More “Fun” with NUKEMAP

by Alex Wellerstein, published February 6th, 2012

I've been chuffed by the reception of NUKEMAP. Since I posted it last Friday morning, nearly 700 people have nuked themselves, or others, using it. There have been over 1,500 individual "detonations." Shockingly, this impressive number is still 500 fewer than the number of actual nuclear detonations that have been performed by nuclear states as part of their nuclear testing regimes.

Who got nuked? I started keeping statistics as to where people were nuking a few hours after posting the original NUKEMAP. Here's an image of the 1,500 detonations plotted onto their respective locations (the circle sizes are just icons, they don't correspond with actual detonation sizes, some of which are ridiculous):

"We Will All Go Together When We Go," unless you live in central Eurasia, sub-Saharan Africa, western Australia, or Canada north of the border. Or Spain, for whatever reason. (They've had it bad enough as it is, I think.) Here's a detail of the United States:

I don't want to give out deeper granularity than the above image, just for privacy reasons (you know, in case you nuked your own house). (There is an "opt-out" checkbox on the NUKEMAP page, if you don't want me seeing where you've nuked.) I will say, though, that my boss owned up to nuking Punxsutawney Phil back to the stone age.

I've been having fun with this myself on the technical side. I keep tinkering with the code — optimizing it, making it more flexible, adding features, and so on. Here are some interesting things for you to try out  which I added over the last weekend:

  • Try nuking Hiroshima, Japan, with the Little Boy bomb.
  • Try nuking the Trinity test site with the Fat Man bomb.
  • Try nuking the Bikini Atoll with the Castle Bravo bomb.

For all of these, you need fairly precise targeting, so use the preset menu. I've got a few other things I'm planning to add to it, over time. (If nothing "special" happens, make sure you have reloaded the page a few time, in case your browser is caching it. And pay attention to your options on the right-hand menu, as some of the special bits don't enable automatically.) None of these additions are scientifically accurate — they involve some rough transitioning as they get adapted from still photographs to Google Earth coordinates — but they're probably not too wrong.

You can also now plot multiple nuclear blasts if you are so inclined. If you click the "detach" button, the existing detonation circles will be "locked" wherever you have put them, and you will be given a new marker to target with. Use the "clear" button to clear all plotted effects.

I'm an historian, so I'm constantly curious about whether these scaling codes work well with "real world" nuclear landmarks. In a few places, you can see exactly how close they are. Here's the crater from the Sedan test at the Nevada Test Site, which was a purposeful attempt to make a big hole in the ground. It matches up pretty exactly with a 104kt model fireball, which one would expect, given how the point of the Sedan test was to make maximal use of the explosion:

Also check-able is the massive crater caused by the detonation of Ivy Mike, the first hydrogen bomb (10.4 Mt):

Pretty cool, no? Well, I thought it was.

I have a few more mapping projects in the works (at least two), and a few more goodies I'm planning to add to the existing NUKEMAP. I've also got a few ideas about adding fallout approximations to NUKEMAP, which could be interesting.

If you think up something clever that NUKEMAP might be able to do, please feel free to post it as a comment here or to send me an e-mail. I'm finding the Google Maps API much improved over the last time I played with it, a few years ago, and it's letting me translate these ideas into "realities" much more quickly than I imagined.

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6 Responses to “More “Fun” with NUKEMAP”

  1. Ash says:

    Very cool. I wonder how the NUKEmap of the US correlates with the numbers and locations of weapons targeted by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

  2. Jamie says:

    Fallout would be great, but it is so dependent on weather.

  3. And Omaha (STRATCOM nee SAC HQ) hasn’t been nuked yet? Curious age we live in… 😉
    w/r, SJS

  4. MattyPlant says:

    The Daily What brought me here, and i must say a huge thanks to creating this site.

    I had a whole lot of fun blowing up my house, and reading your works!