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Here’s What Nagasaki Would Have Looked Like If the Tsar Bomba Had Replaced ‘Fat Man’

A Google Earth add-on helps you understand the strength of the world’s nuclear arsenal

The mushroom cloud produced by the “Fat Man” bomb from the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Photo: Charles Levy

You may know that the “Fat Man” bomb dropped by the U.S. on Nagasaki, Japan, near the end of World War II was a 21 kiloton bomb, equivalent to blowing up 21 thousand tons of dynamite.* Or that as the Cold War rolled on the Soviets tested “Tsar Bomba,” the most powerful nuclear weapon ever used—a 50 megaton behemoth. Nuclear weapons stockpiled today are many, many times more powerful than anything ever before used in an act of war, but as with all things so great in size, it’s difficult to visualize the difference. NukeMap3D, a new Google Earth add-on designed by Alex Wellerstein, gives a helpful sense of scale for the ever-larger nuclear weapons designed by the world’s armies. The tools lets you place a range of historical weaponry anywhere in the world. And then detonate the bombs.
Here we’ve used Wellerstein’s tool to show what the bombing of Nagasaki would have looked like had you been flying over Busan, South Korea, in an airplane at the time of the attack.

The detonation of the Fat Man bomb over Nagasaki, as seen from Busan. Photo: Alex Wellerstein / NukeMap3d / Google Earth

Then, we’ve compared that against what it would have looked like had the Soviet’s Tsar Bomba been used instead.

The detonation of the Tsar Bomba over Nagasaki, an event that, fortunately, never happened. Photo: Alex Wellerstein / NukeMap3d / Google Earth

NukeMap3d grew out of Wellerstein’s earlier NukeMap2. Like that earlier effort, NukeMap3d  also includes the weapons known to still exist in the U.S. arsenal, like the 1.2 megaton B-83.

*This sentence was updated: it’s 21 thousand tons of dynamites, not, as we originally wrote, sticks.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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