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.”
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2012.
If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.
If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, and Venmo (@openculture). Thanks!