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Indiana Jones and nuking the fridge survival

  1. Feb 24, 2012 #1
    I know it's just a movie, but I had a question about "Indiana jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I'm writing a blog post and infographic about the scene where he hides in a refridgerator to protect him from a nuclear blast. I was hoping for some help from physics experts instead of making stuff up.

    Here's the scene on YouTube if you haven't seen it.

    The scene is ridiculous, but Lucas recently said there's a 50/50 chance of survival.

    In fact, it was Spielberg who “didn’t believe” the scene. In response to Spielberg’s fears, Lucas put together a whole nuking-the-fridge dossier. It was about six inches thick, he indicated with his hands. Lucas said that if the refrigerator were lead-lined, and if Indy didn’t break his neck when the fridge crashed to earth, and if he were able to get the door open, he could, in fact, survive. “The odds of surviving that refrigerator — from a lot of scientists — are about 50-50,” Lucas said. - /Film


    I compiled a bunch of data from various websites and some of them conflict or don't answer enough questions to be useful. I compiled it into a rough spreadsheet here.

    Assuming he found a commercial lead-lined fridge (which didn't exist) and the fridge was hermetically sealled (impossible) and he was able to maintian a safe crash position in it here's my question.

    What would I need to calculate his survival rate? I really appreciate any help that you can provide.

    Here are some of my references
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_National_Security_Site
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_56_(nuclear_test [Broken])
    http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Survive_a_Nuclear_Blast
    http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Science/Nuke.html
    http://m.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Nuclear-Attack
    http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/nuclearfaq.asp [Broken]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_nuclear_explosions
    http://www.slashfilm.com/george-lucas-insists-nuke-fridge-survive/
    http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq5.html
    http://www.nationalterroralert.com/nuclear/
    http://www.atomicarchive.com/Effects/index.shtml
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2012 #2

    gulfcoastfella

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    keep in mind that the only thing George Lucas ever hears these days is "yes, it's possible".
     
  4. Feb 24, 2012 #3
    I'm assuming that you are in this forum because you want to know about the likeliness that radiation would kill him. Death by acute radiation poisoning requires quite a bit of radiation. Most of those who do die of "acute' radiation doses live for around a week and become weak/sick slowly over that time. To die from radiation within minutes you need much more radiation than would kill you over a week. Based on the movie I will assume that he got so little radiation he didn't even get sick from it.

    A fridge would shield you from alpha and most beta. If it were lead lined it would shield you from pretty much all alpha, beta and low energy gamma. Some of the high energy gamma would still get through.

    Now the highly scientific way of doing this would be to get a radiation spectrum from a nuclear blast and then use software to calculate how much of that would make it through lead box with 1 cm lead. I think this might be a bit beyond the scope of your blog.

    You might just want to look at the radiation dose from gamma at a certain distance and then assume that some percentage of that is blocked. Then look at the survival rates for someone who absorbed that much radiation.
     
  5. Feb 24, 2012 #4
    And what about surviving the thermal blast? Granted, a refrigerator should be well isolated. But well enough to shield against a kiloton-range blast only a few hundred meters away? Um, no... I don't think so. :rolleyes:
     
  6. Feb 24, 2012 #5

    Mech_Engineer

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    The most ridiculous part of the scene isn't hiding in a lead-lined fridge. Without doing any direct calculations it seems likely to me that the "lead-lined fridge" might make the blast a survivable event from a prompt radiation standpoint (not including his fallout exposure after he gets out of it). We don't get a very accurate estimate of his distance, but it seems that he was far enough from the device itself to reduce the prompt gamma/neutron blast to survivable levels since he's shielded. Alphas and betas would easily be blocked by the fridge if it was truly lead-lined with a significant amount, and lets not forget he was behind walls and a significant portion of atmosphere. Neutrons would pass right through lead "lining," and high energy gammas need a significant thickness to be stopped (multiple inches which it didn't have). The biggest thing he had going for him is the distance from the device and the radiation going into 4-pi.

    The really ridiculous part is him being thrown miles by the blast, falling hundreds of feet, and surviving inside the fridge. It's ridiculous first because there's no way he could survive the fall (or acceleration necessary to throw him that far), but second because that fridge had to be one of the heaviest and densest objects in that house if it was truly lead-lined, and yet it's the thing that got thrown the farthest out of the entire house. If anything, it would have tipped over but stayed mostly in-place, and Indy would have rolled out right into the fallout zone.

    Such a disappointment of a movie... if only they had consulted me when they were writing the script.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  7. Feb 24, 2012 #6

    etudiant

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    The walls of fridges are usually lined with some inexpensive insulating material such as rock wool. If I remember my old CD lessons correctly, it would take at least several feet of this material to cut the radiation dose in half. The particle impact however is probably worsened, because the secondary emissions from the walls of the fridge would much outweight the shielding benefit.
    Apart from that, the freezer box would bust his fool neck as the fridge bounces around the landscape.
    In short, the movie is as truthful and realistic as you would expect from Hollywood.
     
  8. Feb 24, 2012 #7

    Mech_Engineer

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    In the scene, when Indy gets in the fridge we are given a glimpse of a placard which says "lead lined" on the fridge. The implication is this fridge is in the house as a product test for protecting the food within it against prompt radiation from a nuclear blast; of course who cares if your house is vaporized in the blast? No spec is given for the lead thickness, but given the presented circumstances Indy is most likely to die from bouncing around in the fridge rather than a radiation dose I think.
     
