, but barry-cotter is right. If you can change the color of the asteroid then through the change in radiation pressure you can change the orbit of the asteroid. This can have a fairly substantial effect over a long period of time.


Problem: Giant asteroid heading for Earth

Solution: Nuke it

Problem: 15 medium-sized radioactive asteroids heading for Earth


Better solution: land a bulldozer against it, powered by a nuclear engine.

Outcome: a giant asteroid parked in Earth orbit, ready to mine for all its worth.

(Hell, if you're lucky, the bulldozer may only need the fuel to get there, and then can use bits of target asteroid for reaction mass. A nuclear-thermal nozzle will eat anything.)


Solution: 15 more nukes!


Problem: 225 radioactive asteroids heading for Earth


We've both played asteroids, right? We know asteroids only sub divide twice. Now we just need to get those next 225 nukes off before the alien spaceship passes through and starts shooting.

(Of course, then another 4 big asteroids appear...)


Also Bruce Willis funeral.


You just reminded me that most of the wars in the fictional Ace Combat universe are fueled by the abuse of giant megaweapons designed to protect the earth from asteroid impacts. Gave me a good chuckle.


What makes you think it has ended?


Once someone else has them, it may be a rational choice to get some yourself.


this line of thinking is a race to the bottom


Yes, it is. Unfortunately, especially under conditions of uncertainty, rational decisions don't always produce the best results.


Another scary event off the coast of Spain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Palomares_B-52_crash

Two of the four bombs exploded due to conventional fuses detonating, spreading radioactive material over land.


And case not closed still today.


Dimitri Khalezov says the Kursk was loaded with P-700 Granit mini-nukes when it sank during 2000: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kursk_submarine_disaster


Makes me curious if the radioactive material eventually gets exposed by corrosion or erosion.


I couldn’t explode. You’d need the detonator to do that. However the radioactive content could still pollute if the shielding were to corrode away.


The main ways it would be harmful is if you touched it or ate fish that touched it. The corrosion would probably just spread it out in the ocean and it'll soon become unnoticeable. After all, the radioactive materials mostly exist in nature anyway.


"unknown quantities" - sure!!


> The U.S. Government soon announced its safe return and loudly reassured the public that, thanks to the device’s multiple safety systems, the bomb had never come close to exploding.

Okay but seriously. How good are the safety mechanisms? Is there significant risk an unarmed nuke could explode if going fast enough or with enough vibrations?


Really, really, really good.

Making a nuclear weapon actually detonate in a nuclear manner is one of the hard problems of making a nuclear weapon. Basically you have to set the explosives off just right. An accidental detonation of the conventional parts of the bomb can't do that (short of like space re-entry speeds or some other thing that could provide the force needed even without an explosion). The fear has always been around the detonation systems since those are the only thing realistically capable of setting off a nuclear explosion. Since the 1950s as detonation systems have gotten more reliable they've added more and more redundancy so those have all sorts of interlocks to prevent them from going off if not armed and fired. It's not like an airbag where if you hook up 12v to the right pins it goes bang. They actually need to be armed and then fired which requires a whole bunch of systems doing their thing in a specific order. The systems that arm weapons (like the aircraft and rocket side hardware) are relatively sophisticated and robust and a hell of a lot of man hours have been put into them over the years because the last thing you need is a risk of ordinance going off when you're already trying to fight a fire.


Adding to this, I've heard on the grapevine that the parameters of the detonation sequence are generated from a hash of the arming code number. The arming code number isn't like a traditional code lock where there's a chip that's doing "strcmp(entered_code, CORRECT_CODE)", but instead the arming code number is a fundamental piece of how the bomb works. Without that you need the kind of state nuclear apparatus you'd need to build a bomb in the first place to reverse engineer (think a state run nuclear research lab), or at best you can remanufacture it into a much crappier bomb that probably duds to just being a dirty bomb.


Seems more likely that the code is just a [part of] decryption key for the parameters, rather than some weird hashing scheme.


I think the design goal was to never have a decryptable set of the parameters stored with the device.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permissive_Action_Link

Dunno, wikipedia says the parameters are encrypted.

