Nuclear weapons have been front and center in the news lately, with loud threats most notably from North Korea.
But imagine if a nuclear bomb exploded in your city. Would you know how it and the surrounding area would be affected? What about what would happen to the people living in the area?
“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,” wrote Alex Wellerstein, an historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, on his website, nuclearsecrecy.org.
To better help people imagine what might happen in the event of a nuclear explosion near them, Wellerstein developed an interactive browser app called Nukemap.
Nukemap lets you hypothetically drop any type of nuclear bomb anywhere in the world, then Wellerstein’s app uses declassified equations and models on nuclear weapons and their effects—including air-blast radius, radiation zones, and then some—to render the results as graphics overlaid on Google Maps.
The app shows you where a cloud of radioactive fallout may drift based on local weather conditions, and can also estimate the number of fatalities and injuries depending on the yield of the weapon you select, and the altitude of detonation.
“A realistic understanding of what nuclear weapons can and can’t do is necessary for any discussion that involves them,” Wellerstein told Business Insider in an email. “People tend to have either wildly exaggerated views of the weapons, or wildly under-appreciate their power, if they have thoughts about them at all. It can lead to hysterical policies of all sorts.”
To create your own hypothetical nuclear-blast scenario for your city, you can visit Nukemap here.