Can nuclear weapons destroy the world? (1 Viewer)

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Hi guys,

we have all heard that the world has enough nuclear weapons do destroy the human kind. But is this true?
I made a small research on wikipedia and it mentions:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons
the total available nuclear warheads in the world are at the most 14800
will take an worst case scenario and and assume that all of them have a yield of 1Mt (in reality most of them are bellow 500kt)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_nuclear_explosions
mentions that 1Mt will cause second degree burns to a radius of 15km (second degree burns are usually not leathal). So 1Mt will destroy 706km2 and
14800 x 706 = 10456200 km2
this is approximately the area of Europe and definitely not the area of the whole world.

Can you please let me know if anything in my logic is wrong?

Thank you
 

.Scott

Homework Helper
2,162
681
There are other effects.
In particular, nuclear detonations will start firestorms and carry tons of soot and dust into the atmosphere.
That would reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the ground - perhaps enough to ruin crops.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter
 

jrmichler

Science Advisor
622
513
In addition, loss of electrical power, loss of petroleum, loss of manufacturing capability, loss of transportation systems, loss of fertilizer, etc. Think loss of over half the world's population and a preindustrial economy. It would take some years to get there, during which time we would be depleting the remaining industrial capital. If enough people died soon enough, we might only regress to a horse, blacksmith, and steam economy.

I may sound pessimistic, but look inside your local grocery store in the morning, then again in the evening. Then ask yourself where next week's food is coming from when we run out of diesel for farm equipment, locomotives, and trucks. Consider that a city of 1,000,000 people needs 1000 tons per day of food.
 

jim hardy

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
9,682
4,619
#jim hardy
today's nuclear weapons are mostly hydrogen bombs due to higher yields. There will not be any nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb.

#jrmichler
No one disagrees that will be a huge disaster and the world will fall some years behind. But this will not be the end of the world. Humans will bounce back relatively quickly.
 
1,108
504
we have all heard that the world has enough nuclear weapons do destroy the human kind.
When that phrase was invented big fat three phase bombs were the expectation and some sickos were just started to consider using cobalt to 'salt' some bombs.
Also there was far more of those devices than today.

For now, I think we have enough (which are small/clean enough) to send back the survivors to the middle ages.
 
Last edited:
32,253
8,223
#jim hardy
today's nuclear weapons are mostly hydrogen bombs due to higher yields. There will not be any nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb.
Hydrogen bombs use a fission bomb for ignition, and often most of the yield comes from a third fission stage or from combined fission/fusion. Per yield fusion bombs have a smaller fallout than fission bombs, but they are not clean by any means.
#jrmichler
No one disagrees that will be a huge disaster and the world will fall some years behind. But this will not be the end of the world. Humans will bounce back relatively quickly.
Where is your evidence for that claim?
 

jim hardy

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
9,682
4,619
There will not be any nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb.
that's plain wrong.

Choosing instead a tamper for the secondary stage of a thermonuclear device made of natural uranium, rather than lead or tungsten, increases the total yield of a thermonuclear weapon by a factor of two to three. Most of the energy release from the first thermonuclear explosions actually came from (very) fast neutron fission, not from fusion. There is nothing sinisterly magic in fusion reactions, and the so-called hydrogen bomb does not use a super powerful nuclear reaction, bringing the immense power of the sun to Earth, albeit in an "uncontrolled" manner. Thermonuclear bombs actually control quite well what they do. They employ a very clever way to fusion and fission much larger quantities of nuclear material than regular nuclear fission bombs are capable of: staging.
 
Last edited:
#mfb
This is my logical assumption. What I can prove is that the world will not be leveled out with the nuclear weapons that are available.

#jim hardy
I correct that with :"there will not be a significant nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb"

I'm just trying to prove that the world will not come to an end
 

berkeman

Mentor
54,306
4,714
#mfb
This is my logical assumption. What I can prove is that the world will not be leveled out with the nuclear weapons that are available.

#jim hardy
I correct that with :"there will not be a significant nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb"
Quick tip for you, @peterlars -- use the "@" symbol to tag other users, not the "#" symbol. If you type @ and start typing the user's name, you will see a pop-up window with their username which you can click on to finish filling out the tagged username. :smile:
 
581
141
Wiki is not necessarily the definitive reference (YMMV)...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter
... but combining such massive stratospheric injection with circumstantial evidence from mass extinctions triggered by toxic out-gassing from Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) such as Siberian and Deccan Traps, the dysergic effects are seriously scary.

There may be a loophole: IIRC, when there is sufficient coastline to allow weathering to reach and cleanse the continental interior, oxygenate the oceans etc, LIPs have much less effect. The N & S Atlantics' opening, the Ontong Java plateau etc seem to have had scant effect on extinction rates.

That said, a major nuclear exchange would probably throw most survivors back to 'Feudal' or beyond...
Be Not There.
 

jim hardy

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
9,682
4,619
#jim hardy
I correct that with :"there will not be a significant nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb"
Castle Bravo contamination[edit]
The unexpectedly large yield, combined with other factors, led to the most significant accidental radiological contamination caused by the United States. A few minutes after the detonation, blast debris began to fall on Eneu/Enyu Island on Bikini Atoll where the U.S crew that triggered the device were located. When their geiger counters detected the unexpected fallout, they were forced to shelter in place indoors for a number of hours before it was safe enough for an airlift rescue operation to be carried out.[23]

After impacting Eneu, the fallout continued to spread across the inhabited islands of the Rongelap, Rongerik, and Utrik Atolls. The inhabitants of Rongelap and Rongerik Atolls were evacuated by US servicemen two days after the detonation, but the residents of the more distant Utrik Atoll weren't evacuated for three days.[24][25] Many of the inhabitants soon began to show symptoms of acute radiation syndrome. They returned to the islands three years later but were forced to relocate again when their islands were found to be unsafe.[26]
  • 153px-Bravo_Fallout.jpg

    Path of the nuclear fallout plume after the Castle Bravo test.
The fallout gradually dispersed around the globe, depositing traces of radioactive material in Australia, India and Japan, and parts of the United States and Europe. Though organized as a secret test, Castle Bravo quickly became an international incident, prompting calls for a ban on the atmospheric testing of thermonuclear devices.[1]

 

Attachments

jim mcnamara

Mentor
3,355
1,574
@peterlars we are still waiting for a scientific citation for this claim:
There will not be any nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb.
Please provide one.
 
@jim mcnamara my question is if the nuclear war can destroy the world.
The question was made to see if there are any mistakes in my logic.
If my calculations are correct earth will not be level out (please keep in mind that my calculation are an overestimation). I didn't take into account the proposed nuclear winter and nuclear fallout. I have corrected the "There will not be any nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb." with "there will not be a significant nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb". @jim hardy has provided more information of accidental nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb but this was an isolated example. Please provide more info for a nuclear fallout from a hydrogen bomb if you have and will be happy to accept that.
 
Last edited:

Bystander

Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
4,985
1,004
32,253
8,223
@peterlars: This is not how the forum works. You can't just make up claims and, when shown to be wrong, modify them a bit to still fit your narrative, and then wait to be shown wrong again.
If you make a claim, back it by references - the latest when asked for them. If the claim is not backed by the scientific literature, do not make it.
What I can prove is that the world will not be leveled out with the nuclear weapons that are available.
While that is correct: No one claimed otherwise. The dangers of a global nuclear war are not from leveling everything.
 
@mfb my question is if a nuclear war can destroy the world. I'm not convinced that it will. Please see the forest here not the tree.
@Bystander I mean Star wars-ly.
 

The Physics Forums Way

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top