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NASA: Tonga blast was 10 megatons, more powerful than a nuclear bomb

krasin

Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island, 1875, [1]

"“This cavern stretches under the island as far as the volcano, and is only separated from its central shaft by the wall which terminates it. Now, this wall is seamed with fissures and clefts which already allow the sulphurous gases generated in the interior of the volcano to escape.”

“Well?” said Pencroft, his brow suddenly contracting.

“Well, then, I saw that these fissures widen under the internal pressure from within, that the wall of basalt is gradually giving way and that after a longer or shorter period it will afford a passage to the waters of the lake which fill the cavern.”

“Good!” replied Pencroft, with an attempt at pleasantry. “The sea will extinguish the volcano, and there will be an end of the matter!”

“Not so!” said Cyrus Harding, “should a day arrive when the sea, rushing through the wall of the cavern, penetrates by the central shaft into the interior of the island to the boiling lava, Lincoln Island will that day be blown into the air<...>"

1. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1268/1268-h/1268-h.htm#link2...

johnohara

Krakatoa erupted 8 years later.

Wikipedia: "The sound was claimed to be heard in 50 different locations around the world and the sound wave is recorded to have travelled the globe seven times."

acidburnNSA

The pressure wave was recorded around the globe seven times, on barometers. I am actively monitoring my digital pressure sensors on my home weather station and have seen the pressure waves from the Tonga blast go by 4 times and counting (2 in each direction). Hoping to see a 5th pass tonight here in Seattle at around 10:55pm. I wrote a little python script to predict the future passes based on the first two very obvious ones. Very fun.

acidburnNSA

Ninja edit: I blogged about it here if you want to see the script, predictions, and measurements: https://partofthething.com/thoughts/measuring-the-tonga-erup...

harywilke

The barometers around the world recording the shock wave is one of the coolest things.

“Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883” by Simon Winchester went into this point.

Also, this write up from 2016 at Nautilus after the Papua New Guinea Volcano eruption. https://nautil.us/issue/38/noise/the-sound-so-loud-that-it-c...

johnohara

Fun indeed. And interesting. Well done.

spike021

The pressure wave(s?) for this Tonga one were detected across the US [0].

[0] https://twitter.com/NWSPortland/status/1482639604540854275

bamboozled

Does anyone know what it would sound like? Would it be a crack like a sonic boom from a jet?

a_f

There is a video floating around of people close enough to the blast to hear a significant boom, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owlRuul5Tk4

ceejayoz

Less sharp the further away you are.

In Fiji it sounded like thunder rumbling. In Alaska it was nearly infrasound.

bouvin

For an author who loved his engineer protagonists, none are more skilled than Cyrus Harding. This is the OG competency porn novel, and highly recommended – especially if you have also read (and enjoyed) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

jinto36

Maybe H.G. Wells loaned his time machine to Verne for a bit?

aardvark179

Because gigantic volcanic eruptions involving pacific islands were completely unknown in the nineteenth century? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1815_eruption_of_Mount_Tambora

nwatson

[Off Topic] C.S. Lewis' first sci-fi trilogy book "Out of the Silent Planet" was likewise a ripoff, plot wise, of HG Wells' "Man in the Moon."

syndic8_xyz

I had data in Sep, Oct and Dec last year on the Tonga eruption before it happened:

https://mobile.twitter.com/syndic8_xyz/status/14834390886780...

and here in a reply I even said it seemed like a nuclear blast:

https://mobile.twitter.com/syndic8_xyz/status/14373852310659...

GenerocUsername

They're not. Your post to some tweets doesn't count for 'exceptional claims require exceptional evidence.'

If you really predicted a volcano a year in advance you should present your methods and results in a better way before you start posting mildly condescending responses on platforms that allow people to downvote you

harshreality

> The phenomena and effects of airblast, ground shock, thermal radiation, cratering and ejecta, and debris cloud and deposition from the eruption of Mt St. Helens were compared to those that would result from a nuclear explosion to determine if phenomena or effects were analogous and thus might provide useful data for military nuclear weapon effects studies. It is concluded that the phenomena are not analogous. In particular, airblast destruction was caused by clouds of ash driven by subsonic winds, rather than by a supersonic shock wave that would be the-damage mechanism of a nuclear explosion. Because of the lack of analogy between the eruption and nuclear explosion phenomena, it appears questionable that any of the effects are analogous; therefore, it is unlikely that anything more of military interest can be gained from studying the effects of the eruption. However, key contacts for further information on the eruption and the associated research studies are given. The comparison of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens to the explosion of a 10- to 20-megaton nuclear weapon is misleading. Such comparisons serve no useful purpose and should be avoided.

