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75 years of nuclear weapons   The Newsy You: News of Today

Started Aug-8 by $1,661.87 in cats (ROCKETMAN_S); 656 views.

75 years ago, within a few minutes, the B-29 "Boxcar" dropped the 2nd nuclear weapon on the Imperial Japanese city of Nagasaki. It is now 7:13 AM on August 9, 2020 in Nagasaki.

That bombing happened of course 3 days after the bombing of Hiroshima.

This was the only two times in history that nuclear weapons were actually used in warfare, although when I was a kid, I assumed that there would be hundreds of them set off, surely before 1980 at the outset.

So, I guess it's an understatement, that with 1980 further in the past than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I'm kind of surprised that the modern world unfolded as it did. And with loose cannons like Kim Jong Un and certain fanatics in Iran, and conflict still brewing in the Middle East, the threat of nuclear war is not really over.

But I still remember the blast and thermal pulse radius vs yield tables I worked out by hand as a 15-16 year old planning mostly how to possibly survive the upcoming "reformatting of the hard drive of civilization", although circa 1974-75 no one had computers or hard drives.


From: MerlinsDad


I grew up with the fear of a nuclear strike.  Although I lived in the cornfields of southern Illinois, we did bomb drills periodically.  The fear was not the bomb itself but the radioactive cloud.  I still vividly remember the Cuban missile crisis.  

Nevil Shute wrote a novel entitled On the Beach in 1957.  It was required reading when I was in high school.  There was a terrible movie by the same name in 1959.  In 1946, John Hersey wrote a novel entitled Hiroshima.  It's quite good if you've not read it.    He also wrote A Bell for Adano in 1944, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.  He also wrote The Wall, about the creation and destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.  I recommend all of them.

I'm sure you've seen the nuclear bomb satire, Dr. Strangelove (1964).  

Of course, you can probably tell me a lot about "tactical nuclear weapons."   Probably all nations now have nuclear weapons.  As you suggest, it's just a matter of time before a loose cannon lets one loose.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

"Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank (1959) was the other one we read back in school.

I remember the tail end of the "Duck and Cover" drills, although living in the edge of Tornado Alley, we also specifically did more tornado drills than nuclear attack drills. But we did learn way too much about what blast or tornadic wind-driven debris, especially shards of glass from windows would do and why you snuggle up to the walls if there's time.

It was probably when I became intuitively more aware of the speed of sound compared to the speed of light, like if there was a blast a couple of miles away you actually had a surprising amount of time to get across the room and up against the wall on the side facing the blast so all the shrapnel would go over your head.

My elementary school had exterior concrete walls that were about 3 feet thick, except of course for the windows, which for the first couple of years, we had open for ventilation because air conditioning didn't happen until a few moves later.

The boiler room and some storage stuff were at the bottom of stairs that we never really got to go explore as kids, but allegedly the underground excavation had about as much square footage as the classrooms and halls above. The doors were marked with the yellow radiation symbol and said "Fallout Shelter".

Fun fact about the Interstate highway system. To get it funded, the original plan was all of the substantial artificial mountains built for thousands and thousands of overpasses, were supposed to be hollow inside and functional public shelters stocked with food and water and cots, medical supplies, etc.

Essentially they were supposed to build large concrete bunkers first, then cover them with 3 to 10 feet of dirt and pre-stressed concrete to support the roadways leading up to the bridges, and there would be doorways with right angle entries to trap radiation just off the shoulder of the highway that went under the bridges.

I think a tiny handful, somewhere, actually got built that way - likely well into the single digits, maybe even just a couple of prototypes to impress the bean counters, but the final legislation quietly dropped funding to build the actual shelters.

Another alleged provision was that Interstates had to have a ratio of 5:1 miles of unobstructed or nearly unobstructed straightaway road to curves, so that if the runways all around the country were destroyed, sections of Interstate could be turned into improvised airbases to land, refuel, re-arm, and re-launch fighters and bombers.

