Tag Archives: cold war

The Tsar Bomba

12 Oct

The Tsar Bomba, officially known as RDS-220 or Big Ivan to its Soviet creators, is the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by man. The first and only one of its kind was tested on October 30, 1961 at 11:32am. It was a 100 megaton bomb design but the uranium fusion stage tamper of the tertiary and secondary stages was replaced with lead, thus reducing the yield by 50% by disposing with the fast fissioning of the uranium tamper by the fusion neutrons. What that means is, the change in materials led to a much smaller explosion than originally planned but also had the added bonus of reducing the expected fallout by 97%. The effect of this bomb at full power would have been catastrophic on the Earth, increasing the world’s total fission fallout since the invention of the atom bomb by 25%. Do you understand? The fallout from one detonation of the Tsar Bomba would have been equivelant to 1/4 of all fallout from hundreds of atomic detonations up until that time.

The bomb was tested at Novaya Zemlya Island in the Russian Arctic Circle. It was airdropped and detonated at around 4,000 meters, being visible from1,000 kilometers away despite overcast weather. Even at the great height at which it exploded, the fireball reached down to the Earth and rose almost to the height at which is was deployed at 10,500 meters. The blast pressure below the burst point was 6 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb at 300 PSI. One cameraman recalled:

The clouds beneath the aircraft and in the distance were lit up by the powerful flash. The sea of light spread under the hatch and even clouds began to glow and became transparent. At that moment, our aircraft emerged from between two cloud layers and down below in the gap a huge bright orange ball was emerging. The ball was powerful and arrogant like Jupiter. Slowly and silently it crept upwards…. Having broken through the thick layer of clouds it kept growing. It seemed to suck the whole earth into it. The spectacle was fantastic, unreal, supernatural.

Shock waves were felt over 700 kilometers away, windows were broken at distances in excess of 900 kilometers, All buildings within 55 kilometers were destroyed and all wooden buildings within hundreds of kilometers were wiped out while stone or concrete buildings sustained massive damage. Radio communications were disrupted for almost an hour and atmospheric disturbance created by the blast orbited the planet an estimated three times. The mushroom cloud rose 64 kilometers into the atmosphere. The explosion shook the entire planet with seismic equipment on the other side of the Earth registering a seismic magnitude of 5.0 to 5.25. Ground zero had been glassed at the center of impact and eye-witnesses described the entire area as looking like a “skating rink” because the ground was swept clean and flat due to the blast wave and ultra high heat. All planes involved in the operation had been coated with a special reflective paint due to the calculation that the 50 megaton blast would be capable of causing 3rd degree burns at distances of 100+ kilometers. The effective damage radius of the weapon extended out to a 1,000 kilometer radius.

The Soviet Union was quickly condemned in the United Nations and the Western allies jumped back into the nuclear arms race. Thankfully, this monster never made it into the production line. The device’s size, weight, as well as it’s frightening destructive capabilities were deemed too extreme for use in a real conflict.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Military Industrial Complex

30 Sep

Arguably the last truly great American president, Eisenhower was a military man through and through. But he understood what was happening and witnessed the militarization of the US in the years after WW2. He knew what kind of influence such large industries could have on the American people and its government and cautioned against it but was fought every step of the way by politicians who had an overriding fear of the Red Menace, some of whom became very rich by putting forth the weapons manufacturers interests in Congress. What Eisenhower said decades ago still rings true in the new millennium and it’s an important message to share. Here’s the excerpt from his farewell address in 1961:

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

View the whole speech here. There’s a fantastic documentary out called “Why We Fight” and you can find the trailer for it and a little more information on the MIC here.