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Old 20th February 2012, 10:32 PM   #1
Travis
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How to test a 200 MT nuclear bomb?

A comet is coming!

But fear not humanity is putting aside its differences and we are sending up a series of nuclear interceptors. Except that they all need to be 200 megaton monsters and we won't have a launcher capable of lifting them for over a year (and that's assuming the ad-hoc plan of dusting off Russian Energia blueprints works out) so how do we test these monsters here on Earth in the meantime?

My first thought was to maybe use one of the ultra deep mines in South Africa. But what bit of the blast that breaks through to the surface would put up an awful lot of fallout.

So maybe a surface burst in Siberia?
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Old 20th February 2012, 10:57 PM   #2
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I'd rather wait for a launcher and test it on an asteroid.
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Old 20th February 2012, 11:15 PM   #3
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I'm not sure you can dig deep enough for a 200 MT blast to be contained.

But you don't really have to. You just have to test the primary (the boosted plutonium core). If this comes to a certain threshold, the secondary (where the hydrogen of the hydrogen bomb resides) will always work.
As far as I understand the techniques, there isn't really a limit as to how large you can make the secondary.
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Old 21st February 2012, 12:59 AM   #4
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We could test it on Michael Bolton.

At least, the collateral damage would look justified.

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Old 21st February 2012, 01:25 AM   #5
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With a hammer.
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Old 21st February 2012, 01:29 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
My first thought was to maybe use one of the ultra deep mines in South Africa.
You can **** right off!!!!
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Old 21st February 2012, 01:55 AM   #7
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kola_Superdeep_Borehole

Maybe here?
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Old 21st February 2012, 02:32 AM   #8
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IIRC, the 100-megatonners would leave a crater 19 miles in diameter.
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Old 21st February 2012, 02:35 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
You can **** right off!!!!

HUGE Lol, Skwinty!

You don't get near enough opportunity to play that card.

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Old 21st February 2012, 02:42 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jim_MDP View Post
HUGE Lol, Skwinty!

You don't get near enough opportunity to play that card.

Damn... missed my chance to play along
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Old 21st February 2012, 02:57 AM   #11
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Why so strong ? Would not series of smaller bombs be more practical ?
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Old 21st February 2012, 03:25 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
IIRC, the 100-megatonners would leave a crater 19 miles in diameter.
Yikes. Middle of the pacific, maybe?
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Old 21st February 2012, 03:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dr.Sid View Post
Why so strong ? Would not series of smaller bombs be more practical ?
But not as impressive.

Go big... or go home to another star system!

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Old 21st February 2012, 03:28 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Yikes. Middle of the pacific, maybe?
How about nowhere!!!
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Old 21st February 2012, 04:24 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
How about nowhere!!!
Well if you were absolutely sure there was a place where you'd need a 19 mile circular harbour in about 1000 years (but not sooner!). Then that would be the place to test it.

The only catch is to identify that place today.
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:01 AM   #16
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If you want to avoid "death thru killer asteroid", a nuke is not a good investment. Sure you can make it explode on one side, and have the surface vaporized add a bit of impulse but IIRC not that much.

You would much better off slapping motors on one side of the asteroid, and hoping that by adding enough impulse you can put it on another trajectory. Or even from one side accelerate to rocket so that it collide the comete/asteroide and give impulse to it.

Digging it deep and putting inside the comete only means you break it up, you do not remove the mass coming direct thru earth. Anyway if it means you go there, why not simply bring motor to strap on one side and try to change the impulse.
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:05 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
If you want to avoid "death thru killer asteroid", a nuke is not a good investment. Sure you can make it explode on one side, and have the surface vaporized add a bit of impulse but IIRC not that much.

You would much better off slapping motors on one side of the asteroid, and hoping that by adding enough impulse you can put it on another trajectory. Or even from one side accelerate to rocket so that it collide the comete/asteroide and give impulse to it.

Digging it deep and putting inside the comete only means you break it up, you do not remove the mass coming direct thru earth. Anyway if it means you go there, why not simply bring motor to strap on one side and try to change the impulse.
Can't you use a few nukes to bump it off course?
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:11 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by C_Felix View Post
Can't you use a few nukes to bump it off course?
I guess it's like slapping a boat with your hand a few times. Other than having a very painfull hand, the boat will essentially stay in the same place.
On the other hand, a gentle push over a longer time will certainly move the boat.
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:23 AM   #19
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In space there is no atmosphere to transmit a pressure wave.