Ultimately modern jets are way too big and heavy to really land and take off from a section of Interstate, but some of the signage height and clearance specs definitely look like they were written with the idea of wingspans and heights of aircraft of the day being able to clear the signs horizontally or vertically.

Of course I am aware of several cases where smaller aircraft in distress have set down on such a highway relatively uneventfully, and even a couple of cases where one was repaired and flown out because of the prohibitive cost of disassembling it into pieces small enough to truck out.

And in modern pre-pandemic gridlock on many Interstate highways, particularly those east of roughly the I-35 corridor where the population density rises sharply (easily seen in pictures taken at night from space) there isn't enough room between cars and trucks for a typical aircraft with a much higher landing speed than the mean traffic flow speed, to actually land and not bend up the airplane and a lot of cars it rear-ends.


From: MerlinsDad


Thanks for the information about the bunkers.  I was not aware that they were part of the original specs.  My school was so far out in the cornfields that I'm not aware of whether or not there was a bomb shelter in the building,  I know it had a basement where a coal furnace existed -- of course the upper rooms were too hot and the lower story too cold, but that was the problem with single coal furnaces trying to heat a two story building built before the war -- probably in the 30s with , as I recall, very high ceilings and transom windows.  

A disabled small plane will land on the expressway system around here from time to time.   Local police and/or highway patrol have been known to stop traffic to give the plane room to land.   Doesn't happen often.   


From: MerlinsDad


I've heard of Alas, Babylon, but I've never read it.  Sounds interesting.  Goodreads with over 38,000 ratings rates it as a 4.08 -- a high score.  I may try to find a copy at my library.

MerlinsDad said:

A disabled small plane will land on the expressway system around here from time to time. Local police and/or highway patrol have been known to stop traffic to give the plane room to land. Doesn't happen often

I'm surprised the highway patrol etc has time to stop traffic, because things happen really quick when there's a disabled plane with insufficient altitude to glide to an actual airport. Most of the cases I'm aware of, the actual advance warning time is measured in seconds, while it might take many minutes for first responders to reach an appropriate spot on a freeway.

It's probably not as difficult to flow with the traffic when setting down in most single engine and light twin engine aircraft. Those I flew typically had a landing speed of about 45 to 90 mph, so the real danger is when traffic is too dense. In west Texas, usually there would be gaps in the traffic of about 1/4 mile or so between clumps, which is enough to touch down between them, giving drivers you come over and land in front of, time to see what's going on and hit the brakes for slower landing aircraft, and room to slow down before catching up to slower traffic in a faster landing aircraft.

But then I did most of my training during the much-hated 55 mph national speed limit, when the danger of over-taking slow traffic was more significant, than today with posted speed limits between 75 and 80 in rural areas.

Most emergency landings off-airport result from something going bad within the first 60 to 120 seconds after takeoff, whether it's a little Cessna 150, or that airliner that set down on the Hudson after ingesting a flock of birds.

When I was training, we had several very low density traffic roads not too far off the departure end of the runway that if something like an engine failure took place, that was what you would have to aim for as you wouldn't have enough altitude to actually turn and return to the runway.

The worst thing you can do engine out at low altitude is try and make a steep turn. There was a residential neighborhood about 1/2 mile past the end of runway 30 that we raised a ruckus about when they were going to put overhead lines crossing the streets that were roughly close in direction to and line up within a few degrees and a couple of blocks either side of the runway centerline, because that would make the difference between something you could likely walk away from even though you'd likely bend up the airplane, and something that they'd have to scrape you out with a spatula.

We never did have a plane go down in that neighborhood, although someone did end up taking off from runway 19 one day in the 1980s, that had some kind of catastrophic failure and ended up with an undamaged airframe (but totaled engine) on the westbound I-20 frontage road. There were no cars on that stretch of road when it happened, and I think it was something like a good 30 minutes before the highway patrol actually arrived at the scene.

