53 Years of Nuclear Testing in 14 Minutes: A Time Lapse Film by Japanese Artist Isao Hashimoto

in Art, History, Technology | September 17th, 2012

It’s strange what can make an impact. Sometimes a message needs to be loud and over-the-top to come across, like punk rock or the films of Oliver Stone. In other cases, cool and quiet works much better.

Take the new time lapse map created by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto. It is beautiful in a simple way and eerie as it documents the 2,053 nuclear explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998.

It looks like a war room map of the world, black landmasses surrounded by deep blue ocean. It starts out slow, in July of 1945, with a blue blip and an explosion sound in the American southwest—the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos. Just one month later come the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

From there the months click by—condensed down to seconds—on a digital clock. Each nation that has exploded a nuclear bomb gets a blip and a flashing dot when they detonate a weapon, with a running tally kept on the screen.

Eeriest of all is that each nation gets its own electronic sound pitch: low tones for the United States, higher for the Soviet Union—beeping to the metronome of the months ticking by.

What starts out slow picks up by 1960 or so, when all the cold neutral beeps and flashes become overwhelming.

If you’re like me, you had no idea just how many detonations the United States is responsible for (1,032—more than the rest of the countries put together). The sequence ends with the Pakistani nuclear tests of May 1998.

Hashimoto worked for many years as a foreign exchange dealer but is now an art curator. He says the piece expresses “the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.”

Kate Rix is an Oakland-based freelance writer. See more of her work at katerixwriter.com.



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Comments (11)

  1. Anonymous says . . .
    September 17, 2012 / 12:29 pm

    It’s 14 minutes, not seconds!

  2. Dylan Kinnett says . . .
    October 5, 2013 / 10:14 am

    It’s a bit slow, at that. Maybe it should have been 7 minutes.

  3. Dan Colman says . . .
    September 17, 2012 / 12:42 pm

    Title fixed! That was my mistake, not Kate’s. My bad.


  4. Paul Hanson says . . .
    September 17, 2012 / 6:26 pm

    They tell us it’s the Co2 levels that are causing global warming!?

  5. Gnapp says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 2:28 am

    Still it is.

  6. Mark A Hall says . . .
    September 19, 2012 / 6:51 am

    Just frightening utterly frightening …wonder why the jump in cancer related illnesses huh mark hall

  7. Jim says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 6:56 am

    Wow it looks identical to the video game “Defcon,” including its font. And no credit is given.

  8. Chris says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 8:01 am

    Our species is represented by a bunch of idiot psychopaths that doom us all and this precious speck of life we call Earth to utter destruction. Who in their right mind would say “Sure, let’s bomb the shit and commission enormous amounts of money (which could’ve been used for anything else)” and sleep well through the night ? Men with an ever consuming desire for more and an ever lower sense of empathy and love…that’s who’s behind this spider web

  9. scalscott says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 6:49 pm

    Would be nice to see an update to this work to include everything since 1998.

  10. Mithun says . . .
    October 7, 2013 / 7:32 pm

    In the next 15 years i.e. from 1998 to 2013, I will not be surprised if its the same count. This is very shocking. :-(

  11. guest says . . .
    November 10, 2013 / 8:27 am

    Guys, read a book. In 1998 the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehensive_Test_Ban_Treaty and in the 1960s the partial nuclear test ban treaty made atmospheric tests illegal.

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