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A Look Back At Bombing the Van Allen Belts

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the shiny-and-fallout-y dept.

The Military 237

An anonymous reader points out a recent story at NPR describing one of the greatest lightshows in history — a US hydrogen bomb test 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean in 1962. The mission came about after James Van Allen confirmed the existence of radiation belts around the earth that now bear his name. As it turns out, the same day Van Allen announced his findings at a press conference, he "agreed with the military to get involved with a project to set off atomic bombs in the magnetosphere to see if they could disrupt it." According to NPR, "The plan was to send rockets hundreds of miles up, higher than the Earth's atmosphere, and then detonate nuclear weapons to see: a) If a bomb's radiation would make it harder to see what was up there (like incoming Russian missiles!); b) If an explosion would do any damage to objects nearby; c) If the Van Allen belts would move a blast down the bands to an earthly target (Moscow! for example); and — most peculiar — d) if a man-made explosion might 'alter' the natural shape of the belts." The article is accompanied by a podcast and a video with recently declassified views of the test. They also explain how the different colors of light in the sky were produced.

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237 comments

I can't see the tags... (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799236)

But if anything ever needed the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag, this was it.

Wow, cool! Let's nuke it and see what happens!

The mind boggles.

Re:I can't see the tags... (5, Insightful)

Rotworm (649729) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799282)

Yes, nowadays our view on the environment is that it is fragile. In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust. For instance, abandon a suburban house and nature will take it back over time. The summary quietly acknowledges this viewpoint, they were trying to see if they could disrupt the magnetosphere, much less damage it.

Re:I can't see the tags... (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799908)

The summary quietly acknowledges this viewpoint, they were trying to see if they could disrupt the magnetosphere, much less damage it.

This directly contradicts the article, which states that they wanted to know if they could transmit a blast radiation/wave down the bands to Moscow, for instance. The military is called the military for a reason. It doesn't conduct pure science like seeing if something is possible just for fun -- especially not given the costs and resources involved in atomic bombs. Either they wanted to weaponise this, or they wanted to see if there was a threat from someone else weaponising it.

Re:I can't see the tags... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800786)

You misread the comment. The comment states they were trying to see if it was possible to disrupt the magnetosphere because the environment was generally seen as a robust system. Not that they were trying to do it to while away the day.

Re:I can't see the tags... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800080)

Yes, nowadays our view on the environment is that it is fragile. In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust. For instance, abandon a suburban house and nature will take it back over time. The summary quietly acknowledges this viewpoint, they were trying to see if they could disrupt the magnetosphere, much less damage it.

It's not fragile at all. However, the environment's capability to support human existence possibly is (as it gets worse, it can lead to fighting and wars over basic human necessities like water).

After all, it's been around a long time, and evolution's worked fine so far. Our way of life and humanity, well, who knows?

Re:I can't see the tags... (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800332)

Yes, nowadays our view on the environment is that it is fragile. In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust.

The environment is quite robust.
The problem is that humans have a long tradition of overexploiting/overloading nature.
The end result is that the environment either doesn't have an opportunity to, or can't regenerate itself.

Re:I can't see the tags... (2, Insightful)

barzok (26681) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800696)

In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust.

And in the 40s, the scientists running the Manhattan Project were afraid that the device detonated at Trinity would ignite the atmosphere.

Re:I can't see the tags... (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799326)

Wow, cool! Let's nuke it and see what happens!

And the truth about the origin of global warming is finally revealed!

Re:I can't see the tags... (1, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799434)

And, Jah-Wren probably deserves "insightful" mods.

Mankind still has little understanding of the magnetosphere, the Van Allens, and the ionosphere. Those nuclear blasts MAY HAVE started something. Just because we didn't change anything in any measurable way, doesn't mean that other changes, like global warming, aren't due to that tampering.

Of course, I'm something of a global warming skepticist - so I'm not exactly arguing that is the case. I'm just pointing out that man should tread more carefully than he has in the past. It's kinda stupid to blow things up just because you can.

Re:I can't see the tags... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799572)

It's kinda stupid to blow things up just because you can.

Note to the ladies out there: penises are an exception to this rule.

Re:I can't see the tags... (4, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799716)

But if anything ever needed the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag, this was it.

Wow, cool! Let's nuke it and see what happens!

The mind boggles.

Oddly, mine doesn't.

Right now, *today*, there are thousands of politicians and millions of people who would tell you that global warming can't be man made because, like, the world is big and stuff, and so there's no way we could possibly damage it. Why would you expect people back in the dawning days of the nuclear age to think any differently?

Re:I can't see the tags... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799948)

> Why would you expect people back in the dawning days of the nuclear age to think any differently?

They weren't born with as much brain-damage from excessive radiation exposure.

More like: "What Possibly Went Wrong..." (2, Insightful)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800110)

Do we know of any long term consequences of these ill-advised tests?

