Why this online simulator lets you nuke your backyard

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If a nuclear bomb went off in San Francisco, almost the entire tip of the peninsula would disappear under the fireball, the shock wave, the radiation and the catastrophic heat that spread through the explosion. More than 100,000 people would die and about 230,000 people would be injured. That's according to a new online interactive simulator that allows you to place a virtual nuclear weapon anywhere in the world.
Created by a Wisconsin-based nonprofit educational organization called Outrider Foundation, the explosion simulator is an effort to teach the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons. It's surprisingly beautiful for an educational tool about destruction: "almost too beautiful for its own sake," writes Matt Novak in Gizmodo. But the Outrider simulator is more than just a pretty interface; it is an effective reminder that these weapons could clean entire cities full of people from the face of the Earth.
"There is a degree in which you are attracted to these really beautiful graphics," says nuclear anthropologist Martin Pfeiffer, a doctoral candidate at the University of New Mexico. "Then you click on it and you realize, Shit, that's 50,000 people [gone] in the blink of an eye & # 39;".
"Good heavens, there are 50,000 people."
That recount is key to avoiding what Pfeiffer calls "nuke nuclear pornography", images that show the raw power of bombs exploding in the air without showing any of the consequences. Nuclear weapons are designed to kill people, and they have done it. That is why Tara Drozdenko, managing director of nuclear policy and non-proliferation of the Outrider Foundation, tried to avoid the excessive use of images of mushroom clouds. "They have been used in the past to awaken nationalist sentiment and to give you a sense of pride in achieving nuclear weapons," she says.
Pfeiffer agrees: the shocking images of nuclear tests can make these weapons and nuclear policy seem abstract and inaccessible. "The sublime, the majesty, the almost terrorist fear and the terror of nuclear weapons, that puts many of us out of the idea that we can do something about it," he says.
If people are reminded how their lives could be affected by nuclear weapons, they are more likely to promote nuclear disarmament. During the Cold War, for example, public protests against nuclear proliferation had a profound influence on President Ronald Reagan's nuclear policy, says Drozdenko. Its goal is for the bomb explosion to be interactive to inspire people to educate themselves about nuclear weapons and get involved in the defense of gun control.
"I do not see it so beautiful."
The Outrider tool got its inspiration and code from NukeMap, an explosion simulator created in 2012 by Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Where NukeMap provides experts with multiple ways to mark different versions of a virtual apocalypse, the interactive Outrider aims to customize nuclear detonations for a non-specialized audience. "Doing these personal things helps people take them seriously, it makes them feel more real," says Wellerstein. "And they are real."
Drozdenko was surprised to hear that people, including myself, thought that the explosion of the interactive bomb was disturbingly beautiful. "I do not see it so beautiful," she says. "When I see it, I see how big this radio is where everyone in this radius will have third-degree burns." He hopes that people who visit the page can see beyond the rosette of nuclear annihilation and see the link below it: "Learn what you can do about nuclear weapons."


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