See Every Nuclear Explosion in History: 2153 Blasts from 1945–2015

There have been more than 2,000 nuclear explo­sions in all of his­to­ry — which, in the case of the tech­nol­o­gy required to det­o­nate a nuclear explo­sion, goes back only 76 years. It all began, accord­ing to the ani­mat­ed video above, on July 16, 1945, with the nuclear device code-named Trin­i­ty. The fruit of the labors of the Man­hat­tan Project, its explo­sion famous­ly brought to the mind of the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Robert J. Oppen­hemier a pas­sage from the Bha­gavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, destroy­er of worlds.” But how­ev­er rev­e­la­to­ry a spec­ta­cle Trin­i­ty pro­vid­ed, it turned out mere­ly to be the over­ture of the nuclear age.

Cre­at­ed by Ehsan Rezaie of Orbital Mechan­ics, the video offers a sim­ple-look­ing but decep­tive­ly infor­ma­tion-rich pre­sen­ta­tion of every nuclear explo­sion that has so far occurred. It belongs to a per­haps unlike­ly but nev­er­the­less deci­sive­ly estab­lished genre, the ani­mat­ed nuclear-explo­sion time-lapse, of which we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured exam­ples from Busi­ness Insid­er’s Alex Kuzoian and artist Isao Hasi­mo­to here on Open Cul­ture.

The size of each cir­cle that erupts on the world map indi­cates the rel­a­tive pow­er of the explo­sion in its loca­tion (all infor­ma­tion also pro­vid­ed in the scrolling text on the low­er left); those det­o­nat­ed under­ground appear in yel­low, those det­o­nat­ed under­wa­ter in blue, and those det­o­nat­ed in the atmos­phere in red.

Trin­i­ty cre­at­ed an atmos­pher­ic explo­sion above New Mex­i­co’s Jor­na­da del Muer­to desert. (Oth­er­wise Oppen­heimer would­n’t have been able to wit­ness it change the world.) So did Lit­tle Boy and Fat Man, the bombs dropped on Japan in World War II. Those remain the only det­o­na­tions of nuclear weapons in com­bat, and thus the nuclear explo­sions every­one knows, but they, too, rep­re­sent only the begin­ning. As the Cold War sets in, some­thing of a test­ing vol­ley emerges between the Unit­ed States and the Sovi­et Union, cul­mi­nat­ing in the colos­sal red dot of 1961’s Tsar Bom­ba, still the most pow­er­ful nuclear weapon ever test­ed. With the USSR long gone today, the explo­sions have only slowed. But in recent years, as the data on which this video is based indi­cates, nuclear test­ing has turned into a one-play­er game — and that play­er is North Korea.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Every Nuclear Bomb Explo­sion in His­to­ry, Ani­mat­ed

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

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

Watch Chill­ing Footage of the Hiroshi­ma & Nagasa­ki Bomb­ings in Restored Col­or

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

J. Robert Oppen­heimer Explains How He Recit­ed a Line from Bha­gavad Gita–“Now I Am Become Death, the Destroy­er of Worlds” — Upon Wit­ness­ing the First Nuclear Explo­sion

Haunt­ing Unedit­ed Footage of the Bomb­ing of Nagasa­ki (1945)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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