[1] https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA112420.pdf

Taek

Even though the damage types are not analogous people still want a crude metaphor for how "big" the blast was. Since people are going to compare it to a nuke regardless you might as well have some rough criteria for how a comparison could happen.

kshacker

Why are people going to compare to a nuke? Because the media uses those terms. Maybe we need to suggest alternatives.

Also since 1945, had there been just a single size of nukes? I may not have a sense of how big a Hiroshima nuke was as compared to a 1975 nuke vs a 2022 nuke. Just saying ... a better comparison (which I don't know as I am not a subject expert) could be developed.

Maybe "enough energy to melt 1980 Antarctica" or some other similar scary comparison. Maybe "10 times the energy of hurricane Katrina"

Edited the last 3 words

Jabbles

But those other examples suffer from the same flaw that no one has any intuitive understanding of how big those events are.

- Tonga eruption was 1e7 tons

- Hurricane Katrina was 1e10 tons

- Melting Antarctica is 1e12 tons (afaict)

fps-hero

Nuke

I’m personally a huge fan that the most destructive device in human history can can be thrown around in conversation simply, as a four letter word, and as simply as one would refer to a “book” as being a good source inspiration, or “coke” as being a delicious beverage. Yes, a “nuke” can be inspirationally delicious comparison for destruction.

Perhaps comparisons to “nukes” should be reserved to their “human impact”, and not simply their “big boom” factor. I’m sure victims of nuclear weapons, and unfortunate locals of nuclear test sites would agree.

Say, it’s likely more accurate to say “That TikTok went nuclear”, than any comparisons of an explosion or eruption to a “nuke”.

zepearl

10 megatons = 100 average thunderstorms?

https://www.quora.com/How-does-the-energy-of-a-thunderstorm-...

If that's correct than that comparison doesn't initially sound as cool as a nuclear blast... :). But I guess that that's related to the duration of a blast vs. thunderstorm...?

avn2109

I'd be happy with a total energy measurement in some multiple of Joules, or maybe in megatons of TNT.

jostmey

The Tonga explosion is more powerful than a fission bomb but the same magnitude as many thermonuclear bombs. Imagine multiple Tonga explosions over major population centers, and you begin to understand the horrors of these weapons

ipnon

It was a pretty damn big explosion nonetheless. The US strategic warheads max out at around 1.3 megatons these days. It's hard to imagine a blast 9 times stronger than what even the US military deems excessive in an Armageddon scenario.

sudosysgen

It's not because they're excessive, it's because the deaths/gram are better for smaller warheads, so you can get more Armageddon per missile with smaller warheads

implements

Yes, four 1MT explosions in a spaced square do more damage than a single 4MT in the centre of that square, plus if one of them is a dud or completely misses the target then the target is still effectively destroyed by the others. (Not the case if the single large weapon fails). Also, small weapons means more warheads per missile, some of which can be decoys - which increases the chances of defeating any anti-ballistic missile system.

eloff

Leave it to humans to optimize for the most Armageddon per $.

There's a non zero chance each year that we trigger Armageddon. Given enough years it will happen with certainty. Yet nothing is done about it. I think our first mistake in thinking about the possibilities of other intelligent civilizations in the universe is to assume we are an example of one...

boc

Keep in mind that the size is dictated by MIRVs[1] - one ICBM goes up into space, breaks into lots of independent missiles, and they all rain down on different targets.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_independently_targeta...

spaetzleesser

They used to be bigger though. I think around 20 megatons.

dumbfoundded

Tsar Bomba, probably the largest nuke ever used was ~50MT (1).

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba

tehjoker

Yea, the US arsenal downsized the weapons in keeping with the tonnage restrictions in the various arms reduction agreements. However, they compensated by increasing the accuracy of the weapons so that fewer bombs per target will be needed, increasing the hard kill power of the arsenal without violating the agreements.