Anyway it would probably be good enough to just rip all the safety/firing electronics out, and replace it with your own best effort attempt at controlling the fireset capacitors charging and firing.

What's there to vary anyway? Charge voltages, and discharge timing? Odds would be you could probably make it go boom in a more controlled manner than what happened in past accidents when the bombs exploded after hitting the ground.

The trouble would be getting past the tamper-proof barrier, because the modern bombs are probably made to self-destruct, from what I've read, so instead of a nice ready-made bomb internals waiting for a simpler arduino control circuit for a fireset, you'd be dealing with a hot mess, after trying to get in.

Just some uninformed thoughts.

I also found some images of fat man firset online: https://lanlmuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/3D33BB7F-... Interesting device. :)


> Dunno, wikipedia says the parameters are encrypted.

Laymen refer to any use of crypto as "encrypted".

> Anyway it would probably be good enough to just rip all the safety/firing electronics out, and replace it with your own best effort attempt at controlling the fireset capacitors charging and firing.

It's really not though, it's very very specific to the design of the warhead, and the electronics are embedded in it in a way that you can't just take it apart and put it back together. It's all nasty stuff like FOGBANK that if you could remanufacture, you wouldn't need to steal a nuke in the first place.

> What's there to vary anyway? Charge voltages, and discharge timing? Odds would be you could probably make it go boom in a more controlled manner than what happened in past accidents when the bombs exploded after hitting the ground.

Yep, nanosecond precision detonation on the shaped charges, and not just "all at the same time", but a very specific sequence that's dependent on the exact geometries, isotopes and these days, how they've decayed over decades. That's what Oak Ridge uses those fancy super computers for.

> The trouble would be getting past the tamper-proof barrier, because the modern bombs are probably made to self-destruct, from what I've read, so instead of a nice ready-made bomb internals waiting for a simpler arduino control circuit for a fireset, you'd be dealing with a hot mess, after trying to get in.

They are very much not designed to self destruct. Really the opposite. And yes, the threat model is that without the codes, you leave someone with components that they essentially have to remanufacture into a new bomb, which takes a well funded state actor. Or they just use the bits as a dirty bomb, which is why that gets so much play in the age of terrorist cells. But you don't get a full on usable nuke by just sticking a microcontroller on a stolen bomb.


Old bombs have much simpler designs, which can be hacked. Moreover, A bomb have core and blanket. Blanket can be reused. The core can be replaced with a few kilos of plutonium and deflectors. Plutonium is easy to extract from waste of weapon grade reactor. Yeah, it's easier to remanufacture.


Yeah, I was astonished that they managed to get such a successful experiment on the first try with trinity, despite 40s technology and computers. I expected that there'd be a few failures before the first successful nuclear explosion.


Interesting, thank you!


Though a conventional detonation would turn it into a dirty bomb which while almost infinitely better than a full blown nuclear detonation would still ruin a good number of lives.


> Really, really, really good.

Are they though? This accident had 5 of it’s 6 safety switches arm during the accident.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_Goldsboro_B-52_crash


That is a nuclear weapon that was Wikipedia says was in service from 1957-1966. Wiki also says that the first nuclear explosion occurred on July 16, 1945.

This means that the development of the weapon in question occurred sometime in the first 12 years after the first nuclear weapons were tested.

I think that it is safe to assume that this very old weapon design has only been approved on since the 1950s.


I wish I could agree.

Here is why I am not sure.

The nuclear weapons program is seen (in all good faith) by all those running it as vital to national security and national survival.

Anyone who expresses the slightest skepticism or concern about any aspect of it is seen as undermining this vital national goal. It should be noted that the skeptics / concerned are on very difficult ground professionally, because there are so many layers of secrecy and the barriers to disclosure are so strong that asking questions is actually nasty and rude. The people who are being questioned cannot disclose their true position or hint at why an arguement or line of questioning is silly and so they have to sit there (decent and honourable as they may be) sharply aware that they look shifty and silly. This is bloody unfair and unpleasant, it's never going to build bridges or relationships. It is an "unprofessional" line to follow.

