If you've ever stayed up late in bed worrying what a nuclear bomb would do to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa, now you can find out.
Nukemap3D, an extension to Google Earth written by Alex Wellerstein of the American Institute of Physics in Mayland, allows you to model what nuclear blasts of different sizes would do to literally any location on the planet. (There have been server issues with the site, but you can also access it here).
The website allows you to select the size of the bomb, from the 15-kiloton weapon dropped on Hiroshima to the 50-megaton behemoth Tsar Bomba tested by the Russians in 1961. You can also watch an animation of the mushroom cloud, see an overlay of the blast effects and fallout and get an estimate of causalities.
The results can be terrifying. A bomb as small as the "Little Boy" weapon used on Hiroshima would cause nearly 400,000 casualties if dropped near the CN tower in Toronto, according to the program. A Tsar Bomba would cause more than 3 million.
Below you can see a visualization of what a two kiloton blast (1/10 the size of the Nagasaki bomb) would do to downtown Toronto.
Wellerstein explains his motivation for creating the website on his blog.
"We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do."
For the technically inclined, Wellerstein's blog also explains the math behind all the calculations that go into what is actually the third iteration of his nukemap.
If it seems like this is just the sort of tool a terrorist might use to plot an attack, Wellerstein has an answer.
"As for terrorists: If we get to the point where a terrorist group is asking, 'where should I set off my nuclear weapon that I have?' then we've already gone past the point of no return. There's no way to avert a catastrophe at that point ... The reason terrorists don't currently have nuclear weapons (so far as we know) has nothing to do with them not being aware that nuclear weapons are impressive and devastating."
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