This is important because "in theory" no one is allowed to explicitly target civilians, which don't require much accuracy, per the laws of war. Military targets are often in reinforced concrete or buried and so require a precise high pressure hit to crack. In practice, aiming points are chosen of military targets that are quite close to civilians.

helsinkiandrew

Interesting that the largest nuclear test on Bikini Atoll (just 4000km away from Tonga) was 15 megatons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapon_yield

tim333

You can see the 50 megaton Tsar bomb on youtube of course https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtCTzbh4mNQ

runarberg

This is as good a time as any to pitch the UN Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons which aims to the total elimination of this weapons of terror with a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities.

This treaty has been in effect since January 22 last year and has been ratified by 59 countries and signed by 17 more including big and powerful states such as Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Ireland, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Armies of nation states are responsible for the greatest of all human tragedies. None of us are safe as long as these weapons belong in the arsenal of some of the biggest and most dangerous armies in the world.

The safest option of avoiding a terrible attack or a major accidents involving these weapons is a total elimination, and currently our best hope is with international agreements such as these. International agreements have proven to be effective in other comprehensive prohibitions of dangerous materials and it is time we act to eliminate the most dangerous weapons of them all.

https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/tpnw/

CamperBob2

Because a world war every so often was a nice break from the monotony of everyday life?

Nuclear weapons achieve something utterly unprecedented: they make the leaders afraid of the consequences of war. We're arguably better off with them. Disarmament is neither responsible nor realistically achievable.

palijer

Do you think every leader in every nuclear capable nation is going to have those same views forever?

There's going to be a failure in the "our leaders are afraid of nuclear war" plan. That isn't viable. Just because it has happened for a few decades doesn't mean it will continue to happen, everywhere, forever.

runarberg

There are historical evidence to the contrary. The 19th century saw no large scale world wars, and yet they didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. There are many theories as for the cause of the relative peace of the 19th century, but prominent theories include a mass disarmament of the world’s superpowers. Relative to the 18th century (which did see a world war; the 7 years war) countries were spending only a fraction of what they used to on their military. You can argue whether the peace caused the decreased spending or vice-versa but there is some evidence of correlation here and the spending part we can control.

Currently there are 9 states which control nuclear weapons. By far the majority of all active weapons belong to just two states. If USA and Russia would agree to at least lower their nuclear arsenal to that of the third state—China, you make the world at least that much safer.

But I want total elimination of these weapons of terror, and so does the governments of 86 countries (and growing). And the UN comity which is comprised of numbers of experts these issues has reached the same conclusion that total elimination is both necessary and feasible. I guess you can disagree with their findings, and who am I to argue with that.

jacquesm

Assuming the sanity of leaders of countries is a major mistake.

post_from_work

>>>Armies of nation states are responsible for the greatest of all human tragedies.

Yes. So why advocate for a return to the pre-nuclear status quo: major powers use their large armies to influence each other, with millions dead. The threat of MAD between the world's powers is why global casualties from warfare have been in steady decline since the end of WW2.

>>>The safest option of avoiding a terrible attack or a major accidents involving these weapons is a total elimination

What is the contingency plan for when every country except ONE agrees, and then the last country, as the only nuclear-armed state, then has free reign to impose its will on the world with now-overwhelming force?

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CaptArmchair

Really?

First, history of the past 80 years casts doubts on your claims:

The USSR-Afghanistan left an estimated 2 million dead. Nigerian Civil War between 1 and 3 million. France-Algeria War about 1 million. Korean War between 1.5 and 4.5 million dead. Vietnam between 1.3 and 4.5 million. I could go on really.

MAD doesn't stop wars from happening. It only stops nuclear powers from using nuclear weapons. And it stops major powers from targeting each other directly. That's the extent of MAD. Even that's a contentious claim to make: Pakistan vs. India over Kashmir comes to mind.

Even more so, MAD isn't the only incentive for not going to War. After World War II, the World got profoundly reshaped with new economic and geo-strategic treaties and alliances. Bretton Woods, United Nations, NATO, European Union,... come to mind. In fact, after 1945, European integration was considered as an antidote against extreme nationalism in Europe and was heavily advocated for by Churchill.

Second, "global casualties from warfare being in decline" doesn't imply that no casualties of war, or atrocities, have been committed since 1945. Neither does it imply that things can take a turn for the worst without resorting to nuclear weaponry. For instance, the Syrian Civil War sits at about .5 million dead currently, and it has essentially been a proxy war between regional as well as global powers. And let's not forget the Ukraine situation that's currently playing out.