So, these people (the skeptics) are then excluded from the program and anything that connects to it. The exclusion happens professionally (that guy is not honest or straightforward - don't trust his judgement), commercially/employment/youarefired & socially (you are a heretic, abhorrent, communist, idiot, greenie).

And that is ok - as far as it goes - I understand, I get it, there are many other roles and interests in life to pursue. But what it has created is the most profound bubble around the development, control and management of nuclear weapons within which everyone involves genuinely believes that they are safe, effective and necessary. There is no doubt. And without doubt there is complacency and ignorance. I hope to god that this doesn't lead to a major accident, but right now I am pretty sure that it will.


"A single switch out of four (not six) was unarmed".

So, the failsafes worked as intended.

And yes, they should be even more failsafe.


Hmm, the wiki says “ Former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg has claimed to have seen highly classified documents indicating that its safe/arm switch was the only one of the six arming devices on the bomb that prevented detonation.”

The linked story says “ Robert McNamara, who’d been Secretary of Defense at the time of the incident, told reporters in 1983, "The bomb’s arming mechanism had six or seven steps to go through to detonate, and it went through all but one.””

Where is your quote from? I can’t find it in the Natgeo article.


That very same wiki. The very next sentence after Daniel Ellsberg quote: "In 2013, information released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request confirmed that a single switch out of four (not six) prevented detonation."


Thanks - sorry I was looking in the National Geographic article.


> Really, really, really good.

They made up for it elsewhere, though, with the sort of behavior everyone expects:

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/us-nuclear-wea...


Sandia National Labs spends huge amounts of time, energy, and money making sure US nuclear weapons turn into bricks if they are damaged or tampered with, while also being ultra-reliable if the President orders their use.

It's a level of safety and reliability engineering that exists nowhere else; you simply cannot comprehend it unless you've worked there.

It wasn't always this way but it's been true since the 1970s. The accident described in the article was one of several that created Sandia's engineering culture.

If you somehow got your hands on a modern nuclear weapon and you had a team of PhD engineers, a year of time, and the best tools in the world, you might be able to get the radioactive material out, but you absolutely would not make it explode.


That last sounds wildly implausible. Are you saying they booby trap it to set off the high explosive if someone tampers with it (making it a booby trapped dirty bomb)? Because otherwise there's really nothing stopping some dude with an angle grinder from getting the 'radioactive material' out in a day or two.

Generally this sounds nice, but I don't really believe it without some evidence of actually motivated red teams testing the system.


When I said "you absolutely would not make it explode" I meant a nuclear explosion; I thought that was clear but perhaps not. I said you might be able to extract the radioactive materials by using brute force. You might also be able to extract the high explosives, but so what? There are far easier ways to obtain high explosive materials. The fact that you could conceivably extract the radioactive materials is why the weapons are very well guarded. The point is that if you somehow stole a weapon, you wouldn't be able to use it as designed.

The engineering process for these things is highly adversarial. Layers and layers of red teams trying to break them in the conceptual phase, the design phase, the build phase, and the deployment phase. Plus coding extremely detailed computer models of the weapons and their usage scenarios and trying to make things fail in simulation. On the fastest supercomputers in the world.

https://www.newswise.com/articles/sandia-weapons-program-mee...

https://www.hpcwire.com/2020/10/01/hpe-strikes-deal-to-provi...


You said

> If you somehow got your hands on a modern nuclear weapon and you had a team of PhD engineers, a year of time, and the best tools in the world, you might be able to get the radioactive material out, but you absolutely would not make it explode.

I'm saying that there's no "might" about extracting the radioactive materials. Nor do you need "a team of PhD engineers, a year of time, and the best tools in the world". An angle grinder and a couple days should suffice.

As for making it explode, that may indeed be very difficult, but I am not highly confident given the military's general attitude and track record. Hopefully my cynicism is unfounded, but supercomputer simulations primarily designed to ensure that aging weapons still function doesn't really help with security.


The US military does not design US nuclear weapons or their safety systems. Of course military requirements are factored in, but design responsibilities and final authority for use are in civilian hands, by law. That's why the Department of Energy is a separate entity from the Department of Defense.

Obviously the military could make mistakes when the weapons are in their custody, but civilian designs make sure those mistakes don't cause an unplanned detonation. Nor can a rogue military unit arbitrarily decide to start WW III. If they tried, the weapons would turn into bricks.