Re:I can't see the tags... (2, Interesting)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800218)

That was back in the 50s and 60s though, a great time in some ways, if only for the freewheeling attitude to science. The dangers of nuclear weapons weren't really understood that well, they had plans for nuclear cars, nuclear planes, nuclear every damn thing, you could buy a chemistry set without being flagged as a terrorist, dinners in a pill and jetpacks were just around the corner. It was slicked back hair and giant cars, the time of Fats Domino, Elvis, and Buddy Holly.

And now I know (5, Funny)

Cylix (55374) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799276)

At least it will be a very pretty ending when the nuclear war begins.

These images look very similar to what I had seen last night. The colors bouncing off of the clouds lit up the sky quite well. In fact, if no one replies in the next few minutes I can probably assume that was the end of humanity.

In the end I suppose it's time to do what I always wanted to do. You know, the things we won't do because of societies "rules." However, now that society no longer exists I can finally bathe myself in chocolate sauce, whip cream, nuts and ride my bike around town screaming who has a banana!

Even being the end of the world it's shaping up to be a great day.

Re:And now I know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800176)

At least it will be a very pretty ending when the nuclear war begins.

These images look very similar to what I had seen last night. The colors bouncing off of the clouds lit up the sky quite well. In fact, if no one replies in the next few minutes I can probably assume that was the end of humanity.

In the end I suppose it's time to do what I always wanted to do. You know, the things we won't do because of societies "rules." However, now that society no longer exists I can finally bathe myself in chocolate sauce, whip cream, nuts and ride my bike around town screaming who has a banana!

Even being the end of the world it's shaping up to be a great day.

I have to say this is funny as hell!

Hypocrasy (5, Insightful)

jvillain (546827) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799294)

It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb. While their history is of irresponsibly setting them off like fire crackers on the 4th. How many atolls no longer exist? How many places on earth are radioactive? Yet we are all supposed to believe that they are the sole responsible country on the earth.

Re:Hypocrasy (2, Informative)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799344)

It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb

I believe there's an international treaty where you cannot nuclear attack a nation having an nuclear arsenaln, even if it's just "one nuke".

This fact allows the US to nuke, say Irak, until they have developed their own nuclear weapons. That's why these nations are developing their own weapons, not to "nuke the Western world" but to get themselves safe.

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799452)

It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb

I believe there's an international treaty where you cannot nuclear attack a nation having an nuclear arsenaln, even if it's just "one nuke".

uhhh... I think it's more the fact that it's very awkward to tell somebody with nuclear weapons what to do -- cf. 'the guy with the gun is always sir.'

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799472)

I believe there's an international treaty where you cannot nuclear attack a nation having an nuclear arsenaln, even if it's just "one nuke".

This fact allows the US to nuke, say Irak, until they have developed their own nuclear weapons. That's why these nations are developing their own weapons, not to "nuke the Western world" but to get themselves safe.

Peter, hold on to that thought, because I'm gonna explain to you when we get home all the things that are wrong with that statement.

Re:Hypocrasy (5, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799490)

You probably have citations for your claims. May I look at some?

I always thought that the western world didn't want Iran to have nukes because their president and their ayatollahs frequently pass judgement on Israel, saying that they should be bombed out of existence. I could be wrong. Maybe all those speeches are just so much propaganda, and I've been drinking to much Kool-Aid. Ayatollah Kookoomaniac and President Abinutter have really been searching for a way to play kissy-huggy with the Jews, right?

Re:Hypocrasy (0, Flamebait)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800102)

You are most certainly wrong. They never said that. The Iranian regime has simply said that the government of Israel should not exist in its current form, a sentiment quite popular around the world (read: in countries not the US and Israel). If they hate the Jewish folks so much, why do 25,000 of them live in Iran? Please, stop disseminating your nonsense. It's not helping anyone. Take issue with Iran, please - it deserves it - but don't do it by lying.

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

joebagodonuts (561066) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800284)

The West doesn't want Iran to have nukes because what the west wants isn't important to Iran. We'd be much more comfortable with the idea if we had the illusion of control, or even a measure of influence. We don't

Since the US doesn't have the political will to wage war on Iran, I guess we're going to have to find a way to accept them getting Nukes.

Re:Hypocrasy (4, Funny)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799562)

No such treaty and you have it backwards. There are statements by various countries (US included, also China) that they won't use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.

"The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Non Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations"

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800694)

It is the other way around actually. There are clauses in the NPT that ban any of the nuclear weapons states (The original 5, I don't know if it covers India, Pakistan or Isreal) from attacking a non nuclear weapons state with nuclear weapons unless that country is allied in the conflict with another state that is a nuclear weapons state.

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799356)

Just like France.

Re:Hypocrasy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799396)

Do you really think that other countries should set off nuclear weapons in space just because politicians and military folks in the U.S. (most of whom are either dead or retired now) were once stupid enough to do so?