Third, the "lack of a contingency plan" is essentially part of the Prisoner's dilemma which the arms race during the Cold War was: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma#Internati... But that doesn't render the argument moot: objectively, casting nuclear weapons out of this world is the best outcome for everyone involved. But rationally, that's not possible as you end up in a situation where owning nuclear weapons while everyone doesn't is the better option from the perspective of a single nation. Albert Einstein was well aware of this dilemma and said he wouldn't have participated in the Manhattan Project if he had known that the German bomb was a figment of imagination.

The main reason why MAD has become a thing is because a chunk of humanity just wants to see the rest of the world burn. No matter how rational and bent on peace between nations you are yourself, you can't possibly predict whether the other side has equally rational leaders or, as it turns, absolute mad men behind the buttons who are very much willing to use them when push comes to shove. And that's absolutely not a great outlook for humanity in the long term. We're extremely lucky to not have had a war between major powers over the past 80 years; it's been a close shave a few times as well (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis).

chii

but the tonga explosion doesn't release radioactive fallout - just ash fallout which disappear after a "while".

So nuclear weapons are still worse.

dumbfoundded

Nukes also:

* Create EMP blasts potentially disabling electronics over larger areas.

* Start fires in every direction for miles beyond the blast zone.

* Delegitimize nuclear energy. Sort of indirect but fear of nukes is why we don't invest heavily in safe fission alternatives with no weapons path.

* Have no real theoretical limit. 50MT has been donated. Designs have been shown up to 10GT.

themodelplumber

Was there any news about EMP this time? I thought I read that this was theoretically possible with volcanoes.

vastinfest

Nuclear weapons are much much worse, I'm not trying to argue that.

But something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer would be devastating, if I read it right - Tonga might have been related too (there was a "mystery eruption" somewhere in the pacific).

cryptodan

Imagine that kind of explosion next to an island like that if Taiwan. Remember water was used when above ground tests were banned.

kzrdude

Air pollution, the particles, are its own poison in the air; it's a slow killer in its own right, even if it's nothing like radiation.

dragonwriter

> The Tonga explosion is more powerful than a fission bomb but the same magnitude as many thermonuclear bombs

Well, less powerful than several tested thermonuclear weapons, and maybe a very few that were deployed (largely to deal with low accuracy of early weapons and dealing with hard targets.) But more powerful than any currently known to be deployed (the biggest current is a ~5MT Russian strategic warhead.)

rootusrootus

AFAIK there aren't any fission bombs any more. At least not in the US arsenal. Everything is thermonuclear now. More efficient.

bunabhucan

The "low yield" bombs ordered by the last president are 5-100kt. It's basically the "trigger" from the thermonuclear bomb without the subsequent stages. The adjustment comes from the amount of tritium added.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/28/us-nuclear-wea...

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techdragon

Not that it would be good… but it really makes me wish we had the kinds of observation satellites during the era of above ground nuclear testing. Himawari time lapse footage of the Bikini Atoll Castle Bravo test? The Tzar Bomba test? Operation Ploughshare tests… it’s hard to really get a feel for how large those mushroom clouds are when you always seem to get phots from angles that don’t convey the extent to which these explosions can be truly “planet scale” events.

the_only_law

Scary part is I’ve started to see people openly call for nuclear war.

grey-area

Including the former and probable future president of the US.

awb

> He suspects the explosion was triggered by a sudden change in the subterranean plumbing, which caused seawater to flood in.

> "When you put a ton of seawater into a cubic kilometer of liquid rock, things are going to get bad fast," he says.

Seems like a catastrophic failure.

The Big Island of Hawaii constantly has lava and sea water mixing on small scales. Makes me wonder if it’s at risk of a subterranean breach as well.

It seems like this Tonga explosion took nearly everyone by surprise.

ProAm

No one by surprise. But what can you do? There are many places people 'shouldn't live' but the odds are in your favor given a short enough timescale.

awb

To clarify: the timing of the explosion took everyone by surprise, not the fact that it exploded.

If there was forewarning I haven’t seen an article about it yet.

ceejayoz

It had been erupting since December, including an explosive one two days earlier (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/pacific/459572/underwater-volcano...) that prompted a tsunami alert. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunga_Tonga#December_2021%E2%8...

thamer

There had been coverage of the eruption between December 29th and January 4th, and landslides due to the island's instability were certainly reported as a possible danger. Among other sources, this was covered extensively by the GeologyHub channel on YouTube which pretty much predicted this collapse.

pixl97

Look up the GeologyHub channel on YouTube. He had been warning about the risks of landslides and the explosion risk they cause the day before.

hugh-avherald

Almost all volcanoes erupt because sea water hits magma.

ceejayoz

This isn't true.

