Visualizing The Frightening Power of Nuclear Bombs

We have all heard about the massively destructive force that is nuclear weaponry, with the astonishing end of World War II to prove it. The world was caught off guard by the utter destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the U.S. dropped the 15 kiloton Little Boy and 21 kiloton Fat Man. The two Japanese cities were leveled in seconds, killing hundreds of thousands from the initial blast and later radiation poisoning. It would be difficult to call their impact small, but those bombs were only a shadow of the weapons to come.

Following the war, with the growing Cold War and nuclear arms race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., devastatingly large bombs were introduced, growing in size and destructive power with each year. The pinnacle of nuclear bomb development came with the aptly named Tsar Bomba, which the Russians nicknamed the Kuz’kina Mat (roughly translating to “we will show you”). The behemoth bomb tipped the explosive scales at a frightening 50,000 kilotons — 3,333 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. When the weapon was released over Russia on October 30th 1960, it produced a mushroom cloud 40 miles high, or almost 8 times the hight of Mt. Everest. The resulting fireball would have produced third degree burns 62 miles away and it even broke windows in Finland and Norway.

The very tall infographic below, created by former art director of the New Yorker Maximilian Bode , looks at the massive size of these bombs, beginning with their power compared to that of 1 ton of dynamite. If the scroll through this extremely long graphic doesn’t convince you that nukes are a bad idea, nothing will.

In case you wanted a better sense of scale, here is a much reduced version of the graphic. It clearly shows the exponentially larger Tsar Bomba compared to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — in fact, their red bars are barely visible at this scale.


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