# Apocalypses

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by draqon, Feb 15, 2006.

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## Which apocalypse/end of our civilization/Earth is most likely?

20.8%

5.7%

1.9%

1.9%

18.9%

15.1%

3.8%

7.5%

1.9%

5.7%

3.8%

37.7%
1. ### DinosaurRational SkepticValued Senior Member

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Billy T: I do not know what assumptions and calculations you used. This site
• http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russia/TsarBomba.html
Provided the following data about the USSR test of a 50MT weapon.
This weapon was built and tested for political purposes. It was not considered a usable weapon due to serious practical problems relating to delivery, stock piling, and cost/benefit considerations. For various reasons, many smaller weapons are more useful than one big one.

The article said nothing about fire storm effects, which do not seem to be mentioned in any article I have ever read about nuclear weapons, probably due to such effects only theoretically occurring within the radius of absolute destruction (this is a guess on my part).

Note that “ordinary houses” were severely damaged (not totally destroyed) out to 35km (about 22 miles). this is about half the distance from Washington to Baltimore. The total destruction range of 25km is about 16 miles. Note this is for a 50MT weapon that is not expected to be used in a nuclear war, rather than the more practical weapons in the 1 to 5 Megaton range.

Your calculations seem to indicate far worse effects than actual test results. You are scaling thermal effects from 50MT to 5MT (with a factor of 32%), and refer to igniting dark paper and brown leaves. This is not the material which results in fire storm effects. 32% might be correct for scaling temperature effects. I have long since forgotten how to scale blast and pressure effects, but believe that a 32% factor is a gross over estimate. I seem to remember a total destruction area about 3 to 5 miles in diameter (1.5 to 2.5 miles in radius), which would suggest a linear scaling from 50MT to 5MT. This suggests that “ordinary houses” would survive beyond three to five miles.

I am not trying to minimize the horror of a nuclear war. We would lose one third to one half of our population, 50 to 100 major cities, and most of our major manufacturing facilities. The US would probably take 50 to 100 years to recover. However, it would not be the end of our civilization.

My previous post only pointed out that the US would still have the basic requirements to start the recovery, while the USSR would be without such resources. We would have many compete libraries, paved roads from coast to coast, machine tools, small manufacturing facilities, many automobiles & trucks, and trained technical personnel, while the USSR would not have such items necessary for starting to rebuild a modern technological culture because all such items in the USSR were (still are, I think) concentrated in their major cities.

3. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
I have made a few bold inserts in your post to indicate that I do not disagree, but want to focus your attention on the facts a little more clearly. Yes, it is true that no bomb test has ever shown that large air burst bomb on clear day will start firestorm and make surface air toxic etc. When done in the frozen, ice-covered, artic as USSR did, or in Pacific Ocean as US and France did, or small desert tests, usually under ground in Nevada were, do you feel confident that has any relevance to the likelihood of producing a firestorm in an urban area? - I think the "experiment" that is significant is the Dresden air raid, where the thermal input power was much less (10^20 times?) and extended over hours, not seconds, but still created a fire storm that litterally cooked most of the citizens.

I no longer remember the details of my analysis, and there were several approximations in it. As I recall the initial assumed spherical energy release was assumed to above most of the atmosphere and in the form of X-rays from the fireball, but dropping down to UV etc as it expanded and cooled. This energy flux was converted to a high temperature (fully ionized) disk of air plasma at about 100,000 feet, as I recall, but do not remember its diameter any more. Eighty percent flash of heat and visible radiation from this disk, although lasting for about a dozen seconds, was assumed to be instantous heat deposited in the in thin, low mass, inflammable absorbers (black ink spots on paper and dry brown leaves) I.e. the emissivity = absorption coefficient and heat reradiated during these 12 seconds of thermal input was assumed to be compensated for by the utilization of only 80% of the bomb's and plasma disk's "Earth directed" energy (much goes into space with a high altitude explosion) I do recall that I only considered the outer perimeter of the 100,000 foot high heat source and the ground range that would receive sufficient heat to raise these thin (high surface to mass ratio) flammable absorbers to their "kindling temperature" (Then ordinary oxidation takes over to get non black areas of paper burning, etc.)

I agreed that fall-out shelters made considerable sense in rural areas, but wanted the citizens of Baltimore to know that even if Baltimore was not the target list (It surely would be because of the port.) for several smaller bombs (Which I agree are more effective use of you total yield) we could all be killed by the SECONDARY effects of an large air blast over DC.

Even today, the military mind seems only concerned with the IMMEDIATE effects (blast). They give little consideration to the mayhem that people fleeing from their suburban homes will cause as they, with their hand weapons take food from the farms they can walk to in the few weeks before they die etc. Most of them will not be interested in the libraries, so yes in the post nuclear exchange era, if anyone is interested in reading a book, (which I strongly doubt) they would be able to. I think if 10% of the US population is dead in the first week, another 10% is in the process of dying from fall-out poisoning, the most of the 80% that was not injured by either blast, "first week secondary effects" or radiation fall-out will be killed in the struggle for food to survive.

