Every Nuclear Bomb Explosion in History, Animated

I sus­pect many few­er peo­ple are assigned John Hersey’s Hiroshi­ma, a book most every­one in my cohort read at some stage in their edu­ca­tion. And cer­tain­ly, far few­er peo­ple are sub­ject­ed to the kind of alarmist (and rea­son­ably so) pro­pa­gan­da films that dra­ma­tized the gris­ly details of fall­out and nuclear win­ter. Even the recent HBO minis­eries Cher­nobyl, with its grotesque depic­tion of radi­a­tion poi­son­ing, prompt­ed a wave of tourism to the site, draw­ing Insta­gram gen­er­a­tion gawk­ers born too late to have heard the ter­ri­fy­ing news first­hand.

Yet, the threat of a nuclear dis­as­ter and its atten­dant hor­rors has hard­ly gone away. The UN Gen­er­al Assem­bly issued a state­ment this year warn­ing of the high­est poten­tial for a dev­as­tat­ing inci­dent since the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis. We are enter­ing a new era of nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, with many coun­tries who have no love for each oth­er join­ing the race. “As the risk of nuclear con­fronta­tion grows,” writes Simon Tis­dall at The Guardian, “the cold war sys­tem of treaties that helped pre­vent Armaged­don is being dis­man­tled, large­ly at Trump’s behest.” Calls for a No-First-Use pol­i­cy in the U.S. have grown more urgent.

Liv­ing mem­o­ry of the peri­od in which two glob­al super­pow­ers almost destroyed each oth­er, and took every­one else with them, has not deterred the archi­tects of today’s geopol­i­tics. But remem­ber­ing that his­to­ry should nonethe­less be required of us all. In the Busi­ness Insid­er video above, you can get a sense of the scope of nuclear test­ing that esca­lat­ed through­out the Cold War, in an ani­mat­ed time­line show­ing every sin­gle explo­sion in Japan and the var­i­ous test­ing sites in Rus­sia, New Mex­i­co, Aus­tralia, and the Pacif­ic Islands from 1945 into the 1990s, when they final­ly drop off. As the decades progress, more coun­tries amass arse­nals and con­duct their own test­ing.

Despite the expert warn­ings, some­thing cer­tain­ly has changed since the fall of the Sovi­et Union. Over a forty year peri­od, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. trained to anni­hi­late the oth­er, and the prospect of nuclear war became an extinc­tion-lev­el event. That may not be the case in a frag­ment­ed, mul­ti­po­lar world with many small­er coun­tries vying for region­al suprema­cy. But a nuclear event, inten­tion or acci­den­tal, could still be cat­a­stroph­ic on the order of thou­sands or mil­lions of deaths. The ani­ma­tion shows us how we got here, through decades of nor­mal­iz­ing the stock­pil­ing and test­ing of the ulti­mate weapons of mass destruc­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Pro­tect and Sur­vive: 1970s British Instruc­tion­al Films on How to Live Through a Nuclear Attack

U.S. Det­o­nates Nuclear Weapons in Space; Peo­ple Watch Spec­ta­cle Sip­ping Drinks on Rooftops (1962)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.