Hypocrisy *in this case* is a wonderful thing.

We learned our lesson, and we are not going to allow other nations to repeat our mistakes. Atleast not in this case.

Re:Hypocrasy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799448)

In other words: "We made some horrible choices getting where we are now. For the sake of humanity, do not make the same mistakes we did!"

Or the other way.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799668)

...We got all the result on nuke we ever needed to be echnologically in advance on all other nation of earth. Now let us stop the other getting such tech and we might keep this advance for a long time.

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800056)

Well, in that case, now that the pitfalls of excessive energy usage and global warming are understood, how about the "great" US of A starts working on reducing their bloody energy consumption instead of wagging their finger at countries like India and China?

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799482)

You're an idiot.

Nuclear weapons weren't well understood. The US tested them. Now everyone understands they're bad news. And their proliferation is bad.

You're a child. You don't care how bad it is or what the consequences could be. You just have a ridiculous inferiority complex, a "me too" attitude, that everyone should get nukes because the US (among others) does.

Not that what the US did was good, all in all. But it contributed a lot to science. But science is now at a point - in part because of experiments that you're condemning - that further experiments are generally not required. Another reason there's no good reason for countries to be trying to start a nuclear arsenal.

I just can't follow your logic. Nukes are bad! Look what the US did with nukes! They shouldn't have done that! Because of the bad things they did, they have no right to tell others not to make the same mistakes!

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799534)

"You're a child. You don't care how bad it is or what the consequences could be. You just have a ridiculous inferiority complex, a "me too" attitude"

You're are still explaining why the US are so dumb right ?

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799632)

Um... nice try?

It's really the other way around. If you're going to try to slam the US with ridiculous stereotypes, then at least get it right: they don't have an inferiority complex, they have a god complex. They're better than everyone else, can do whatever the hell they want, feel entitled to whatever they want, and will threaten to fuck you up if you say no.

Re:Hypocrasy (0, Offtopic)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799544)

Come on, after the first couple of tests the destructive potential of nuclear weapons was perfectly understood. And I don't have a problem with the US telling Iran they shouldn't develop nuclear weapons. But I do have a problem with them doing it while they have been storing nuclear weapons in Europe, given the nuke to Israel and retain the worlds' second largest nuclear weapons stockpile.

Re:Hypocrasy (3, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799644)

It is NOT clear that the US gave nukes to Israel. Note, I'm not denying that the US gave nukes to Israel, I am merely stating that it isn't clear that they did so.

What IS most definitely clear is, A: Israelis spies stole a lot of data B: Israel bribed some scientists and technicians C: The US pretended not to notice that Israel wanted nukes really badly D: A lot of politicians would have committed treason to ensure that Israel did get nukes. E: Israel put a lot of money into R&D in the years before and after they "acquired" nuclear weapons.

You are free to draw your own conslusions, of course, but I don't believe that we "gave" them nukes. I think that a lot of loose cannons in government and in the military enabled Israel to develop their own nukes.

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

joebagodonuts (561066) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800314)

I...I think that a lot of loose cannons in government and in the military enabled Israel to develop their own nukes.

You say "poe-tay-toe"

Re:Hypocrasy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799740)

Yes and no. New designs and ideas were tested; using fission to trigger fusion, for example, or exploring the effects on different environments (as is the topic of this article).

After the first couple a-bombs, the destructive potential may have been well understood, but not the science.

Re:Hypocrasy (4, Insightful)

whatajoke (1625715) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799500)

Manifest destiny [wikipedia.org] is probably to blame here. Until americans do not get rid of their self-righteous crusadic attitude, it is difficult that they will realize how other countries see them.
Other countries make horrible mistakes too, like war. But members of public against these mistakes are not condemned as unpatriotic, or anti-national. Just look at how the movie Green Zone was branded unamerican. I don't know how americans starring in the movie must have felt about that insult. I would have been furious enough to rip somebody's head off on being called anti-naional.

Re:Hypocrasy (4, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799692)

I prefer this version of the very same thing:

This famous poem, written by Britain's imperial poet, was a response to the American take over of the Phillipines after the Spanish-American War.

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        Send forth the best ye breed--
        Go bind your sons to exile
        To serve your captives' need;
        To wait in heavy harness,
        On fluttered folk and wild--
        Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
        Half-devil and half-child.

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        In patience to abide,
        To veil the threat of terror
        And check the show of pride;
        By open speech and simple,
        An hundred times made plain
        To seek another's profit,
        And work another's gain.

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        The savage wars of peace--
        Fill full the mouth of Famine
        And bid the sickness cease;
        And when your goal is nearest
        The end for others sought,
        Watch sloth and heathen Folly
        Bring all your hopes to nought.