It's not an unusual cause of explosive eruptions, but Mt. St. Helens is ~50 miles from the ocean. Magma can build up pressure entirely independently of seawater-induced steam explosions.

yread

To be fair that also involved a glacier

Arubis

Jupiter’s moon Io would disagree.

avalys

The US had approximately 500 B-41 nuclear bombs, each with a nominal yield of 25 megatons. It left service in 1976.

Today the largest in the US arsenal is the B83 at 1.2 megaton.

chii

those huge multi-decile megaton bombs are probably less useful than the same amount of materials made into many more smaller bombs.

Megaton bombs are really only useful in bombing civilian targets tbh. Military targets tend to be small, and spread out over a large area, and smaller bombs makes more sense for those targets.

extrapickles

The 2+ km CEP[0] of early ICBMs required a large warhead to ensure that the target would be taken out. With this large of an error, you can easily make fortified structures and bunkers survive a 'close' hit, so civilian targets were the only target left.

Once the CEP got small enough, bunkers were no longer effective as you can't really make a bunker strong enough if the nuke can be delivered right on top of it. EPW nukes can burrow 100+ meters into the ground before detonating to deliver more of their energy to the target, which means a vastly smaller nuke.

[0]: A circle in which 50% of your shots will land, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_error_probable

techdragon

Not saying you’re wrong, but fo you have a reference for the >100m penetration figure you’ve mentioned? The best numbers I can find are ~50 meters of “ground”, substantially less (but still impressive) for concrete… but this is a long way short of over 100 meters.

wk_end

For MAD purposes, isn't bombing civilian targets is just as or more useful than taking out military targets? Is that not the case, or do militaries envision nuclear war not immediately entering a MAD scenario?

elzbardico

No. The first priority in a nuclear war is to negate the enemy the capability of waging war. So, you'll be targeting military bases, ICBM silos, airstrips and command and control facilities.

Urban centers are secondary targets, and never because of their civil population per se, but because usually industrial installations are located in or very closely to the biggest urban centers. But then again, if you plan on conducting a land invasion and an occupation there's some reason to refrain bombing your enemy all the way down to the Paleolithic

dylan604

largest for bomber delivery? I would think that ICBM delivered payloads would be higher. did a quick search, but wiki's article only gave numbers on range distances. I didn't see any megaton ratings in the time willing to spend on it.

edit: i realize now that the numbers floating around in cavity between my ears was in kilotons. that's why the megaton numbers seemd low to me.

khuey

The really big weapons come from an era when delivery systems were really inaccurate and so you'd drop an absurdly big explosion somewhere near your target. Once you can hit your target reliably you go with a smaller explosion that's still sufficient to destroy it when dropped on top of it and you stick multiple independent warheads on the same missile.

jcims

I'm morbidly curious to see if there will be any footage of the big eruption. Everything I've seen so far appears to be from the previous eruptions in Dec and Jan. I'm sure many of them aren't visible but lightining detectors counted 5-6k strikes per minute for the first few minutes. ~190k total. I can't imagine.

pwg

It was captured by weather satellites. Someone put together at least one video of the explosion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoMRwyNhqJ4

jondwillis

Fordec

That's all from space. I'm guessing they mean, as I also mean, on the ground footage that isn't getting off the island yet due to the connectivity issues.

jcims

Yes, i should have been more specific. Video of the eruption and atmosphere effects from ground level.

kzrdude

Maybe there were people out on boats and filming, only that they are gone now..

iSnow

There's some faraway and not very interesting footage from those who captured the sonic boom of the explosion (the boom is rather impressive, though). With any luck, we'll get better videos once internet access has been restored.

an-allen

There is some footage from the ground. The space footage is time lapse so it happened a lot slower in real time. It was actually multiple eruptions in rapid succession in random directions. I have not seen one of the initial eruption though.

markdown

I believe the footage from the ground that's been going around was from the previous eruption in December.

marcodiego

Not more powerful than the Tsar Bomb: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba

hdivider

In the early nuclear age, DARPA had proposals for a 10,000 megaton thermonuclear weapon [1].