This is all fascinating (and comforting).

I'm curious about non-US nuclear weapons and how many of these safety measures are present in those weapons.


Most warheads are actually very safe, and require either a detonator, or very high heat/pressure to set them off. The most dangerous part of most weapons is actually the propellant (which free-fall bombs obviously do not contain).

This is a product of what weapons are designed for; the warhead is designed to resist premature detonation, but the fuel (and oxidizer if present) must be readily and easily combustible in an engine.


If I understand correctly, atomic weapons have a "strong link" and a "weak link". The detonation won't happen without everything firing correctly and on time; the signal to do that has to pass through both the strong link and the weak link. The strong link isn't in place until the bomb is armed. But couldn't a violent-enough accident knock the strong link into place? Yes, but that same amount of violence would destroy the weak link. (That's the point of the weak link.) So even if an atomic bomb had an accident hard enough (and lucky enough) to arm it, it still couldn't explode, because the weak link would be broken.


I suppose this was tested by throwing the non-armed bombs on the ground from various altitudes? :)


You are correct; no smiley needed. Plus a boatload of other torture scenarios.


> "Always/Never" shares the story of the national labs’ history of work for the safety and security of nuclear weapons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQEB3LJ5psk


related video on Compliant Mechanisms they briefly talk about a device to safety nuclear warheads. about a minute in and again at 10:20

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97t7Xj_iBv


These days, very safe.

Back then? We came within one safety of h-bombing North Carolina.

"The bomb’s arming mechanism had six or seven steps to go through to detonate, and it went through all but one.”


a relatable analog is a piece of firewood. there is enough combustible energy in a section of dead tree to kill or maim you and set off a chain reaction that will destroy everything in your house, but you neednt worry if you have wooden furnitire, even if theres a lighter on it.


That doesn’t make me feel better at all. Uncontrollable fires happen all the time for predictable and unpredictable reasons


If you read this story and were disturbed by it, I strongly suggest you contact your local Vault-Tec representative for a serious discussion.


I believe the Spain incident informed Gerry Anderson's decisions making "Thunderbirds" along with some more peaceable non weapons emergency collaborations


Obligatory recommendation of the riveting book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser

https://www.amazon.com/Command-Control-Damascus-Accident-Ill...


Glad I'm not the only one who immediately came into this thread to rec that book. It's fascinating and TERRIFYING.


Do any other countries routinely fly nuclear weapons the way we (US, UK, Russia etc) used to? I mean Pakistan, India, China maybe?

Also, I thought that: at atomic bomb is pure fission, a thermonuclear bomb is Fusion driven by a fission bombs heat and pressure wave? The article seems to use the term "atomic" to refer to thermonuclear weapons.


Colloquially "atomic bomb" usually refers to both fission and fusion weapons. Almost no weapons currently in use by major nation-states are pure fission devices. Two-stage thermonuclear Teller-Ulam designs are more stable, easier to control the yield, capable of scaling up to 1000x the power, and cheaper to manufacture once you have the technology. A major part of the cost of nuclear weapons is enriching uranium or producing plutonium; fusion weapons can use a much smaller amount of these expensive materials and get the bulk of their yield from deuterium, which is distilled from water. Pure fission weapons were used in some artillery shells (where there isn't enough room to get a second stage in) and by emerging nuclear powers that haven't yet developed the technology for fusion weapons.

Non-colloquially, scientists would probably refer specifically to "fission" and "fusion" weapons, or to specific design used (eg. gun-type linear implosion, explosive lens, Teller-Ulam).


I suspect the main distinction in weapons designs is whether staging is used or not. Single stage designs will use some fusion through boosting and multi stage designs have multiple fission and fusion components (primary fission boosted with fusion and the secondary has a fission "spark-plug", the main fusion fuel mass and surrounding mass of fissionable material acting as a tamper and the main source of energy).

Most of the energy from most "H-bomb" designs actually comes from fission.


There's also the intermediate case of boosted fission, where tritium gas is introduced into the fission core, generating neutrons via fusion, that in turn accelerate/enhance the fission process (e.g. allowing more fission energy to be released in the interval between detonation and when the device blows itself apart).