So the only pressure exerted on the asteroid or comet would be gamma rays, other electromagnetic energy and particles from the bomb itself.

Whether that would be sufficient to dislodge the asteroid from its current trajectory is debatable.
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:37 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Yikes. Middle of the pacific, maybe?
Detroit? I hear they're not using it.
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:38 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Dr.Sid View Post
Why so strong ? Would not series of smaller bombs be more practical ?
You just need one, if you can get to it enough centuries in advance.
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Old 21st February 2012, 05:40 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
You just need one, if you can get to it enough centuries in advance.
A TARDIS might also prove useful. We should start building one right away.
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Old 21st February 2012, 06:06 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
In space there is no atmosphere to transmit a pressure wave.

So the only pressure exerted on the asteroid or comet would be gamma rays, other electromagnetic energy and particles from the bomb itself.

Whether that would be sufficient to dislodge the asteroid from its current trajectory is debatable.
You will vaporize facing side of the asteroid. That is supposed to give the impulse. IMHO it's the best method we have at the moment. It's doable with what we have.

Engine on the asteroid is nonsense, as any engine we have at the time is just too weak. It simply must be nuclear. Also the asteroids usually rotate, which complicates things.
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Old 21st February 2012, 06:36 AM   #24
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The problem with rotation can be handled by using a "gravitational tractor".
That is, the motor assembly hovers in a pattern over the asteroid on the away from earth side. Gravity is a two way thing so the pull is excerted without bothering with landing or tethering the asteroid.

Sure, there would be problems with getting a strong enough engine in place in time.
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Old 21st February 2012, 07:46 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Dr.Sid View Post
You will vaporize facing side of the asteroid. That is supposed to give the impulse. IMHO it's the best method we have at the moment. It's doable with what we have.

Engine on the asteroid is nonsense, as any engine we have at the time is just too weak. It simply must be nuclear. Also the asteroids usually rotate, which complicates things.
I agree with vaporization on the condition that the nuclear bomb is on the surface of the asteroid.

The next problem would be when the asteroid breaks up into pieces.

If the bomb is not on the surface but some distance away, then perhaps the method will not work.

I am led to believe that a gravity tug would be the most effective providing the tug is in situ well in advance.

The problem with an engine on the asteroid is not the strength of the engine, but rather that the asteroid is more than likely rotating to some degree.

I am not an expert in these matters, so may well be wrong.
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Old 21st February 2012, 07:51 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Toke View Post
The problem with rotation can be handled by using a "gravitational tractor".
That is, the motor assembly hovers in a pattern over the asteroid on the away from earth side. Gravity is a two way thing so the pull is excerted without bothering with landing or tethering the asteroid.

Sure, there would be problems with getting a strong enough engine in place in time.
Yeah .. it's a neat method, still not very workable at the moment. The engine would have to do all the work anyway. And it can only use very small thrust (so it does not fly away). Good for long term trajectory alteration .. not good for emergency ..
Btw.Do I know you from LPF ? Laser could be interesting too .. again, in a way to create thrust by warming/vaporizing asteroid material. Laser could be nuclear powered. Still the nukes would be million times simpler. We even have them.
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Old 21st February 2012, 08:00 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
The problem with an engine on the asteroid is not the strength of the engine, but rather that the asteroid is more than likely rotating to some degree.
Also the possibility that the asteroid is a rubble pile that an engine can't easily be attached to.
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Old 21st February 2012, 08:09 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
In space there is no atmosphere to transmit a pressure wave.

So the only pressure exerted on the asteroid or comet would be gamma rays, other electromagnetic energy and particles from the bomb itself.

Whether that would be sufficient to dislodge the asteroid from its current trajectory is debatable.
That is not fully true , but true enough. The nuke would heat the side of the comet it explode on, and heated comet material emit gas, which will in turn give some impulse. That is what i was referring to in my post.
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Old 21st February 2012, 08:18 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
That is not fully true , but true enough. The nuke would heat the side of the comet it explode on, and heated comet material emit gas, which will in turn give some impulse. That is what i was referring to in my post.
I would imagine this would be true for a frozen gas comet.