As far as whether or not old USSR would recover better than US - I tend to think yes it would as most of the rural population there had a few chickens, a couple of pigs and a vegetable garden etc. whereas in the US the small rural cities were very dependant upon the modern infrastructure (Eating food from the local food store that was, on average, shipped more than 500 miles to get there, etc.) The big farms out side of these small cities do not have gardens or function well when there is no gas for their machines. (In old USSR, the horse still pulled the plow and wagon.)

Summary: Your emphases on the survival of books in libraries reflects the same lack of understanding of what it would be like post full out nuclear exchange as the military's consideration of only the blast effects. I think the old USSR had a better chance of getting electricity in wires in a generation afterwards than the US etc. - I.e. would get back to the level of a 1906 society first.

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2006

5. ### DinosaurRational SkepticValued Senior Member

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Billy T: Your emphasis on the fire storms created in German cities overlooks the fact that the fires were in the center of the region and created hot air which rose quickly. The rising hot air created a low pressure area in the center, causing air to rush in from all directions feeding oxygen to the central fires. A nuclear weapon destroys the area around ground zero and ignites flammable material in an irregular ring .

The dynamics are entirely different for the nuclear blast. Except for your posts, I have never read of any fire storms effects expected for nuclear blasts. The large majority of the buildings in and surrounding the two Japanese cites were made of wood and paper, unlike the German cities which had a much higher percentage of brick and stone construction. While the yield of the WW2 A-bombs is much less than that of H-bombs, the WW2 weapons were compaable to the convential weapons used to create fire storms in Germany. There were no fire storms in the two Japanese cities.

I have more faith than you in the resourcefulness and ethics of the Amnericans expected to survive a nuclear attack. Due to the survival of large numbers of engineers, medical personnel, machine tools, cars, trucks, libraries, and paved roads, et cetera, I would expect Americans to be able to plan, organize, and start the reconstruction of a 20th century technological culture. I would not expect the Mad Max scenarios as portrayed by our SciFi.

As mentioned in previous posts, while nuclear war would be devastating, the destructiveness of nuclear weapons has been exaggerated by the media, by politicians, and others.

7. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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23,198
A statement of your “faith” follows three correct sentences, but I think, the third is incomplete and misleading. I also have a different set of beliefs as to what would happen in the US after an “all out nuclear exchange.”

To mention just one effect, but a significant one, I think the national power grid would fail in less than an hour and very few, if any, parts of it could be brought up in the following weeks of civil strife ("tertiary effects" conditions I discuss below). I believe it would be decades before there was electric power in any US city, including even small remote cities that currently use independent diesel generators, as they would be without oil; etc. even if some small remote towns, with strong community leadership, managed to avoided these "tertiary effects."

I also think "resourcefulness and ethics of the Americans" reflects the arrogance that often gets the US into trouble. Recall, for example, the French had been fighting in Vietman for years, before the Americans arrived and had the advantage of speaking French to the educated part of the population, but their failure did not deter the arrogant Americans. Also related is the part of my footnote about the Poles, who often, in American POV, are the epitome of ineptness, but unaided by the allies, improvised a briefly succesful uprising against the Germans army occupying Warsaw near the end of wwII. I.e. you are implying that the Russians were not as well equipted in your "American ethics and resourcefulness", even with centuries of devotion to "Mother Russia."

It would not have been possible to start a firestorm in Desden if only fire bombs had been used. The bomb mix had to be well designed because the flight distance* severally limited the bomb load. Hence the mathematicians and the their probability analysis.* I forget the details, but basically the first wave was all high explosives, to close the streets and break water lines so fire trucks could not move freely and anywhere they could go would lack water pressure. Then came the "hanging fire bombs" that soft-landed on roofs with small parachutes etc and hooks to catch on gutters. They burned for a few minutes to set the wooden roof overhangs on fire. Then the third wave was a mix of HE and regular fire bombs.

(The HE would throw the already burning roof wood onto the first wave's rubble in the streets and the regular firebombs would set fire to some of the street rubble that did not have burning roof wood falling on it. The mathematicians did their immoral work well. Probably each of the five killed more innocent women and children on a per man bases than the RAF or any other division of the allies without leaving their secured room!)

Returning to the nuclear part of our disagreement:

Even at ground zero of a nuclear air-blast only the upper levels of buildings would be vaporized. Look at the photos of the two Japanese cities and you will see a lot of ruble and that only part of combustible part burned. True, there was no firestorm in the two Japanese cities and often there would not be. It was very cloudy and the decision had already been made in at least one case (as I understand this history) to go on to the secondary target, when a hole in the clouds open up and dropping the bomb on the primary target was possible.

Generally speaking, to get a maximum scale area firestorm, you need to drop the nuclear bomb when there are no clouds, it has not recently rained, and there is lots of high surface-to-volume ratio dry combustibles (paper and dry leaves). There is ALWAYS a small firestorm. That is why the “mushroom cloud” develops. (Read YOUR OWN second sentence again, to understand this.)