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        No tawdry rule of kings,
        But toil of serf and sweeper--
        The tale of common things.
        The ports ye shall not enter,
        The roads ye shall not tread,
        Go mark them with your living,
        And mark them with your dead.

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        And reap his old reward:
        The blame of those ye better,
        The hate of those ye guard--
        The cry of hosts ye humour
        (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
        "Why brought he us from bondage,
        Our loved Egyptian night?"

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        Ye dare not stoop to less--
        Nor call too loud on Freedom
        To cloke your weariness;
        By all ye cry or whisper,
        By all ye leave or do,
        The silent, sullen peoples
        Shall weigh your gods and you.

        Take up the White Man's burden--
        Have done with childish days--
        The lightly proferred laurel,
        The easy, ungrudged praise.
        Comes now, to search your manhood
        Through all the thankless years
        Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
        The judgment of your peers!

Re:Hypocrasy (5, Insightful)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800050)

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that nobody has invaded the USA recently enough for currently alive people to remember it.

Maybe if more people knew what it's like to lie down in some ditch and hear bullets flying over it, be forced out of home because it currently is too near the front line or even worse, having your house (and everything you own) destroyed by a bomb (or the retreating army lighting it on fire so it could not be used by the enemy) with or without your loved ones in it, they would not talk about war as if it was a good thing.

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800680)

"How other countries see them" is itself a product of those countries' nationalism. When is Europe going to see itself as America sees it and start acting like real people? And in pretty much every non-American war of aggression criticizing the war would get you arrested or executed. Don't see many secret police grabbing people out of the Green Zone.

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799672)

Yet we are all supposed to believe that they are the sole responsible country on the earth.

Meh, it's no different than pollution. Back in the day, the now-first-world nations were polluting like there was no tomorrow. Today, we expect the developing world to behave better. But is that hypocrisy? IMHO, no.

Why? Because back in those days, we *didn't know what the fuck we were doing*. No, seriously. People thought radiation was *good* for you, ffs. Hell, we had chemists like the Curie's exposing themselves to massive amounts of radiation every day (their notes are so irradiated that, *today*, they're considered too dangerous to handle), not to mention dangerous chemicals and so forth. Meanwhile, as recently as *1969* the Cuyahoga River actually *caught fire* because there was so much industrial pollution being dumped into it.

Fortunately, we've come a long way as a species since those days and have learned a great deal about the dangers of things like nuclear arms. Why the hell would we want other nations to repeat those same mistakes, now that we know how bad the consequences can be?

Re:Hypocrasy (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800068)

And how do expect that nations that aspire to have an industrial base as big or bigger than the first world nations to do? That they should be happy to live in clean forests? "Oh, that so great, I don't have a job, I live in a hut but ours rivers don't catch fire!"

Fuck off.

I'll kill every single tree in the Amazon if that means a sizable industrial base and jobs to people.

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800318)

And how do expect that nations that aspire to have an industrial base as big or bigger than the first world nations to do?

We have the technology, today, to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. There is absolutely no excuse, other than laziness or, in this case, a misplaced victim complex.

"Oh, that so great, I don't have a job, I live in a hut but ours rivers don't catch fire!"

Wait, wait... you would *prefer rivers catching fire*?? Holy shit, dude. No, really, that's the most idiotic, short-sighted thing I've read in a long time. Amazing...

I'll kill every single tree in the Amazon if that means a sizable industrial base and jobs to people.

Congratulations, you are an enormous fucking douchebag.

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799770)

"It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb."

Yes, the US was the only country bombing atolls, running undersea and surface tests, and doing stupid shit with nukes. China, USSR, France, nah, you don't care, you just don't like the US so you point them out ON PURPOSE singularly and specificly. ONLY THE US does this.

Asswipe.

So you think that Iran and NK should be justified in having nukes? Or that the world is better with more nukes?

Or are you simply just an anti-US asshole? MANY countries, including those with and without nukes, are against Iran and NK obtaining nukes.

It's amazing how simple and stupid your comment is. A person says guns are wrong, is in the process of melting down their guns, and you call them a hypocrite.

Context. It was fairly typical in the 50s and 60s to openly test nukes. Even France in the late 80s or early 90s tested their nuclear arsenal under the sea, in violation of international treaties. *We* learned from our mistakes. Nuclear weapons do not help in conventional warfare. And further, in an era of increased diplomatic relationships, they are more an impediment to getting things done. After all, the results of the Cold War, if you recall, was that nuclear weaponry does not increase or better diplomatic relationships.

