Nuclear Explosion in Chicago

What a nuclear explosion in Chicago might look like.

Ever wonder what it would be like to drop a nuclear bomb on your hometown? Now you can check it out for yourself in 3D on an interactive app. A 3D simulation program called NUKEMAP3D shows what a nuclear explosion would look like on a location of your choosing.

Making use of Google Maps, you can “drop” a nuclear bomb and check out the impact. Users select a city, the size of the bomb in kilotons (the app also provides a number of presets, including the 100 Mega ton Tsar Bomba), and the viewing location (e.g., ground height, airplane height, etc). The app was created by Alex Wellerstein, an Associate Historian specializing in nuclear weapons and nuclear secrecy at the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.

NUKEMAP3D is an update of a two dimensional version. That version indications that there have been over 18.2 million “detonations and counting.”

I’m sure Professor Wellerstein created the app with the best of intentions. However, my sense is that it will be used less as a learning tool and an exercise in nuclear deterrence and more as a “ain’t it cool” toy by adolescent boys. There are a couple of lessons to be learned: 1) Just because you can do something technically doesn’t mean it’s a good idea; 2) Including context in a simulation program is essential when dealing with serious issues online.

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