> ”atomic bomb" usually refers to both

You must be talking about “nuclear weapon.” Never in my life I heard “atomic bomb” being used in reference to a hydrogen bomb.

> Almost no weapons currently in use by major nation-states are pure fission devices.

All tactical nukes are pure fission devices.


You would refer to the warheads on Minuteman 3 & PeaceKeeper ICBMs, Trident SLBMs, and B63/B81 bombs as "atomic bombs", would you not? All of the above are thermonuclear fusion weapons.

The tactical nukes I believe you are referring to are the W54 Davey Crockett, W48 6.1" shell, and W79 8" shell, all pure linear implosion fission weapons. All of those have been out of service since 1992, though.


Thanks for your excellent comment! I didn't know most advanced powers were using fusion weapons but it makes perfect sense when you say it (cost, stability, power and controlability).


It doesn't really make sense to fly armed weapons around as a strategic deterrent now, since you can mount them on missiles instead, which can be stored in safer and faster to launch silos and are harder to intercept anyways. And put them in submarines that are even harder to locate.

Before all that, it seemed much more reasonable to do so, if you were concerned that your enemy might sneak their bombers close enough to destroy your bomber airfields before you could get your bombers airborne.


It's a lot harder to get a missile to turn around.

In theory (specifically US nuclear deterrence) each leg of the nuclear triad has a different purpose (and institutional stakeholders).

Bombers flying at a target are slow enough that in theory you can convince someone they are about to make a serious mistake, while still maintaining the ability to deescalate/give the adversary an off ramp.

Bombers are visible, verifiable, and put a clock on negotiations. They are a form of communication. They signal premeditated violent intention. ICBM/SLBM are an act of war.

There is lots of literature on the practical use of nuclear weapons. All of it thankfully questionable and untested. It can get pretty wonky pretty fast. Countervailing, decapitation, C4ISR, escalation ladders, tactical vs. strategic nukes, etc.


And all it takes is one blasted radio to be on the fritz and it won't matter. Dr. Strangelove was a fascinating movie.


The nuclear triad probably isn't everything.

I wonder which embassies contain nuclear warheads. For the ones that do, which staff know what is in the mysterious secretive box? Who presses the button, and does that person know what the button does?


"I wonder which embassies contain nuclear warheads"

I would guess as a first approximation - almost certainly zero. The risks of discovery are far too high.


I doubt any do.

Those things take maintenance. It'd be tough to transport them and any repair parts and needed personnel in and out without anyone ever noticing. Risks of discovery are pretty high, considering how many bugs and spies have been successfully snuck into most embassies. Hell, if I was going to plan such a thing, I'd probably rather stick it in a random building somewhere than in an embassy.

Maybe more importantly, if you've got a nuclear war in progress, it's not necessarily such a good idea to kill the only people who can surrender.


They're still useful indeed for those reasons. What's now much less useful is to maintain some number of bombers with live weapons airborne at all times to guard against a possible sneak attack on airfields.

Missiles don't turn around either, but I wonder if any of them have the ability to be disarmed or self-destructed. Might be a useful ability in some situations, but also a vulnerability that an enemy might exploit. I expect people like us would never know for sure if such a thing existed anyways.


The way I've seen it, atomic bomb and nuclear bomb are synonyms which refer to any sort of fission, boosted fission or fusion bombs. Fission bombs can be specifically referred to like that. Fusion bombs can also be called hydrogen bombs or thermonuclear bombs.


you'd have to be a madman to fly around with 'live' ready to use nuclear bombs in the modern era, but then again, strategic air command was headed by a madman, curtis lemay... and they did it from the early 1950s for 25+ years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Air_Command


They do still maintain the ability to launch nukes from various aircraft.

There was a famous oopsie in 2007 where they mistakenly flew some live nukes around. In this case, cruise missles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_United_States_Air_Force_n...


FWIW, I would use your distinction as well. "Atomic" to me means fission only, where "thermonuclear" means fusion and "nuclear" could mean either. But other comments seem to show this is not universal.


Yeah, I think that's the case.