Do you prefer many countries with a few bombs? While we are trying to reduce our arms, others are increasing theirs. Again, nuclear weaponry does not increase friendly relationships. See India and Pakistan. The real reason, the fundamental reason, that North Korea and Iran want the bomb isn't for peaceful reasons--it's to isolate their governments even further from other governments, which is THE POINT--it's to use the US as a cause for their draconian governments (and to which your comments are in agreement with--doesn't that make you proud). The US doesn't give a damn if Iran or NK has a bomb from a warfare standpoint--it's more of an excuse and justification to glass them (see the followup idiot post where it's said you can't nuke a country with nukes--absurd, as if those countries with nukes actually care even if such a treat exists, it's MORE justification). But having a bomb reduces diplomatic possiblities (again, in agreement with your statement, such that the US is unreasonable and justifies others countries in having bombs).

The problem is also intent. China, for example, has bombs. At least several. Maybe more. We don't worry too much about them going nuts. NK isn't much of a worry--they are more dependent on their surrounding countries,and it's just saber rattling. Iran, however, is a fear, because of what WE would do to retaliate.

It's difficult to sell to the people of your country the need for nuclear arms reduction, which in recent years decreases their safety, when you have nations we don't get along with obtaining those arms.

Want to prop up your regime and isolate it? These days to do it, obtain nukes.

Re:Hypocrasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799884)

being anti-us is often a good point for not being an asshole.
;-)

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800484)

Bull. Being anti-US is often a cover used by assholes to disguise their own douchebaggery with sanctimonious lectures. One can easily bring up valid criticisms of the US (or any other country for that matter) without being an asshole about it. Automatically giving "+1 Not An Asshole Because He Hates The US" points is just ignorant.

Re:Hypocrasy (5, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799864)

Something completely missing from this article is nothing about the history of the high altitude tests [wikipedia.org] and some of the significant concerns raised about those tests.

Perhaps more significant is the rapidity with which the Partial Test Ban Treaty [wikipedia.org] was negotiated, approved, and ratified when the full impact of these tests were finally realized. It is important to note that both the USA and the Soviet Union were involved with these tests, and it wasn't just a one-sided thing. The largest problem is that continued testing of nuclear weapons would have essentially ended manned spaceflight for awhile until the radioactive materials would dissipate from the upper atmosphere... potentially taking as long as a hundred years or more if it was really pushed.

BTW, if you are complaining about islands, atolls, and other underground and surface tests, nearly every nation who has detonated a nuclear bomb has been involved with this sort of contamination including "enlightened" countries like England and France. Opposition to other countries getting nuclear weapons isn't restricted to the USA either, but America is painted as the bad guy usually. Most countries who can afford nuclear weapons [wikipedia.org] , such as China, India, and Pakistan, already have them. Countries like Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, and Belarus even gave up nuclear weapons that they had at one point. South Africa even had nuclear weapons technology at one point. The number of countries with nuclear weapons or at least the capabilities of having them is quite a few. Some countries like Japan certainly have the wealth and the technology base to build them, but don't for very deliberate political reasons (not that I blame them for that attitude either).

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799906)

US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb.

Nuclear weapons are like iPhones. If everyone has one, it loses its cool factor.

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

downhole (831621) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799988)

As far as I can tell, the US is just fine with most of the countries that currently have nuclear weapons (France, England, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, a few others I think). We don't care that much as long as we can reasonably believe that you can be deterred from using them aggressively by the possibility of a counter-strike. We're very worried if your country appears to be run by total nutjobs who regularly threaten to nuke other nations and don't seem to care about what might happen in reply (Iran, North Korea).

Re:Hypocrasy (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800178)

I'm unaware of Iran's leadership ever having threatened to nuke anyone. There was that whole "wipe off the pages of history" misquote that the right-wingers trot out repeatedly, but as anyone who cared to find out what was actually said, they were talking about the government of Israel existing in its current form, and were not talking militarily (sentiments shared by most of the western world).

Re:Hypocrasy (2, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800196)

Much of the power of US comes from the fact that it is vicious, but more or less fair. In the revolutionary war,captured redcoats were often left to travel to the POW camp after promising to lay down arms. In the revolutionary war, the loser confederates were not, overall, made the subject of vengeful attacks, but rather reintegration through reconstruction.

As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, they certainly solidified the US repetition as vicious. The US is the only country that has used nuclear weapons on a civilian population. What this means is that other countries have be nuclear states, but how many would really use it. Only the US has proven it.

The ban on nuclear weapons is not a US thing. The NPT is a united nations issue. The US is a position to help enforce it. The treaty between the US and Russia is meant to reduce the stockpiles and help reach a nuclear free world. The NPT is separate and meant to minimize the number of nuclear powers, given that most of the civilized world has reached a consensus in that we cannot use these weapons.

It is true that the US has become particularly more vicious in the past 10 years, mostly due to religious fanatics taking over the US, much as they are taking over in other parts of the world. This is changing to the point where many extreme right conservative think our mix of nuclear weapons will be insufficient to defend against the modern random aggressors.

Re:Hypocrasy (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800632)

It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb. While their history is of irresponsibly setting them off like fire crackers on the 4th. How many atolls no longer exist? How many places on earth are radioactive? Yet we are all supposed to believe that they are the sole responsible country on the earth.

