Tsar Bomba

I was thinking today about the variety of threats we face these days, ranging from minor ones like asteroid impacts to the most serious of all (secondhand cigarette smoke, of course), when I remembered that when I was at school somebody told me that the Soviet Union had a nuclear bomb that could destroy the whole of England (or maybe Great Britain) with one single blast.

And that really was the stuff of nightmares. But I always wondered whether it really could have been true. And so today, for the first time ever, I set out to investigate.

We know the amount of energy, E, that is released by nuclear weapons. We can also suppose that this energy expands in a spherical shock wave around the bomb as it explodes. The energy gets dispersed over the surface area A of this expanding sphere, which is 4πr2, where r is the radius of the sphere.

I then took a look at the 15 kiloton 63 TJ (TeraJoule) Hiroshima bomb, which was detonated 580 metres above ground level, and learned that the area of complete destruction extended in a circle of 1.6 km radius around ground zero (1.7 km from the bomb itself), with extreme to light damage extending as far as 5.6 km. I then calculated E/A, the energy per unit area of the sphere at a radius of 1.7 km and 5.6 km, and came up with figures of 1.7 x 106 J/m2 for complete destruction and 1.6 x 105 J/m2 for light damage.

I then took a look at the largest nuclear bomb ever exploded, the 50 megaton 210 PJ (Peta Joule) Soviet Tsar Bomba, which was detonated in October 1961 on the island of Novaya Zemlya, and estimated that the radius of the sphere of complete destruction was about 100 km, and the radius of severe to light damage was about 350 km.

tsar_bombaAnd then I got a map of Britain, and drew a 100 km radius circle in the middle of it, and a 350 km radius circle around that (see right).

From this I concluded that Birmingham would have been completely destroyed, and London and Manchester severely damaged, with various degrees of damage over the whole of England and Wales, with only the west of Cornwall escaping. There might even have been light damage in Dublin and Edinburgh and Calais.

So the story I first heard 50 years ago looks like it was actually perfectly true: the Soviets had a single bomb that could have destroyed pretty much the whole of England.

I did the same calculations for the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded with the energy of 30 Hiroshima bombs on 15 Feb 2013, at a height of about 30 km, and found E/A to be 1.72 x 105 J/m2, just above the threshold of light damage. Which was about right: the explosion shattered windows and collapsed one or two roofs.

Most of the nuclear warheads in ballistic missiles are of course much smaller than the Tsar Bomba (which was 8 metres long, and 2 metres in diameter, and weighed 27 metric tons), and release the energy in the range 500 – 1500 TJ. Using a mean value of 1000 TJ, I calculated that the radius of the area of complete destruction would be about 7 km, and the radius of the area of extreme to light damage would be about 22 km.

These were really just back-of-envelope calculations, but instructive all the same. The Wikipedia article on the Tsar Bomba gives an area of complete destruction with a 35 km radius, one third of my value. I checked my figures, and I can only suppose their numbers are calculated in a different way. But since the same article says that all buildings, both timber and brick, in a village 55 km from the test site were destroyed, it rather looks like 35 km was a bit of a low number.

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32 Responses to Tsar Bomba

  1. slugbop007 says:

    This from today’s Deborah Arnott Twitter page:
    The TC Zealots in Australia think that tobacco is a far worse global problem than ISIS. Bunch of dangerous looneys.

  2. Lepercolonist says:

    The fear of hydrogen bombs in my childhood was psychologically dreadful. Told to sit under your desk with your head between your knees. Hearing adults saying that our industrial area will surely be targeted by the Russians. Today’s ISIS terror is nowhere near the magnitude of our fear during the cold war.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It was certainly one of my dreads. But I never had to sit under my desk at school. And I don’t remember adults ever talking about it.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Ya Leper we were told the same things,problem was if you were that close just bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

    • beobrigitte says:

      The fear of hydrogen bombs in my childhood was psychologically dreadful. Told to sit under your desk with your head between your knees.
      I do remember something along those lines but we quickly figured that there was NOTHING other than getting hit directly for us to pray for….. Apart from that, we figured that this the “monstrous” UdSSR had a conscience.
      Even back then I was pretty sure that the USSR would not drop such a monster of a bomb. With ISIS and the way our societies have developed I am not as confident as I was back then.
      Not only ISIS is obsessed – Slugbob007 put up a link to Deborah Arnott’s twitter account. The hate is dripping there… (btw, bitterly said, why isn’t she celebrating? After all, ISIS will KILL SMOKERS – and they did in e.g. Paris! And, imagine what ISIS will do to the tobacco industry!!)