In principle, we can design weapons horrendous enough to crack this entire planet apart forever. Four billion years of life up in smoke (or out in debris, I should say).

The question of whether humans are the most intelligent life form on the planet is still under active consideration. :)

[1] The Pentagon's Brain by Annie Jacobsen

Kranar

Definitely don't think that's true. Yes, Edward Teller did propose a design for a 10 gigaton device but the initial devices based on that design ended up being a dud, not working as intended and the project was abandoned in favor of more practical nuclear weapons. Maybe in theory such a device would be possible, but even at 10 gigatons it wouldn't come remotely close to cracking much of anything.

The largest confirmed explosion on earth was on the order of 1 teraton (1,000,000 megatons) caused by the Vredefort asteroid impact and that certainly left a crater but did not come close to cracking the planet forever. It left a crater 40km deep and 300km wide, which is absolutely enormous and mind boggling and if it happened today would certainly cause a mass extinction event, but the Earth would recover.

vba616

>would certainly cause a mass extinction event

That's a bit bigger than Chicxulub. Someone estimated the heat from the re-entry of debris at 20kw/m2 for 7+ minutes, not close up, but far away. A random study on firefighting I just skimmed said that heat flux will destroy clothing in about 20 seconds and produce 3rd degree burns in another 20 or so. So, uh...ten times 40 seconds over practically the whole world would probably not be good.

The collision that produced the Moon is speculated to have left the surface of the Earth approximately as bright as the Sun for a while, so it could be worse, but there's hardly any difference for the forms of life we can relate to.

Anerobic organisms deep in the crust would have an easier time of it.

littlestymaar

> but the Earth would recover.

The earth recovered its collision with the asteroid that eventually gave us the moon, yet the earth has actually been “taken apart forever” (since a significant fraction of its former mass now belongs to the moon).

idontwantthis

I can’t find exactly what they said, but a weapon that size is the easiest to deliver because you just bury it in your own backyard. It’s so destructive it doesn’t matter if it explodes on your enemy or you.

hdivider

So it's impossible to design such planetcracker weapons, even in principle? Since the possibility of such design is all I claim.

willis936

How big is big enough? There is no physical, engineering, or practical limit to how much worldly damage can be done with supers. The yields increase exponentially with linear increases in effort (stages / size).

The point isn't the exact number, it's the fact that it's so reasonable to attain no matter the number.

pm90

If we manage to not kill ourselves, we will ultimately advance into a type 2 civ (and higher), and harnessing enormous amounts of destructive energy for useful work will probably be par for the course.

ffhhj

We won't even need a lot of energy. Changing the trajectory of a few rocks is enough to destroy civilizations on the surface of the planet.

littlestymaar

Naron of the long-lived Rigellian race was the fourth of his line to keep the galactic records.

He had a large book which contained the list of the numerous races throughout the galaxies that had developed intelligence, and the much smaller book that listed those races that had reached maturity and had qualified for the Galactic Federation.

In the first book, a number of those listed were crossed out; those that, for one reason or another, had failed. Misfortune, biochemical or biophysical shortcomings, social maladjustment took their toll. In the smaller book, however, no member listed had yet blanked out.

And now Naron, large and incredibly ancient, looked up as a messenger approached.

“Naron,” said the messenger. “Great One!”

“Well, well, what is it? Less ceremony.”

“Another group of organisms has attained maturity.”

“Excellent. Excellent. They are coming up quickly now. Scarcely a year passes without a new one. And who are these?”

The messenger gave the code number of the galaxy and the coordinates of the world within it.

“Ah, yes,” said Naron. “I know the world.” And in flowing script he noted it in the first book and transferred its name into the second, using, as was customary, the name by which the planet was known to the largest fraction of its populace. He wrote: Earth.

He said, “These new creatures have set a record. No other group has passed from intelligence to maturity so quickly. No mistake, I hope.”

“None, sir,” said the messenger.

“They have attained to thermonuclear power, have they?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, thats the criterion.” Naron chuckled. “And soon their ships will probe out and contact the Federation.”

“Actually, Great One,” said the messenger, reluctantly, “the Observers tell us they have not yet penetrated space.”

Naron was astonished. “Not at all? Not even a space station?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“But if they have thermonuclear power, where do they conduct the tests and detonations?”