Amazing? Not at all. It's called "self preservation." Funny you should mention firecrackers: they're illegal in many states (which pisses me off, actually: paternalistic politicians trying to "protect the children"), and if you knew more about us, you might understand their cultural and historical relevance. Regardless, you can complain about our history of testing nuclear weapons, but you know, we don't anymore. You also conveniently forgot to mention that Russia has a similar history, and in fact set the record for the largest fusion explosion ever: fifty megatons of TNT equivalent, and that was tuned down from the design yield of one hundred megatons, over concerns about fallout. I believe our biggest detonation was about twenty-five (and at that, it exceeded expectations.)

Just get one thing through your silly little head: this is NOT A MATTER OF FAIRNESS. It's just not. We aren't discussing trade agreements, or illegal immigration, or any of a hundred other issues that the world faces every day. We're discussing weapon systems that can kill millions of innocent people in a few milliseconds. Do you really want everyone to have them? Is it "fair" that a city should die because you don't like the U.S.?

Look, the United States and Russia exercised the requisite restraint during the Cold War and after. Yes, that was the desired outcome of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction), but put it this way: MAD worked. No ICBMs were fired, no long-range bombers dropped heavy weapons on Moscow or Washington. So here's the question: do you honestly believe that all countries in the world capable of building atomic weapons would do the same? Do you believe that the leaders of all countries are sufficiently rational to understand the concept of MAD? Yes, we dropped small tactical devices on an enemy twice during World War II, but when you consider the power of modern fusion weapons when compared to Fatman and Littleboy, well, you really need to rethink your position.

This is a matter of "we have them, Russia has them, China has them, England has them, Israel has them, and a few other countries have them, and that's enough." It less to do with who is the "most responsible", and more to do with the odds of thermonuclear weapons being used increasing the more nations have them. Consequently, we'd like to keep anyone else who doesn't already have them from acquiring them, and the United States is hardly alone in that position. Nobody who has atomic weapons, nobody who has seen what they can do, is at all comfortable with an unstable nation owning them. You can bitch all you want about that, but the fewer nations that have the things the better.

You're concerning yourself that it's "unfair" that the United States and a few other powerful nations have nuclear weapons and don't want anyone else to have them. Well, you're damn right, it may be unfair, but it's the sanest approach to the issue that we have. And you know what? The first time some two-bit "nuclear power" like Iran, Pakistan or North Korea decides turn a few square miles of someone else's city into a glass lake, you'll be the first to complain that the United States should somehow have prevented those deaths. I just know it.

Hypocrites.

You don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800686)

(It's not really surprising that someone who can't spell hypocrisy doesn't really understand it, though. So maybe you deserve a free pass.)

There's a point where hypocrisy is so brazen and open, that it isn't really hypocrisy. US policy is not telling non-nuclear countries, "Do as I say, not as I do." It's merely "Do as I say." You can draw some conclusions from that, and you may very well still end up with some criticisms of US' nuclear policy. But if you call it hypocrisy, then you don't get it.

One disappointing part about the article... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799350)

The article listed the questions the experiment was to answer and then concentrated on political, visual and show-business value of the experiment but it didn't answer the questions in the end.

Could someone...?

Re:One disappointing part about the article... (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799674)

I will give this a shot. I assume you mean these.

a) If a bomb's radiation would make it harder to see what was up there (like incoming Russian missiles!); b) If an explosion would do any damage to objects nearby; c) If the Van Allen belts would move a blast down the bands to an earthly target (Moscow! for example); and — most peculiar — d) if a man-made explosion might "alter" the natural shape of the belts.

a. Yes, especially in the radio.
b. Yes, in a fairly predictable fashion (from heat, gamma rays).
c. No
d. Yes, for a short while, sort of like a solar flare. That can actually cause a "geomagnetically induced current," which could be a problem for long electrical transmission lines.

However, the real find from the test was the prompt EMP, which was not anticipated. (See my post further down on that one.)

Azimov story... (5, Interesting)

ei4anb (625481) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799366)

Isaac Azimov wrote a short sci-fi story about an explorer, who had just come back from visiting the newly contacted planet "Earth", adding humans to the "Register Of Intelligent Life". Some minutes later, after the explorer explained how humans tested atomic bombs "on their own planet" the registrar erased the entry as being unqualified for inclusion under "Intelligent".

Re:Azimov story... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799376)

after the explorer explained how humans tested atomic bombs

If you judge a planet based on how and by whom its governed, then we are really not as intelligent we might pride ourselves with.

Re:Azimov story... (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799476)

Intelligence does not exclude stupidity. You can have both in a large amount...

