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

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.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Shad­ow” of a Hiroshi­ma Vic­tim, Etched into Stone Steps, Is All That Remains After 1945 Atom­ic Blast

63 Haunt­ing Videos of U.S. Nuclear Tests Now Declas­si­fied and Put Online

Kurt Von­negut Gives a Ser­mon on the Fool­ish­ness of Nuclear Arms: It’s Time­ly Again (Cathe­dral of St. John the Divine, 1982)

Haunt­ing Unedit­ed Footage of the Bomb­ing of Nagasa­ki (1945)

How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Sur­vive the Atom­ic Bomb: A Cold War Film from 1954

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.