“On their own planet, sir.”

Naron rose to his full twenty feet of height and thundered, “On their own planet?”

“Yes, sir.”

Slowly Naron drew out his stylus and passed a line through the latest addition in the small book.

It was an unprecedented act, but, then, Naron was very wise and could see the inevitable as well as anyone in the galaxy.

“Silly asses,” he muttered.

Isaac Asimov − Silly Asses (1958)

vba616

There's a story called "Memorial" by Theodore Sturgeon, from 1946, where humanity doesn't learn its lesson after the first nuclear war that is triggered by accident.

The ending (after the second war) referred to "half-stooping, naked things whose twisted heredity could have been traced to mankind." and said something about how, since they could be frightened, they were definitely not human any more.

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heavyset_go

I can't even begin to imagine the scale of utter destruction a 50 Mt bomb like Tsar Bomba can yield if that eruption was 10 Mt.

ars

Not as much as you would think - damage is around the cube root of energy, so: (50^1/3)/(10^1/3) = 1.7 times as much damage.

deeviant

What, exactly, is the formula for "damage"?

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mynameishere

Compare to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake_a...

The total physical work done MW (and thus energy) by the quake was 4.0×10^22 joules (40 ZJ),[31] the vast majority underground, which is over 360,000 times more than its ME, equivalent to 9,600 gigatons of TNT equivalent (550 million times that of Hiroshima)

ezconnect

Scott Manley has a great video about it talking about the atmospheric pressure recorded during the eruption and it is amazing to watch the pressure wave travel around the world.

rootusrootus

For comparison, the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens was about 24 megatons.

ricardobayes

Is there a remote chance this is why we have such foul weather ever since the blast? I have cross-checked a few places and it seems everywhere is relatively cooler than what it should be. Even Dubai and Miami have rain, cloudy and storms. Same here in my place which has seen uncharacteristic wind, rainfall and cloud cover since last week.

ejolto

> everywhere is relatively cooler

It's warmer than the same date last year where I am.

Comparing with the maximum temperatures of last year.

- January 13th 2022, the day of the explosion was 6.4 C warmer

- January 14th 11.6 C warmer

- January 15th 6.7 C warmer

- January 16th 9.1 C warmer

- January 17th 1.4 C warmer

- January 18th 2.2 C warmer

The difference is even more extreme if I compare the minimum temperatures.

There has been more rain, but that is to be expected when the weather is warmer (in my region).

jffry

I understood this assertion differently from the comment you replied to: "it seems everywhere is relatively cooler than what it should be"

AKA it's cooler than the "normal" temperature, where "normal" is something like mean / median for that day over the past 10/20/50 years or whatever.

ejolto

I understood it the same way, the mean data for the past x years was however more difficult to find, and they seem to do a mean per month or year so not fined grained enough for 1 week.

thehappypm

It rains almost every day in Miami

jon_richards

This reminds me of one of the hardest lessons I ever learnt from college worksheets. We were asked whether a cell’s ribosomes fit in the cell normally or if they required compression of some sort. Subtracting the total volume of ribosomes in a cell from the total volume of the cell itself, we got a negative number, and indicated there must be some sort of compression.

Almost everyone got marked wrong. A simple difference, lacking context, is not a useful measure. What we should have calculated was a ratio.

It seemed arbitrary, but the entire class was a crash course towards scientific writing and everything was graded as if up for review. Picking the right metrics, assumptions, and descriptive language was crucial.

rq1

  Vc - Vr < 0 <=> 1 < Vr / Vc
What kind of information the ratio gives you that the difference doesn’t?

Dylan16807

Yeah, this doesn't make sense to me. If you're trying to go for good scientific writing, you want to use detail where it's important. A ratio is great if you're describing the compression. If you're simply saying it doesn't fit raw, noting which number is bigger is effective and simple.

fennecfoxen

This is interesting but...

how does it remind you of that? i don't follow in the slightest

null

[deleted]

jon_richards

The headline just didn’t convey any sense of scale to me. I found this metric much more interesting:

> 500 times as powerful as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.

sterlind

which is funny, because 10 megatons intrinsically conveys scale. it's equivalent to 10 million tons of TNT.

Wiseacre

I was expecting an explanation as how to ribosomes fit in a cell despite having more volume.

kfarr

And thus leading to the creation of the most powerful thermonuclear weapons known to man... ?