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What A Nuclear Bomb Would Do To Your Neighborhood, Visualized

Trump tweets about nuclear war casually. But a new data viz emphasizes the devastating impact it would really have.

The threat of nuclear war can feel both infinitely distant and yet imminent all at the same time–especially if Trump has tweeted about North Korea recently. But it feels a lot more pressing when viewing the Outrider Foundation‘s most recent data visualization, where you type in your home address and then watch a nuclear warhead blow up your world.

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When I typed in my apartment, I watched in horror as the visualization showed my entire neighborhood being vaporized. The circle of radiation poisoning reaches for nearly six square miles around my house–many of the people within that area will perish from radiation poisoning within the next few weeks. A shock wave has an even bigger reach of more than 11 square miles, and the invisible force will demolish most buildings in its path. And finally, the viz shows that anyone within almost 50 square miles will suffer third-degree burns from the heat generated when the bomb detonates. Nearly 530,000 people would perish and another 1.2 million would be injured.

What’s the point of making people imagine such mind-boggling destructiveness? “We believe ordinary people can make a difference if we have the right tools to inspire them,” says Tara Drozdenko, the managing director of the Outrider Foundation. “We use really good visualizations so people can truly understand the threat.”

This is what is likely to happen if the W-87 bomb, currently in the U.S. arsenal, were to be used as a weapon of war. You can examine the impact of other bombs as well, including Little Boy, the bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and the Hwasong-14, North Korea’s largest IBCM. They have equally devastating consequences.

The visualization uses the data from the less user-friendly Nuke Map, created by Alex Wellerstein, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology who focuses on the history of nuclear weapons. Wellerstein’s map shows the impact of more than 30 different types of bombs on any geographical location of your choosing, but with less emotional impact than Outrider’s viz–which emphasizes the destruction of your hometown.

[Screenshot: Outrider Foundation]
Outrider focuses on educating people on both nuclear war and climate change, both existential threats to human existence. The idea is that once people understand the devastation that these events could cause, they’ll be inspired to do something about it. When it comes to preventing nuclear war, Drozdenko says that the American public has had a strong influence on nuclear policy in the past–and can again. The foundation’s website recommends calling your members of Congress, ensuring you invest in socially responsible stocks that don’t support nuclear weapons makers, and joining grassroots movements through groups like ICAN and Global Zero that advocate for nonproliferation.

“It’s not just to scare people, but to show them that they can make a difference on this,” she says. “The next step is to actually do something about it.”

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and sign up for her newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/schwabability

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