nuclear explosives

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To get everyone through the week, enjoy this tribute to the Late Show’s shelves full of invisible props (with honorary mention to Stephen’s nuclear explosion impression).

I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.
—  Stanley Kubrick
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These are all the paintings I did for the month of August! Threw in some portrait studies for this month. They were very rewarding to complete and I’d like to do more studies in the future c: 

And now I’d like to thank all my follower (old and new!) for all the love you all show my art c: Every Like, Comment and Reblog is very much appreciated and it means the world that y’all like my art!  

Sorry for the long post! SEE YA IN SEPTEMBER

This crater, ‘The Sedan Crater’, remains from the Plowshares program, the purpose of which was to test the peaceful use of nuclear explosions. The operating hypothesis was that a nuclear explosion could easily excavate a large area, facilitating the building of canals and roads, improving mining techniques, or simply moving a large amount of rock and soil. The intensity and distribution of radiation proved too great, and the program was abandoned. The “Sedan” device was thermonuclear—70 percent fusion, 30 percent fission—with a yield of 100 kilotons. The crater is an impressive 635 feet deep and 1,280 feet wide. The weight of the material lifted was 12 million tons.
[Taken from the book Nuclear Landscapes, by Peter Goin]

‘Rope tricks’ are seen in this image of a nuclear explosion taken less than one millisecond after detonation. During operation Tumbler-Snapper in 1952, this nuclear test device was suspended 300 feet above the Nevada desert floor, and anchored by mooring cables. As the ball of plasma expanded, the radiating energy superheated and vaporized the cables just ahead of the fireball, resulting in the ‘spike’ effects. (Dept of Defense image via The Atlantic)

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Project Plowshare and Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy,

In the 1950’s scientists first proposed the idea of using nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes, essentially replacing TNT as the main explosive for moving earth, creating tunnels and canals, cutting paths through mountains for highways or railroads, and for other civil engineering projects.  Thus in 1961 Project Plowshare was created to study the use of nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes.  Between 1961 and 1973, 27 atomic bombs were detonated as part of the project.  Three were detonated to test the feasibility of using nuclear explosives to stimulate gas flow in a low permeability natural gas field. The study was a failure when it was determined that the natural gas produced was too radioactive for use. While the project was promising, it was doomed by the radioactive fallout that resulted after a nuclear explosion, thus making the results hazardous to the health of those who benefited from it. One of the most notorious tests was the underground Sedan explosion, conducted in Yucca Flat, Nevada on July 6th, 1962, to test the feasibility of using nuclear explosives for mining and excavating purposes.  The resulting blast ejected 12,000,000 tons of radioactive soil into the atmosphere, which spread as far as West Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Overall Operation Plowshare cost a total of $700 million.

Since the Americans were doing it, the Soviets had to do it too, except they had to do it bigger and better.  In 1965 the Soviet Union began the “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy” project, which detonated 156 nuclear devices between 1965 and 1988.  Unlike Project Plowshare, the NENE project was done with practicality in mind.  Few of the Soviet peaceful nuclear explosions were scientific tests, but were used to actually excavate mines, create canals, build dams, and conduct other works of engineering. Like Project Plowshare, radioactive fallout often negated positive results, although the Soviets gave much less of a damn about it than the Americans did.  Many of the explosions caused irreversible environmental damage.  20 years after the Kraton-3 explosion in Siberia in 1973, plutonium levels in the nearby waterways and aquifers were still thousands of times higher than recommended safe levels. The Chagan explosion conducted in 1965 (top picture) spread radioactive material across Asia as far as Japan. 

Tunnel Warfare 

Under enemy lines.

Since ancient times, armies have used mining and tunneling as a way of besieging their enemies. In classical antiquity, armies dug tunnels under enemy walls, and then set fire to timber in the tunnel, causing the shaft to collapse and with it enemy wall. Armies came up with increasingly ingenious ways to use tunnels, or to fight back against them. In 285, Sassanid Persians used poison gas to kill Roman engineers tunneling under their walls. In medieval times, gunpowder became the weapon of choice to place under enemy lines, blowing them sky-high.

The Western Front of World War I was essentially a medieval siege battle on a massive scale, and thus tunnel warfare surfaced again in history. Digging was a way of getting around the strategic impasse of trench-fighting. From the very beginning, the armies employed former miners in crude operations, digging under enemy lines, placing TNT in the mine-shafts, and then blowing up enemy trenches from below. Or tunnels could dig secret entrances into No-Man’s Land or enemy trenches, allowing soldiers to cross into enemy territory safely.

How it worked.

By 1917 tunnel warfare had become a complex and sophisticated operation. Britain recruited professional coal miners from Wales and Australia, as well as the “clay kickers” who had designed the London underground. Germany and France employed miners of their own, each side mining under enemy lines, or searching and destroying the underground tunnels of their enemies.

French sappers listen for vibrations that would detect enemy German diggers.

The most effective case ever was on June 7, 1917, when the British began the Battle of Messines by detonating 19 mines, with over 1 million tons of explosives, under German lines. The noise could be heard in London, 140 miles away. It was the loudest noise produced by humans in history up to that point, and the deadliest non-nuclear explosion of all time.

One of 19 mines goes up at Messines, June 7 1917.

Tunnel warfare was a deadly business. It came, first of all, with all the natural risks of mining. Shafts could collapse suddenly, burying sappers alive. In the clay soil of Belgium, where the water table was very high, mines flooded almost instantly, and soldiers spent laborious hours pumping out water. Complicated breathing apparatuses might be necessary for when oxygen ran out. Furthermore, sappers worked underground with massive quantities of dynamite. An accidental spark here or there and thousands of tons of TNT could blow up.

A sawn-off Lee Enfield rifle for underground fighting.

Even more risks came from the enemy. When one side mined, the other side dug counter-mines. Sappers listened for vibrations from underground, and if they heard the enemy digging, they could rig another tunnel to blow in the enemy excavation. Or, like the ancient Persians, they could find the enemy sap and siphon in gas. And sometimes the methods of war underground were truly medieval. Sometimes enemy sappers ran into each other underground, suddenly bursting through an underground wall. In these cases, nightmarish subterranean conflicts took place in the pitch dark, as man killed each other with knuckle-dusters, knives, and sawn-off bolt-action rifles.

A crater formed by one mine at Messines Ridge.