I don’t think we can really know the answer, but we can debate it. Off to Great Debates.
I think I’m going to have to ask you for a cite on the “95%” assertion. There are a lot of heavily populated places, but the human population isn’t that heavily concentrated that I’m going to buy that bald assertion without a cite. As for the retargeting of nukes, again I ask “Why would anyone nuke Thailand, or Bangladesh, or South Africa, or Argentina, or…?”
Also, the '50 Miles" bit is fairly lacking in support. However, you can have some ‘fun’ playing with the possibilities here. Be aware that this site uses unrealistically large weapons, so you may have to ‘adjust for windage’ to get the proper results for a more typical weapon. Even with a 1 megaton weapon, I find that if Wilmington were nuked, I’d survive quite nicely, only 17 miles away. The fallout plume even gives me a ‘miss’. (note: In general, I suspect that this simulator overstates it’s case a bit.)
Let me introduce you to a really popular site with the members of the SDMB: www.FAS.org . Check this page: It leads to much good info. From there we can get to sites like this, this, and this, where we get an actual breakdown of the US and foriegn stockpiles, and the delivery mechanisms thereof. Perusing this list, we find that the vast majority of US weapons are actually in the hundreds of Kilotons: Nothing to sneer at, but not the legions of monster weapons you’re insinuating. Russian weapons tend to be heavier, but only a few are the monsters you’ve mentioned.
As others have pointed out, it depends upon the types of weapons used, how many of them were used, and what time of year they were used.
Assuming that it was a relatively limited exchange, the vast majority of the population would survive. For most people, the radiation and fallout would mean a slightly shortened lifespan, not a drastically reduced one.
The EMPs from such a war would kill most electronics which means cars won’t work, computers are instant boat anchors, this isn’t the disaster it at first seems. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Odds are, that if there was a nuclear war, it wouldn’t be because someone suddenly woke up in Moscow, Bejing, DC, or other some other national capital and said, “You know, I think I’ll nuke those bastards.” There would be a gradual build up of tensions between powers involved, with lots of international attention directed at them. So the ordinary folks would begin to do some prepatory things in anticipation that things could get bad. People would stock pile food, they’d get to know their neighbors, perhaps buy guns and ammunition, relocate to areas where they’d be more likely to survive an attack, and other things like that to try and better their odds.
Once the war happened, people would begin to cluster in groups in order to better their survival. It wouldn’t necessarily be a society of roving gangs slaughtering one another as they fought over the scraps of what was left. Many places, I imagine, would form themselves into enclaves similar to what a medieval village was.
Take, for example, the trailer park in which I live in. I know that there’s at least one nurse here (not necessary, but handy), we’ve got a plumber, a building contractor, an auto mechanic, and who knows who else. (There’s just under a hundred trailers here.) I’ve got some training as a machinist, in addition to having a rather extensive personal library that covers nearly everything. There’s lots of trees around here that could be easily cut down and used to build a wall around the place. There’s also plenty of small game (“Here, kitty, kitty!” Just kidding, rabbits actually.). With the group of us, it’d be pretty easy for us to survive (assuming that we weren’t too close to ground zero).
Since the cars would be useless, for the most part, they’d be a ready source of raw materials. The aluminum in them could be melted down to make machine tools and other things we might need. The gasolene (along with the tires of some of them) could serve as a source of heat for the first winter, the windshields and other glass could be used to build a greenhouse, and the alternators and starter motors could be salvaged for use as electrical generators (The EMP might short them out, but it should be possible to build a couple of generators/motors out of them by cannabalizing parts from one another.).
No doubt it’d be a bitch to do all of this, but seeing as how all of us would suddenly have more time on our hands (no half hour commutes on a daily basis, no TV, no internet), we’d have plenty of time to accomplish it. It’d probably take a couple of years for us to get things stabilized to the point where we no longer had to worry on a day-to-day business about our survival, but we could no doubt get there.
Once that happened, we could begin to reach out and explore the area around us to find others to join with. It seems reasonable to me to believe that this would happen in other places as well, so gradually, over a period of time, the surviving members of the nation would reknit it. As they did so, the advancement back to the point where civilization was before the war would accelerate. (Remember, we wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel, merely get to the point where we could follow the blueprints we already have.)
Yep. I’d hike down to that ol’ library and grab all the technical journals, manuals, physics textbooks and such. I’d use the books on religion as kinding. If we’re going to restart civilization, we may as well clean house.
I still think y’all are optimists, that humans have overspecialized too far to survive anywhere but in a society, and that if we lost a sizeable chunk of our population (enough to end our society), we’re screwed, individually and collectively.
Tuckerfan, you live in an odd place. Nobody around me has knowledge of machines or engines or things like that. Plenty of medical knowledge, but a lot of that is knowledge of how to use modern tools. Of what use is a radiologist if all of the x-ray machines are being used as scrap? Of what use is a CRNA if the most advanced anasthetic you have is grain alcohol? Of what use is a cardiologist if heart surgery has become, through lack of electricity and anasthetics, a good way to painfully kill someone? They all have knowledge of general medicine, and have textbooks to that effect, and would be invaluable in the event of a disease outbreak, but what they have been spending 70% of their lives doing is now meaningless. What they have spent decades learning is now no more valuable than a microprocessor or a dayplanner.
That last part goes for most of the industrialized world, in fact. England, Napoleon said, was a nation of shopkeepers. We aren’t much better. The most useful profession for surviving in a post-nuclear world is farmer. If you’re a farmer, you have a practical knowledge of everything it takes to make food, from animals to plowing times to weed control. The world, until very recently, turned on the backs of farmers.
These days, less than two percent of everyone in America farms. It has become so efficient that two percent of us farm and America exports food. A recent development, but one that is complete now: Very few of us know where our food comes from, besides the supermarket. Few of us would know the right way to use a plow, and the plow is the fundamental advance that makes civilization possible. Without the plow, we have nothing.
Hell, maybe the one percent that will survive will be the farmers. They live away from population centers, own guns, and have land. They might welcome the death of corporations and the fact that, for the first time in a generation, farming is profitable again.
Farmers: Human cockroaches. (In the best sense of the term.)
Not true. Someone came up with the scary 95% figure by asking “if we could cram 6 billion people into a tiny space, and nuke it all to hell, how many people could we kill?”. Such things are said with an agenda.
Nukes, over the years, have actually become smaller and more precise.
Not true. A foot of steel will block almost all of the harmful radiation from a nuclear weapon, and the fallout.
This is true to an extent. They would be toxic because of the radioactive fallout particles that settled on them, not because of some inherent problem. You can deradiate such things.
Nuclear war, as a whole, has been greatly exaggerated in it’s effect on humanity.
Derleth, its not all that odd of a place, really. Everywhere you look there are people who have knowledge like the examples I’ve posted. Okay, so maybe this or that person isn’t employed in a particular field, but that doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t know anything about it.
Your example about the medical professionals not having access to all the modern diagnostic equipment, etc. preventing them from being able to do their job is also incorrect. They might not be able to do it in the manner in which they did in the past, but ideally (assuming they paid attention in class), they’d have a greater headstart on health matters than someone such as myself who has no medical training whatsoever.
Also, if you stop and think about what Napoleon said, you’ll realize how utterly inaccurate it was back then, and is today. That nation of shopkeepers defeated Napoleon, not just once, but twice. Pretty good for a bunch of store owners, don’t you think?
Again, humans may not want to do certain things when there’s no real need for them to do it (for example, grow their own food), however, when they suddenly have to do it in order to ensure their own survival, they acquire a focus and desire that they wouldn’t normally have.