A year ago this week, I launched the NUKEMAP. It’s perhaps fitting that this week, NUKEMAP also (coincidentally) hit 10 million “detonations.” That corresponds with just over 2.25 million pageviews (1.96 million unique). Which is pretty crazy. I attribute a lot of the success I’ve had with this blog to the NUKEMAP, as a driver of traffic. A few percent of the visitors look at the blog; a few percent of them become regular readers. A few percent of two million is a lot of people.
The mapping of where people bombed doesn’t look significantly different than did the first million, so I won’t post another one of those images. But here’s some fun-with-data for you: below is a heatmap of all of the 10 million detonations. The “hotter” it is (e.g. red or orange), the more times a given place or region was nuked. I shaved off a few decimal places from the latitude and longitude coordinates so that repeated nukes in the same basic area were lumped together (and so you don’t have to worry if you nuked your neighbor’s house a million times), but it is still pretty granular.
If you click on the image, you’ll go to an interactive version.1
For people who are into metrics, here are the daily, weekly, and monthly pageview graphs of the NUKEMAP from Google Analytics. After an initial big burst, it died down a bit (to 2,000 hits or so a day, mind you), punctuated by occasional new big bursts as it occasionally landed on the Reddit front page every once in awhile.
Hey, even Jon Stewart was into it:
OK, so Jon Stewart posted something that was originally from ABC News, so technically ABC News was into it, but it’s still Jon Stewart! I’ll take what I can get in that department!
Awhile back I did a write-up of NUKEMAP usage patterns for WMD Junction, an online journal: So Long, Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb: A Case Study in Public Usage of an Educational Tool. Check it out if you are curious about who-bombed-who.
People have also done some pretty cool things with it. The infographic shown by Jon Stewart derives from a setting that was sent around on Reddit and elsewhere showing the effects of a 6 kiloton bomb on lower Manhattan, with 6 kilotons being one of the yield estimates of the 2009 North Korean test. 6 kilotons doesn’t sound like a lot by modern standards, unless you happen to be right underneath it, and then it’s probably worth taking seriously.
An engineer in the U.K. (who has asked to be credited only as “RLBH”) recently made and sent me an incredibly elaborate map modeling “Probable Nuclear Targets in the United Kingdom” as imagined by the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Ministry of Defence in 1967:2
That’s pretty neat, and is actually very much related to the original project of which NUKEMAP was originally a spin-off (dubbed as TARGETMAP, which I’ve put indefinitely on hold for the moment for lack of time).
There’s only one lesson that I’ve been a little disturbed by. An awful lot of people are amazed at how small the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were compared to thermonuclear weapons. That’s true — but it’s because the megaton-range weapons were insane, not because the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were small. By human standards, 10-20 kilotons should still be horrifying. From a view of 100,000 feet, though, it’s a lot less impressive than the Tsar Bomba, even though the latter was a lot less of a realistic threat than weapons of “smaller” yields, and is certainly a lot less of a threat today. When you put “small” nukes next to monstrous nukes, it is easy to lose perspective. That’s not my goal — my goal is to help people get a sense of scale, something that I think is even more important in a post-Cold War age.
So I’m excited to announce that I’m deep in the coding of a successor to NUKEMAP. It isn’t quite ready for prime time, yet, but it’s well past the proof-of-concept stage. It works. I’m trying to incorporate the lessons I learned with the use and reception of the first NUKEMAP into the new one, and trying to provide a very different sort of user experience. The details are still hush-hush. I’ve told a handful of people about it in person, to gauge reactions, and have a few beta testers lined up, but I’m confident enough to say that this is something entirely new. The new NUKEMAP will do things that no other online nuclear effects simulator does. So keep an eye out for it. There is no estimated-time-of-arrival — it’ll be up when it’s good and ready — but it will probably be up by the end of spring 2013.
- Note: the underlying dataset for the 10 Million browser is static. So it would not be worth your time trying to influence how it looks at this point by bombing all over the place. [↩]
- RLBH sent me some details on how he made his map:
I’m sure you’re familiar with Professor Peter Hennessy’s book The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst, 1945-2010 (London: Penguin, 2003), which contains (amongst other things) a list of ‘Probable Nuclear Targets in the United Kingdom’ drawn up by the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Ministry of Defence in 1967. This list suggests the use of some 377 nuclear devices against 100 targets in the United Kingdom, none of less than 500 kilotons yield and with a total yield between 272.5 and 362.5 megatons.
I know that a Swedish gent has used your NUKEMAP tool to generate his own targeting plan against Sweden, but I’ve not heard of it being used to illustrate a ‘real’ war plan before. For my own elucidation, I’ve modelled the JIC’s targeting plan for the UK in NUKEMAP, with the following caveats applying to my method.
- Where multiple devices are programmed for a single point target, I’ve only modelled the largest. Some such targets were overkilled to a remarkable extent, even allowing for delivery system unreliability – most command & control centres, for instance, were allocated two missiles warheads of 3 megatons each, and two 1 megaton gravity bombs.
- For the industrial area targets, I’ve selected DGZs on the basis of my own best judgment, generally seeking to maximise the industry receiving 20 psi of overpressure. Unsurprisingly, this results in significant overkill against the housing and population of the targeted cities. This also means that some surprisingly large cities are totally untouched by the initial strike, which would certainly be targeted in a pure countervalue ‘dehousing’ strike. I’ve similarly eyeballed the attack on London, assuming here that the eight one-megaton warheads would be dual-targeted on four DGZs.
- I’ve not made any allowance for devices initiating over other than their programmed DGZ. This means, in effect, that two or three devices are ‘wasted’ against some targets, which could in fact be more profitably used elsewhere. This is especially the case, of course, for the bomber-carried devices, as these can more readily be retargeted.
- Where the yield of devices is specified as a range, I’ve used the simple arithmetic mean of the maximum and minimum. This means there are a few unusual sized weapons used.
- I’ve treated all devices as airbursts, because of the limitations of NUKEMAP. This isn’t meant as a criticism, it’s far and away the best tool of its’ kind that I’ve seen, and there’s obviously a tradeoff between usability and flexibility. In any case, some 140 devices directed against 70 targets (bunkers, dockyards and airfields) ought to be ground bursts.
- I’ve also interpreted the central government target at Cheltenham to mean the BURLINGTON bunker at Corsham, rather than GCHQ as Hennesy does. Both would be viable targets, but GCHQ is out of keeping with the rest of the list, whereas BURLINGTON was thought highly likely to be compromised and it’s unlikely that RSGs would be hit and the Government bunker ignored. [↩]