I remember some news clippings from WW2 when a whole lot of intense pilot training took place all through that region due to the large number of good weather days, of quite a few military trainers that went down in the surrounding desert.

There are still old bomb and strafing targets (most obliterated by recent oil field activity but when I was flying, we still would use them a landmarks because the war had only ended barely 30-odd years earlier). As teenagers we'd drive out to some of these old sites after a heavy rain, armed with metal detectors, and collect .50 cal bullets and shell casings, and sometimes find practice bombs. I think just about everyone had a few of those in the day.


From: MerlinsDad


I've never done any training in an aircraft so your stories are interesting and entertaining.  Thank you,

I live in a very densely populated area.  Lots of expressways and traffic.    Occasionally a light plane hits a house.  Lots of light planes coming out of the three most populated counties:  Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett.  Cobb county airport is quite a distance west of my location.  That we have so few incidents speaks well for the pilots of these light craft and the training they've received. 

MerlinsDad said:

That we have so few incidents speaks well for the pilots of these light craft and the training they've received.

And especially the incredibly meticulous maintenance of these aircraft, making them some of the most reliable machines built.

Because if the propulsion system quits when taking off from a densely populated area, within your glide radius there's not much of anything beneath you but occupied buildings, narrow streets, crowded parks, gridlocked streets and expressways, bridges, tall trees, and many many other things that are not conducive to a safe landing.

So if anything at all goes wrong, your main task isn't making a good landing somewhere - it's picking what you are going to plow into that minimizes deaths, injuries, and property damage on the ground, which no matter what you do will probably be substantial. Often then it's not a matter of walking away from it, but choosing what they are going to put in your obituary.

Golf courses are likely the best bet to come down on, as the fairways can often be long enough to be down to a survivable speed by the time you hit the trees. Sometimes a large area with sports practice fields can have enough room that you can miss bleachers and goal posts, and if really lucky, an absence of fences for at least 1,800 feet or so - about 6 city blocks.


From: Showtalk


What happens to the people who are playing golf when a plane lands on them?

Showtalk said:

What happens to the people who are playing golf when a plane lands on them?

They duck and hit the ground so it misses them, then once the airplane is past, they go back to the pro shop restroom and change their underwear.

And if they don't have another pair, the can rinse them out in the sink and go commando while it dries and they go give statements to all the cops and reporters and such that are going to converge on the scene. Or look to see if the sudden fright gave anyone else a heart attack.

Because generally, when I've flown over golf courses, there aren't huge crowds on the fairways. There are 3 or 4. And if you hear / see an airplane coming at you, you only need to run about 30 to 50 feet to not only get out of the way but get far enough away to have a good view of the action as it happens.

With a typical small airplane gliding down at about 65 to 70 mph, a little high school trigonometry works out that if you start running when the plane is still about 300 feet away, you only need to move at about 20 percent of that speed to cover 60 feet. Typical wingspans are only about 30 to 40 feet, so you are never going to be more than about 20 feet from one wingtip, or 40 feet if you actually run the wrong way. So there's plenty of time to get out of the way.

330 feet is a typical city block. 70 mph is about 100 feet per second. So 3 seconds to cover a hundred yards, or 300 feet. 9 seconds to cover a typical 300 foot fairway.

You'll probably hear it and see it while it's still over the trees, so the plane is likely to be 1,320 feet (1/4 mile) or further away when most people on the fairway would become aware it was fixing to set down right by them.

The fuselage is only about 4 feet wide on most such aircraft. On a high wing plane, the wings might be about 5 feet off the ground with the wheels on the ground, so if you can just sidestep far enough to be clear of the propeller and landing gear, you can just duck and the rest will safely pass over you.

So there's plenty of time to get out of the way on a golf course.

You might even get lucky and have time to whip out your phone, select Video Record, and have some footage you can get credit for on CNN.