      In the meantime the BBC projects this image of “unity” – this has only been achieved by ignoring the people lighting up.. It’s a brief respite for us smokers (and vapers!!!). Deborah Arnott will be back with vengeance…

  3. garyk30 says:

    No,no, and no.
    Prez Obama, of the USA, says that ‘global warming’ is the greatest threat facing mankind. :)

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Obamas the greatest threat facing the world,yes Obama is a world problem not just ours here at home.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Show me ONE politician who hasn’t bought into that nonsense.

      Fighting our planet and it’s cycles is a waste of a grand scale.
      (And before someone asks, I am very much a nature person who has some objection to thoughtless use of our planet’s resources. However, I have great objection to “green” energy when it destroys poor farmers lands…

      This does remind me; the more I read up on Thorium energy the more I am baffled that no-one picks it up.

  4. harleyrider1978 says:

    That’s the premise of MAD Mutual Assured Destruction………..hense if Iran gets the bomb they are then in the superpower realm and that moves them up the ladder of world leaders in the new age. That’s why its so important Iran never gets a nuke weapon. Jihad would then be assured protection from western allies for fear theyd use it. Israel knows this and its why they always wipe out anything even nuclear related in the middle east including nuke reactors like the did to sadamms reactor in the 1980s. for fear the iraquis would use the depleted uranium to make a bomb from.

  5. harleyrider1978 says:

    You guys want to read the most INSANE CLAIM by the Nazis yet………

    The indoor air quality monitoring study came from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

    “These are extreme exposures to particulate air pollution and the only comparable occupational exposure we can find in the United States to this level of particular pollution is for wildland firefighters during frontline firefighting,” the study said.


    • harleyrider1978 says:

      OSHA finally makes a statement on shs/ets :

      Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.” -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA.

  6. slugbop007 says:

    Just sent this tweet to Deborah Arnott: Public Health= Plausible Humbug + Parasitic Hubris.

  7. harleyrider1978 says:

    The Second-Hand Smoke Charade

    By Dominick T. Armentano
    September 28, 1998

    Smoking tobacco products over a long period of time may entail significant health risks. Acknowledging those risks, millions of Americans have quit smoking because they estimate that the possible costs exceed any possible benefits. That’s their right. Alternatively, millions of other Americans have voluntarily assumed the risks of smoking and they continue to puff away. And that’s their right, too.

    Or is it? One of the important arguments for restricting smoking is that it can endanger innocent nonsmokers who inhale environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Indeed, many states (led by California and Florida) have decided over the last few years to severely restrict smoking in commercial establishments on the basis of a 1993 Environmental Protection Agency report that classified ETS as a “Group A Carcinogen,” that is, as a significant risk to health.

    It now turns out that the influential 1993 EPA report “Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders” was as phony as a three-dollar bill. State officials and private businesses that believed that ETS was a public health danger (and not just a nuisance) were completely misled by the EPA. And, of course, so was main street American public opinion.

    Are those the views of a vast right-wing conspiracy? Hardly. They are the sober conclusions of a gutsy federal district court judge in North Carolina named William Osteen, whose recent ruling invalidated the very foundation of the EPA report. Judge Osteen’s views coincide with a Congressional Research Service analysis released in late 1995 that had serious reservations about the EPA report.

    You don’t have to be a fan of smoking to agree that the EPA is a regulatory renegade spinning wildly out of control on this issue. Even several veteran career employees of the agency have gone public recently to protest its “junk science” and its irrational environmental zealotry.

    Judge Osteen determined that the EPA had “cherry picked” its data and had grossly manipulated “scientific procedure and scientific norms” in order to rationalize the agency’s own preconceived conclusion that passive smoking caused 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year. In addition, Osteen ruled that the EPA had violated the Radon Act, which was the agency’s authority for disseminating its “de facto regulatory scheme” that intended to prohibit passive smoking. The agency responded, embarrassingly, with an ad hominem attack on the judge, not on the cold logic of his arguments.

    As a result of the EPA report, many bans on smoking in public places have been introduced. One would think that any such ban would be based solidly on scientific studies of ETS exposure in public places. In fact, the EPA did not even evaluate the studies on smoking in public places. Instead, the EPA’s analysis was based on 11 U.S. studies that examined the risks of contracting lung cancer to nonsmoking spouses married to smokers, a different matter altogether. Yet none of the studies in the original sample reported a strong relative cancer risk associated with ETS.

    Still, the EPA was determined to prove that ETS was a serious carcinogen that justified stringent regulation. To do that, it simply set aside 19 of the original constellation of 30 ETS studies and then, defying all scientific standards, simply changed the “confidence levels” in the statistical analysis from 95 percent to 90 percent. When the highly manipulated smaller sample finally “confessed” that passive smoking was a health risk, the EPA proudly announced it had “proven” its preconceived conclusions.