What we are discussing is how large it CAN become, not if it will happen. I admit that in unfavorable conditions, it may not be any larger than the blast destruction zone. But also note that modern weather information is widely known and the enemy, not you unless you strike first, chooses the weather conditions at the time of the blast, as well as whether or not it is to be a ground blast, (for max radioactivity fall -out) or high altitude blast, for maximum secondary and tertiary destruction. ("tertiary effects" defined in next paragraph.)

If I were the enemy and wanted to destroy the society I would use firestorms when I could and hope many in the periphery of the firestorm survive to loot the surrounding country side for food etc. This civil strife could be called the "tertiary effects." I admit they are speculative, but looting always follow any major disaster in the US as elsewhere. This despite the fact that the looters are neither hungry nor in the process of dying from radiation poisoning. When 100s of thousands of suburban people in this condition are fleeing the destroyed city, I find it hard to believe their thought will be “Lets get organized to rebuild the social structure that caused this disaster.” I think it much more likely, if they think of anything but getting food and medical attention, by gun point if necessary, that they will think: "Lets kill all the scientists and destroy their books and labs so this never happens again.” I think the more thoughtfull ones will be much more inclined to emulate the plain people of Pennsylvania than to become high-tech engineers or nuclear scientists, as you seem to think they will!

If it conforts you to ignore these "tertiary effects" and believe a large starving population, dying of radiation poisoning, will rush to their library to read up on power control circuits and disease prevention, etc., be my guest. These concepts / beliefs seem very unlikely to me. If I were one of them, I would be headed for the closest gun / amo store, not the library!
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*Dresden is in the Eastern part of Germany and had not been bombed, because it was too far away until very near end of war. (Dresden never should have been bombed as war was already won. - The raid was a very immoral act, done mainly I believe to impress Stalin. -Possibly earlier in the war, the planes could have continued on to land in Russian held territory, but Russia was not permitting that later when the war was essentially over. Stalin would not allow allied planes to land in Russian controlled territory because he was afraid the allies would help the Polish resistance fighters liberate Warsaw before the Russian army did. That flight also required a "no return flight" landing in Russian controlled areas. Stalin wanted the resistance fighter to fail so he could easily take over Poland later, as he did.

There were a few hundred Poles serving in the Russian army, just across a river to the East of Warsaw. After weeks of waiting for orders from Stalin to cross the river, they ceased small boats and went to help their bothers, who were dying in the resistance. The Russian artillery sank all but one of these small boats, as they were “filled with deserters.”

The Polish resistance fighters had about ten men for every gun. When the one carrying it was shot, the next in the line advancing towards the sand bag protected machine gun nest, typically in the circle of a street intersection, picked it up and continued until he too fell. Etc. Amazingly, the surprise of the uprising permitted these brave fighters, who feared “Russian Liberation” as much as the German occupiers of Warsaw, captured three German tanks in operational condition and held most of the city for a few weeks until a very angry Hitler made Warsaw the focal point for all his remaining forces on the Eastern Front. When all the resistance fighters were dead, Stalin’s army crossed the river and “liberated” Poland from the Germans - until a later generation Polish steel worker aroused the Poles to again demand freedom, this time from the USSR. This uprising succeeded and eventually destroyed the USSR.

(Ironies like this help keep me an agnostic instead of an atheist. We are all going to die some day, so perhaps which day is not too important "in the big picture." There does seem to be some crude sense of justice in the long sweep of history. Perhaps that is why the oil we use now is in the Arab lands and the foreseeable future belongs to China - compensation for centuries of Western sins?)

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2006

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9. ### ecclesiastesRegistered Senior Member

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biochemical war

10. ### Golgi is my HomeboyMy gravestone is my diploma.Registered Senior Member

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It's going to be a virus. Origin: unknown

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Seconded.

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13. ### Cottontop3000Death BeckonedRegistered Senior Member

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Or nuclear winter?

14. ### spuriousmonkeyBannedBanned

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A fungus with deadly spores that suddenly takes a liking to growing on the human skin or in the lungs. Some men manage to survive in antartica for many years because of isolation, but lack of women is condemning them to extinction.

15. ### spurious_monkeyBannedBanned

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And you actually believe that will happen? :bugeye: ? why want these men create machines that will create an egg environment for the sperm and the egg, taking x chromosome and y xhromosome from the dna in their sperms?...isnt that not possible? Both boys and girls can be created from men...and from women...only women...XX.

16. ### Communist HamsterCricetulus griseus leninusValued Senior Member

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Hey bitch, do not be stealing teh monkeys username.

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18. ### draqonBannedBanned

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what sort? :bugeye: You mean like Anthrax?

19. ### EnmosRegistered Senior Member

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I voted Greenhouse and Meteor.

20. ### draqonBannedBanned

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cool

something to look up to

21. ### EnmosRegistered Senior Member

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I'm hoping for a comet though.. soon.

22. ### draqonBannedBanned

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think of all innocent animals that will be hurt :bawl:

23. ### EnmosRegistered Senior Member

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True.. but it beats millennia of continues extinction until virtually nothing is left.
If I could pick, I'd pick a human specific virus that wipes out humanity while leaving the rest of life on earth untouched.