Re:Azimov story... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799588)

That is one of the theories included in the Encyclopedia Galactica. Unfortunately, most of the proponents have managed to extinct themselves. One opposing theory says that if stupidity exceeds x% in any given population, then the population can't truly be called intelligent. Races that believe that theory seem to have spread throughout all of known space, and the known dimensions. The scholar should draw his own conclusions.

Re:Azimov story... (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799738)

If you judge a planet based on how and by whom its governed, then we are really not as intelligent we might pride ourselves with.

So you believe that those in governance are *dumber* than average?

Really?

No, seriously, really??

Re:Azimov story... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799778)

So you believe that those in governance are *dumber* than average?

I'm active in politics: Not maybe the median, but not the top 20% either.

Re:Azimov story... (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799870)

"based on How and whom"... and you read "Earths leaders are idiots"... Really? No, seriously really?

When a violent tyrant of a leader is actually chosen by the people, the people are pretty fucking dumb... not the leader. And shit like that is no exception, smart but terrible leaders are chosen again and again. There are of course examples of extremely stupid leaders, but it's fairly obvious this sentence is just as well a reference to the stupidity of the masses...

Re:Azimov story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800582)

If you count the party members who donate time and money to putting their candidate in office, no. I've never met a smart one.

For every clever elected official using their position to enrich themselves, there's a smarter person out in the private sector making billions instead of millions, without being corrupt.

Re:Azimov story... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799890)

Isaac Azimov wrote a short sci-fi story about an explorer, who had just come back from visiting the newly contacted planet "Earth", adding humans to the "Register Of Intelligent Life". Some minutes later, after the explorer explained how humans tested atomic bombs "on their own planet" the registrar erased the entry as being unqualified for inclusion under "Intelligent".

He didn't cross of humans as "being unqualified for inclusion under intelligent." He crossed off humans under the assumption we would cause ourselves to go extinct, as many other species who had qualified as intelligent, had. Also, the explorer hadn't contacted Earth, he had observed/explored it. Humans had no knowledge of the Explorer or the Register.

Re:Azimov story... (2, Interesting)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799970)

There's a big difference between intelligence and wisdom.

I saw a documentary once about a native american who was the last survivor of a little known tribe in the early 1900's. When he saw San Fransisco for the first time, with gas lamps, trams, etc., he said:
The white man is very clever, but not very wise.

Was that foresight, or are we modern people really so blinded by our cleverness that we fail to see our lack of wisdom?

Re:Azimov story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800530)

Do you have the title of this short story? I've been googling it for years and never found anyone talking about it... Asimov, of course!

It began earlier (5, Informative)

rumith (983060) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799384)

In case anyone got interested, the 1958 test was called Operation Argus [wikipedia.org] .
By the way, despite what TFA says, there are two electron radiation belts, not just two of them at all; there's also a proton one. Wikipedia considers it to be a part of the inner radiation belt, but the accepted terminology says otherwise to the best of my knowledge.

Re:It began earlier (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799428)

It's a crying shame that the goddamn Wikipedia Cabal has stopped us peons from correcting inaccurate articles. [citation needed]

Re:It began earlier (2, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799928)

It is a crying shame that you roll over whenever somebody tries to stop you from trying to correct articles like that in the first place. There certainly are a bunch of cyber bullies on Wikipedia, and there is an attempt to be a check on their actions, but it does take some effort and standing up to those bullies in the first place.

Wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799400)

Hey, Dude look up there! Like, oh WOW, dude!

Another proposal .... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799418)

was to nuke rainbows. A high ranking general was quoted as saying the military applications of rainbows and rainbow based technologies can't be ignored.

Re:Another proposal .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800032)

Gargamel, is that you?

Re:Another proposal .... (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800616)

The general, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was classified, added that such "[expletive deleted] rainbows" were "pure [expletive deleted] magic" and would "blow [our] brain" if further analyzed.

JCS Chairman Mullen refused to comment on the general's statements.

Wait...what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799446)

Dude! Look over there, oh WOW!

Mommy, I want a H-Bomb! (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799468)

(puppy eyes)

Re:Mommy, I want a H-Bomb! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799926)

Well, it's not like there's law against it.

We finally have a Supreme Court that takes the Second Amendment seriously, and there is nothing there in the Constitution that would allow the Government to limit your capacity to defend yourself and your family against your neighbors and tyrants.

In fact, the Second Amendment's intent can only be fulfilled if every family owned a nuclear weapon. Only then will the Government think twice before using the eminent domain and tax-and-spend laws to confiscate your Private Property.

I used to be in favour of nuclear deterent (3, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799474)

... but the more I read about what some of these scientists got up to the more I begin to wonder if some of them weren't borderline insane or at least so totally absorbed in the narrow science they were persuing that they didn't think about or didn't care about the potential consequences if things went wrong.

Re:I used to be in favour of nuclear deterent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800458)

Even if the scientist at the Manhattan Project that thought that the Fist nuke would set off
an uncontrollable chain reaction that would have obliterated us all (almost half), they went ahead and did it anyways...Science marches on....