Would this happen with a huge rock asteroid?
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Old 21st February 2012, 09:07 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Dr.Sid View Post
Do I know you from LPF ?
Quite likely.
I use the same name and picture.
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Old 21st February 2012, 09:13 AM   #31
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The largest device ever tested was in 1961: the Soviet's "Tsar Bomba", with a yield estimated (yields are always estimated) at about 50 megatons. The various effects of that event were felt at some pretty impressive distances, but because the inverse square law applies, quadrupling it would only have increased those distances by about half, so a device that size would not be a planet-killer. Still, a bit tricky to find just the right spot to test it. Benjamin Netanyahu might have one or two ideas on that.

As for the comet, I say we just smack it on one side with the great-grandfather of all paintballs -- flat black -- and let the sun do the rest.
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Old 21st February 2012, 09:22 AM   #32
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My first thougts were:

1 - Carefully.

and

2 - From a long, long way away.
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Old 21st February 2012, 09:23 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Skwinty View Post
I would imagine this would be true for a frozen gas comet.

Would this happen with a huge rock asteroid?
Solid/liquid/gas is valid for (nearly) any materials. In a way, silica is only "frozen gas" too for example. Boiling point of silica is 2300C for example.
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Old 21st February 2012, 10:09 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Dr.Sid View Post
Why so strong ? Would not series of smaller bombs be more practical ?
Well I was taking my cues from project Icarus. After I calculated the mass of the comet (roughly 12 kilometers diameter with a higher than normal rock content) I figured out that we might get enough diversion with 7-9 offset blasts in a controlled sequence with each blast at least 200 megatons yield.

So I figured that you need some insurance so we launch 12 of the devices, 5 from the USA, 4 from Russia and 3 from China using an ad-hoc arrangement of the engines designed for the Energia. It was the only way I could figure out to get them on their way considering that we have only 14 months from detection of the comet until impact.

So there really won't be a lot of launchers to spare. Maybe one more for a space detonation test. But I would think we would want a full test here on Earth just to make sure the physics actually work.

Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Yikes. Middle of the pacific, maybe?
This was a thought too. Perhaps a barge in the middle of the cyclonic wind zone?
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Old 22nd February 2012, 06:33 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
IIRC, the 100-megatonners would leave a crater 19 miles in diameter.
Actually, from "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons" by Glassstone and Dolan, crater size for a ground burst is 60 x Y^.3 feet, where Y is the weapon yield expressed as a multiple of 1 kT. Since 200 MT is 200,000 times 1 kT, crater size is about a half mile. I'm not sure if the scaling applies exactly, but it's pretty clear that the 19 mile figure refers to something else - probably the area of total destruction (usually 15 psi overpressure).
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Old 22nd February 2012, 07:02 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by WhatRoughBeast View Post
Actually, from "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons" by Glassstone and Dolan, crater size for a ground burst is 60 x Y^.3 feet, where Y is the weapon yield expressed as a multiple of 1 kT. Since 200 MT is 200,000 times 1 kT, crater size is about a half mile. I'm not sure if the scaling applies exactly, but it's pretty clear that the 19 mile figure refers to something else - probably the area of total destruction (usually 15 psi overpressure).
I was thinking the same thing. I'm not sure what assumptions Cecil was using when he calculated the crater size at 19 miles, but that sounds high to me even for a ground burst. If that's close, 200 MT should be adequate to essentially vaporize an average sized comet, but if the size of the crater is the thing we have to determine by actual testing, then that's problematic. Of course, I guess the ejecta might help at least a little bit to mitigate some of these global warming problems we've been having, but that issue pales into insignificance as soon as you realize that you're in the path of a comet. Surface burst in Siberia is starting to sound okay. Texas, maybe.
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Old 22nd February 2012, 09:25 PM   #37
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Old 22nd February 2012, 10:48 PM   #38
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A surface burst will kick up more fallout though. How much would this thing weigh? Is it possible to drop it via parachute for an airburst?
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Old 23rd February 2012, 01:16 AM   #39
WhatRoughBeast
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
A surface burst will kick up more fallout though. How much would this thing weigh? Is it possible to drop it via parachute for an airburst?
Tsar Bomba (50 MT) weighed 30 tons. Tricked out for 100 MT it would have weighed about the same.

And the fireball was 8 km in diameter, so I'd guess that for a first approximation of the crater.
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Old 23rd February 2012, 05:19 AM   #40
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How about Antarctica?

It's a huge continent. There's only a tiny human population, concentrated in a few places; very easy to evacuate anybody who needs to be. Away from the coastline there isn't even any wildlife. Plus the high albedo surroundings will help to reflect the flash upwards, the thick ice will absorb a lot of the heat and then simply refreeze.

Seems ideal.
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