No one really does it any more and the practice only lasted a around a decade even in the US. Once ICBMs became reliable enough they largely replaced bombers because it was much easier to dig a bunker than to constantly have bombers on standby or in the air and they provided a better strike capability because there's no real defense vs bombers that could be intercepted.


There is defense and it's pre-emptive strike, being static is one of the weakness of such system, that's why there are subs and Russia (S.U.) has some of the nukes on the trucks.

There also was a railway version, SS-24 Scalpel (РТ-23 УТТХ) which was mounted inside always-on-the-move train locomotion. Decommissioned in 2005 but they have new version in development.


There's a distinction between defense and deterrence the former stops something that's been done, eg shooting down missiles and bombers, and the latter in the nuclear context is always maintaining the ability to strike back.

A pre-emptive strike isn't defense it's just starting the war and it also doesn't prevent you from being struck.

Unless you're in Cuba firing at the US or Europe aiming at Russia there's always time to launch a retaliatory strike before the first missiles hit and missile bases were designed to survive really close hits. That's part of why the US freaked out so much about missiles coming to Cuba and why Russia developed more mobile launch capability than the US. The only real 'defense' against and ICBM (at the time we're maybe figuring out real defenses now) was to be able to survive to strike back which isn't so much a defense as deterrent.


The lack of time to distribute PAL codes is why the UK does not use PALs:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permissive_Action_Link#Usage_b...

Rather we use hand-written letters and a lot of trust:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letters_of_last_resort


Israel comes to mind. Not much is known about what type of nuclear weapons they have.


The educated guess is somewhere between 80-400 warheads:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Israel

They nearly used them in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson_Option


I think their doomsday scenario is covered by nuclear subs (supposedly, no public info...)...


> atomic bomb is pure fission, a thermonuclear bomb is Fusion

Strictly speaking, the term "atomic bomb" shouldn't even be used for a fission bomb since the reactions involved are nuclear reactions, not chemical ("atomic") reactions.

However, in non-technical contexts, I have seen "atomic bomb" used for both fission and fusion bombs.


The people of the Manhattan Project used the term atomic bomb internally and externally for their invention. "Atomic" was widely used as a synonym for "nuclear" in both lay communication and technical literature for at least a generation afterward. The International Atomic Energy Agency is still called such and never felt the need to correct this imagined terminological mistake.


That's not what he's referring to, though. In chemistry, bonds between "atoms" are ordinary chemical bonds, held together through electromagnetic forces, and yielding typical chemical reactions like explosions and deflagrations. Fission and fusion are "nuclear" processes, operating between protons and neutrons within the nucleus of an atom only, and moderated by the strong nuclear force. The energy released by breaking these bonds is orders of magnitude greater, and what we normally refer to as a "nuclear" explosion. Calling it "nuclear" vs. "atomic" conveys useful information about what's actually going on when it detonates.


Do you have a source supporting this distinction?


It's in the Wikipedia article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapon#Fission_weapons

That and high-school chemistry.


> That and high-school chemistry.

My 40yo ass would get thrown out of high school before I could ask "where's the chem lab" but thanks


Can still buy a textbook. I do that all the time for subjects that my nearly-40-year-old ass didn't bother to learn in college but ended up finding useful.


> Faced with a disheveled African-American man cradling a parachute and telling a cockamamie story like that (he had just bailed from a crashing B-52), the sentries did exactly what you might expect a pair of guards in 1961 rural North Carolina to do: They arrested Mattocks for stealing a parachute.


>A few weeks before, the Air Force and the plane’s builder, Boeing, had realized that a recent modification—fitting the B-52’s wings with fuel bladders—could cause the wings to tear off. Tulloch’s plane was scheduled for a re-fit to resolve the problem, but it would come too late.

plus ca change



Also one in Georgia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_co...

So both the Carolinas, and Georgia.


Obliquely referenced by Bob Welch in 1973 on the track Hypnotized, by Fleetwood Mac:

"I remember a talk about North Carolina and a strange, strange pond

You see the sides were like glass In the thick of a forest without a road

And if any man's hand ever made that land Then I think it would've showed"


This was a great read - I recommend reading it all the way through





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