I wonder... (3, Informative)

sootman (158191) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799480)

... if this plan involved any of the same people who wanted to set off a nuclear bomb on the moon. [guardian.co.uk]

Re:I wonder... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799586)

Compared to much of the rest of the stuff that we filed under "keeping the Reds in line" nuking the moon would be downright humanitarian...

Re:I wonder... (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799616)

the same people who wanted to set off a nuclear bomb on the moon

I think they got the date on that story rong: it says May 14 but should be April 1.

Seriously, a "scientist" talking about "the dark side of the moon"? Which side would that be? And a few kilotonne nuke leaving a crater that would "ruin the man in the moon" appearance?

This looks like a combination of an elderly scientist suffering from senile dementia and a journalist being a sensationalist ignorant hack, although I guess describing a journalist that way is kind of redundant.

Re:I wonder... (1)

Trails (629752) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800028)

The dark side of the Moon refers to either the face not currently illuminated by the sun (hence, dark) or the side which is never exposed to the Earth (the moon's rotation about it's own axis, as well as its rotation about the Earth is such that we only ever see one hemisphere).

Not sure what you're complaining, it's a perfectly accepted (if somewhat ambiguous) term. The pink floyd album in fact refers to the latter

As to altering the man in the moon, it's clear that, at least at one point, Cobra Commander was in charge of the USAF.

Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea?!? (1)

Knoman (995090) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799602)

Wasn't this premise the Pilot Episode?

Re:Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea?!? (1)

Jeff Duntemann (20005) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799968)

Not the pilot episode, but the feature film that introduced the concept, the sub, and most of the major characters who would later appear in the TV series.

Interestingly, the film appeared in 1961, which was before the test cited in TFA. And more interesting still, the "fix" in the film was exploding a nuclear device (launched on a missile from the Seaview) to "blow out" the fire in the belts. I'm guessing that there had been some discussion of the test in years prior, and Irwin Allen spun a script around it.

I was only nine at the time, but I remember thinking that the whole concept of the Van Allen belts "catching fire" was absurd because I knew that the belts were outside the atmosphere, and fire requires oxygen. It was the first time I can recall thinking that the science in SF movies was BS. It wasn't the last.

Re:Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea?!? (2, Informative)

unitron (5733) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799980)

Before the television show there was the movie, and that premise was most of the entire plot.

EMP (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#32799610)

This test series (specifically, Starfish Prime [wikipedia.org] ) uncovered the electromagnetic pulse (EMP [globalsecurity.org] ) effect, an unexpected side effect of nuclear explosions at altitude. The gamma rays from a high altitude burst hit atoms and thus eject electrons high in the atmosphere over a wide area, more or less simultaneously, and the current from the ejected electrons can cause a very wide-spread electromagnetic pulse, which can knock out power lines and electronics at great distances (> 1000 km).

So, I guess we can call Allen the father of the EMP, although I am not sure he would have wanted the honor.

H-test almost stopped manned flights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799806)

The radiation created in the upper belts
almost stopped the manned space program.
Monitoring rockets were sent up over several months
to test the radiation. And scientists were greatly
relieved that they showed a gradual decrease over only
a few months.
 

Fortunately the ozone layer is nowhere nearby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32799888)

Now you know where the hole is the ozone layer comes from.

What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800054)

What about the depleation of the ozone layer? Any correlation?

Madness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800150)

It's a wonder we're still here. Let's hear it for all the great nerds of our time....

Here is 2053 reasons why you should all fall on your swords right now. http://www.ctbto.org/specials/1945-1998-by-isao-hashimoto/

They created the Van Alan belt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32800510)

What they don't tell us is that this CREATED the Van Alan radiation belt, not the other way around!

Certainly don't want to do that today... (5, Interesting)

psychogre (1475893) | more than 3 years ago | (#32800834)

Those radiation belts are composed of trapped electron and proton particles, bouncing back and forth along those magnetic field lines. There are several numerical models that predict what the population of these particles based on their location, and general behavior under different conditions (solar cycle variations, solar flares, etc).
Anyone building a satellite will use those models to determine what levels of radiation levels the satellite will encounter along its orbit, and add on the appropriate level of shielding to protect the electronics.
A nuclear bomb will never be able to alter the shape of the belts. All it will do is add a spectacular amount of electron and proton particles to the radiation belt, potentially frying the electronics of most of the low to medium orbit satellite (geosynchronous ones will probably be ok). Depending on the size of the bomb, the radiation belt may take weeks or even months to return to a 'natural' state.
There are some experiments in the works to 'tweak' the radiation belts by beaming low frequency EM waves, to change the energy of the existing particle populations. In theory, that will enable some of the particles to become 'untrapped', thereby reducing the overall population.

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