  9. Feb 24, 2012 #8

    DaveC426913

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    I concur with Mech Engineer.

    I did not find it entirely implausible that he survived the radiation. (It was lead-lined. He did get scrubbed down.)

    I did find it entirely implausible that he could have survived the fling and impact.
     
  10. Feb 26, 2012 #9
    As far as it goes, the Atomic test Marines were at about 100 yards from a ground blast, in a slit trench, and all survived the immediate effects. A steel fridge without lead would give more exposure to gamma, but less to the flame.

    I'd say if you have even a centimeter of lead, you'd reduce a small device's gamma dose to cancer-causing-only levels. (1 cm of lead stops about 70% of high energy gamma).
     
  11. Feb 26, 2012 #10
    Judging by the scene at 60 seconds, the distance of the willage to the centre of the blast was ~2-3 km.

    Here: http://www.nukefix.org/weapon.html I could find some pictures from real tests. In section "Wood-framed homes" there are two pictures related to a test of "250 Kt, 2.65 miles" which are quite fit for the immediate effects seen in the movie.

    For the calculation of the immediate radiation effects I've found this: http://www.fourmilab.ch/bombcalc/
    If I read it right, for 250Kt and 3 km it suggests only 10 rem, so no immediate effects from gamma or neutron radiation.

    (Fallout is a different matter: I welcome any link for the following, 'shower' scene :-) That face is priceless.)

    So what remains are:
    - the mechanical damage by the flying/landing
    - if the fridge can insulate thermal part of the initial blast
    - at the landing point of the fridge the land was still on fire: the temperature can be still too high to survive.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  12. Feb 26, 2012 #11

    jim hardy

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    Roadrunner Cartoons are arguably most entertaining film ever made.
    I guess it's good business to emulate success -
    Fridge should have said "ACME".
     
  13. Feb 29, 2012 #12
    Thanks so much for all your responses. It took me a while to get back to the forum because I assumed everyone would ignore the question because it's ridiculous.
     
  14. Feb 29, 2012 #13

    gulfcoastfella

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    We need to go to the Mythbusters website to ask that they test this myth.
     
  15. Feb 29, 2012 #14

    QuantumPion

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    Being inside a fridge crashing into the ground at terminal velocity would be akin to driving into a brick wall at 60 mph. Is it survivable? Maybe, if the fridge has crumple zones, and you were lucky. But I can guarantee you wouldn't be walking away without a scratch from it.
     
  16. Feb 29, 2012 #15

    Mech_Engineer

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    It's way worse than that, he was accelerated to what appears to be multiple hundred mph in the blast, because he easily overtakes and passes the guys running away in a car. Terminal velocity of that fridge assuming it's pretty dense is probably 300mph or more. Therefore it would akin to driving into a brick wall at 300mph, not 60.
     
  17. Feb 29, 2012 #16

    QuantumPion

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    Maybe 100 mph tops. No way its terminal velocity would be that high, unless the thing weighed > 1000 lbs, in which case there's no way it would go airborne to begin with.
     
  18. Feb 29, 2012 #17

    DaveC426913

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    You guys are ignoring that fact that the lion's share of his velocity is horizontal. Even if his horizontal velocity were 300mph that doesn't mean the impact is tantamount to a brick wall at 300 mph.

    Not that were not bifurcating bunnies here. It was a lethal journey no matter how you cut it.
     
  19. Feb 29, 2012 #18

    Mech_Engineer

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    Haha you're probably right, and he did land on a downhill slope after all... Still it's less plausible than say him jumping out of an airplane with an inflatable raft and surviving by using the raft as a parachute :smile:
     
  20. Feb 29, 2012 #19

    DaveC426913

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    Yeah.

    With the parachute/raft, there are plenty of factors that can nudge it into plausibility.

    With a refrigerator, you have precious few physics principles at play. Ballistic flight is ballistic flight.
     
  21. Mar 2, 2012 #20
    So, I found a helpful article here http://www.overthinkingit.com/2012/02/22/fridge-nuking-scientific-peer-review/?page=all that answered a lot of questions. But, I have a couple more. In one part the author says Indiana's speed was 38.32 m/s
    "Assuming the Soviets are attempting to escape the advancing plume at their vehicle’s maximum speed (~80 mph, or ~35.76 m/s), we estimate Indy’s horizontal velocity to have a total magnitude of approximately (2.3 m/0.9 s + 35.76 m/s) = 38.32 m/s."

    I tried to use that to estimate how far he flew from the video. It takes him 19 seconds to launch till he hits the ground on his first bounce (assuming the film is real-time). That means he flew 728.08 meters which is way short of the minimum 2.0 km he would need to stay out of the Lethal total dose (neutrons and gamma rays) range of 1.4km for a 20kT explosion. Much less the 4.2 km he'd have to be to keep from getting third degree burns.

    Is my math off or can we assume I'm missing something?

    Can we determine how far away he was from the explosion using a plume height of between 30 to 40 feet (again based on 20kt) and the final image of him watching the cloud?
    mccall_rogers_2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
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