    And the sordid tale gets worse. The EPA chose to omit entirely from its analysis two recent U.S. ETS studies that had determined that passive smoking was NOT a statistically significant health risk. Worse for the EPA, including those studies with the “cherry-picked” 11 produces a result that shows no statistically significant health risks associated with passive smoking, even at reduced confidence levels. In short, even employing the EPA’s own corrupt methodology, ETS was simply not a “Group A Carcinogen,” as the agency had boldly asserted.

    You don’t have to be a fan of smoking to agree that the EPA is a regulatory renegade spinning wildly out of control on this issue. Even several veteran career employees of the agency have gone public recently to protest its “junk science” and its irrational environmental zealotry. Congress should pull the plug on any EPA regulation that cannot be justified by evidence that is demonstrable, compelling, unequivocal and significant. None yet exists with respect to passive smoking.

    Dominick Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He lives in Vero Beach, Florida.

  8. harleyrider1978 says:

    Why cigarette sales are rising in America

    Stephanie Yang | Alex Rosenberg
    Wednesday, 7 Oct 2015 | 6:00 AM ET

    In a surprising trend, American cigarette use appears to be back on the rise. The big question is why.

    On Monday, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau reported that cigarette shipments for the first half of 2015 have increased from the same period the previous year. If this trend holds, it would mark the first year-over-year increase in cigarette shipments since 2006. This is a big difference from the average year of late, when a 3 to 4 percent volume decline has been the norm.

    According to Vivien Azer, consumer analyst at Cowen & Co., the spike in cigarette shipments is largely due to lower gas prices.

    As the price of gasoline has fallen alongside crude oil, consumers have been granted more disposable income. That is especially important for buyers of cigarettes, since the average smoker tends to earn less than the average American, Azer said. Further, she points out that one of the most popular spots for cigarette purchases are gas station convenience stores — precisely where the savings are realized.

    If retail gas prices stay low, Azer expects to see “better-than-trend cigarette volumes” in both 2015 and 2016.

    Reynolds American and Altria are up more than 40 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in 2015. Azer has a price target of $47 for Reynolds American, a 4 percent increase from its closing price Tuesday, and a target of $62 for Altria, a 12 percent rise from Tuesday’s close.

    Read More › Dollar drop, Syria jitters power commodities bounce

    The increase in sales “is dismaying to see,” commented Anna Song, a health psychologist and associate professor at the University of California, Merced Health Sciences Research Institute.

    Song has a different theory than Azer; she posits that rising use of e-cigarettes may be inspiring a more relaxed attitude around smoking in general.

    “There’s a lot of literature suggesting there’s a link between e-cigarette use and smoking actual cigarettes,” Song said. And indeed, “if you think e-cigs are not harmful and are fine, then is it really a big leap to saying that cigarettes are OK?”

    Nonetheless, Song remains optimistic.

    “It’s the only legal product that, if used as intended, can kill you,” Song said. “I do think that we can get use down to zero.”


    • slugbop007 says:

      Psychology, marketing, public relations, administration, accounting, biostatistics. Some of the university studies that can land you a job with Public Health. They cast a wide net.

  9. beobrigitte says:

    “It’s the only legal product that, if used as intended, can kill you,”
    What a LIE!
    Fact is, the baby-boomer generation is asking for their RIGHTFULLY earned pension. Guess what? There are so many of them still alive that they just have to stay in work longer…..

    And, don’t tell me that someone set the pension fund in the sand – with our ever increasing population on this planet this should not have dented the funds.
    Is it the pensioners’ fault that nowadays’ youngsters are busy killing themselves or are non-productive?

  10. harleyrider1978 says:

    I stayed busy today and made 700 bullets

  11. harleyrider1978 says:

  12. Pingback: Andrei Sakharov on Radioactive Fallout | Frank Davis

  13. slugbop007 says:

    Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland. Another Tobacco Control freak with no academic credentials in medicine:
    Sheila Duffy went to Cults Academy and then attended Gordonstoun School for two years on a sixth form scholarship. She graduated from Cambridge University in 1984 with a joint honours degree in English Literature and Education and a Certificate in Education.

  14. slugbop007 says:

    It doesn’t matter how many twitter followers Debbie has, she has the media, gullible citizens, lazy politicians and the Prime Minister hanging on to her every word. How do we counteract that?

    • Roobeedoo2 says:

      Provide the Dept of Health with actual, real children, with actual, fixable problems that, currently, are unaffordable because the Medical Establishment keeps playing nicey nicey with the nazis…

      And, hopefully, to equip those children (and the people that love them most) to fight their own fucking battles with the shitheads:

  15. Pingback: It Probably Won’t Happen | Frank Davis

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