Federal lab declassifies 250+ never-before-seen nuclear test videos from Cold War era
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been working for years to preserve the estimated 10,000 videos of nuclear bomb tests made by the U.S. government during the Cold War.
The U.S. military detonated more than 200 atomic bombs during the Cold War era as part of nuclear weapons testing. Each detonation was carefully recorded by multiple cameras filming at 2,400 frames per second. In 1962, that footage effectively became some of the only data available to scientists studying nuclear weapons after the U.S. agreed to stop all above-ground nuclear testing.
But over the years those films were scattered across the country in various classified archives.
Recently, a team at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a federal research facility, released about 250 declassified videos of U.S. nuclear tests as part of a long-term project to restore and digitize the footage, which might have been lost to time had it not been for the preservation effort.
“The goals are to preserve the films’ content before it’s lost forever, and provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the aging U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” reads a press release published on the LLNL website.
The U.S. is estimated to have created about 10,000 nuclear test films from 1945 to 1962, which was when the Partial Test Ban Treaty stopped above-ground nuclear testing. So far, the LLNL has located about 6,500 of those films, scanned some 4,200, reanalyzed 400 to 500, and declassified about 750.
In past decades, scientists had to manually analyze nuclear testing footage. It was a long and often inaccurate process.
“When you go to validate your computer codes, you want to use the best data possible,” LLNL nuclear weapons physicist Greg Spriggs said. “We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent. That’s a big number for doing code validation. One of the payoffs of this project is that we’re now getting very consistent answers. We’ve also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before. New correlations are now being used by the nuclear forensics community, for example.”
National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office
Here’s a quick look at some of the declassified videos.
Operation Hardtack I — Nutmeg
The NUTMEG detonation took place in 1958 on the surface of the Bikini Atoll at the Pacific Proving Grounds, a name the U.S. government gave to a series of sites in the Marshall Islands near Micronesia. A total of 35 nuclear weapons would be detonated nearby that year as part of Operation Hardtack I.
Operation Redwing — Zuni
Detonated on May 27, 1956, Zuni was the first-ever test of a three-stage thermonuclear weapon. It was later developed into the Mk-41 bomb, the most powerful weapon ever deployed by the U.S. military.
Operation Sunbeam — Johnnie Boy
In 1962, the U.S. military detonated Johnnie Boy, a portable atomic bomb, at the Nevada National Security Site about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Now, thousands of tourists sign up each year to visit what the L.A. Times described as a “radioactive ghost town.”
Spriggs said he hopes the project supports nuclear deterrence around the world.
“It's just unbelievable how much energy’s released,” Spriggs said. “We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again. I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them.”
The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.
- Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
- The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
- Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
A mind-bending paradox questions the nature of reality.
- Boltzmann Brains are hypothetical disembodied entities with self-awareness.
- It may be more likely for a Boltzmann Brain to come into existence than the whole Universe.
- The idea highlights a paradox in thermodynamics.
What makes an excellent educator?
- When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
- Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
- Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
Drinking home alone in your underwear just might be what you need to be as relaxed as the Finnish.
- Päntsdrunk is the latest trend to come out of Northern Europe and it involves drinking alone at home.
- Finnish writer Miska Rantanen outlines the philosophy in his newest book titled: Pantsdrunk: Kalsarikanni: The Finnish Path to Relaxation.
- Kalsarikänni is a word in Finnish that literally means "drinking at home and alone in your underwear."
It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.
The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.
What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?
It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.
We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?
- In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
- Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
- The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
"It's about having employees that are empowered."
Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.
Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.
- New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
- Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
- Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.