# what would happen if all the world nuclear weapons were detonated all at once

Try to imagine if someone were able to gather all of the worlds nuclear and atomic weapons, move them all to one spot on earth, then detionate them all at the same time (every last one). What do you think would happen?

1. Would the blast crack the earth focing it to split in half or shatter to pieces?

2. Would the blast force the earth to shift to the point where it would be blown clean out of its orbit?

3. Would it just leave a VERY big hole killing only a small portion of life on earth?

What do you think would happen?

Last time I studied the Cold War we were told that there were enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire earth several hundred times over. I don’t have any figures (who would have thought that would be hard to find out) as to total megatons but most likely a simultaneous explosion will pretty much obliterate everything, except maybe a few stray particles on the other side.
So, are you planning a fun night out or something?

Well it’s certainly not going to crack the earth in half - that’s not how things work. The earth isn’t just held together like a normal physical object - most of what holds it together is it’s own gravity. But could all the nuclear weapons blow it up? A quick back of the envelope calculation gives that one needs about 10^53 joules of energy

Argh. Sorry. Accidentally hit submit reply too early (silly keyboard). A more complete post will follow shortly.

Well it’s certainly not going to crack the earth in half - that’s not how things work. The earth isn’t just held together like a normal physical object - most of what holds it together is it’s own gravity. But could all the nuclear weapons blow it up? A quick back of the envelope calculation gives that one needs about 10^53 joules of energy to merely overcome the earth’s gravitational binding energy (let alone the force needed to actually break things apart). I’m neglecting the effect of the earth’s rotation there, but it should be about the right order of magnitude.

That’s about 2.5 * 10^37 megatons. Even before I look up some more accurate figures, I can tell you right now that this is way out of the league of the current nuclear arsenal. Maximum yield of a nuclear weapon built so far is about 50 Megatons. In 2002 there were about 40,000 nuclear weapons in the world (according to wikipedia). If we assume those were all 50 Megaton weapons (a gross exageration), that gives us a total of 2 million, or 2 * 10^6 megatons. I don’t think we’ll be blowing the earth up any time soon.

That amount of energy could concievably nudge the earth I guess. Another back of the envelope calculation gives that if you could convert all that energy into kinetic energy of the earth, you’d get a whopping great big velocity change of… 0.0028 m/s. We’re probably not going anywhere just yet unless someone is hiding a spindizzy in their back pocket.

The idea that we could ‘destroy the world’ isn’t entirely wrong though. You could do some seriously bad things with those nukes, and probably scorch the surface of the world. It just wouldn’t do all that much damage to the bulk of the planet beneath the surface.

Anyway, if we ignore the (numerous) technical difficulties associated with setting off a lot of nukes in one place (e.g. if you don’t get the timing exact, they’re going to fratricide and you’ll only get a small fraction of them actually going off), you’re still going to have Bad Things happening if you set them all off. There’ll be a big crater of course, and a lot of crap (much of it radioactive) ejected into the atmosphere. Expect massive climate changes, radiation poisoning, and general unpleasantness. Probably wouldn’t be the end of life as we know it though. 'fraid I don’t have a calculation to back this one up.

If it’s all the same with you, I’d rather not test my predictions though.

Actually, I think what most of us were taught was that there were enough nukes to destroy all of the life on Earth several times over, not the planet itself.

The simultaneous detonation of all nuclear weapons on Earth would not have near the destructive impact as everyone in China jumping off their chairs in unison.

What if everyone in China detonated a nucler weapon as they jumped off their chairs? And would the explosion be loud enough to be heard in the United States?

And would the explosion echo?

Only if it were falsely attributed to a duck.
And even if the earth were “blown apart” all the nukes were put in one pile and detonated at the same time, wouldn’t gravity just pick up the pieces and Earth II would just reconstitute itself, w/ or w/o life?

And any non-earth-blowing-apart explosion would leave some life to restart that process. Bacteria, life near sea vents, life locked deep down in the soil someplace not directly hit etc. would just start it all over.

In addition, if we put all the nukes in one place and lit a very big fuse all the whump would be focused in one very unlucky place. Life, even human life would almost certainly survive.

When you see calculations about there being enough firepower to kill everyone six point three times it presumes that the bombs are all detonated in the right place.

Many of the older nuclear weapons are inoperative. Russia had the 50 megaton hydrogen bomb(there was, AFAIK, only one), I think the “biggest” bomb we had was 32 megatons. I am not entirely sure if it is in operation or not. It might even have been dismantled. Much of the aresenal of the US was. Many of the nuclear bombs we have in operation are tactical nukes. These things are small, made to take out small military outposts or destroy bunkers. These are generally no more than 1 megaton, oftentimes less. These newer and smaller bombs are much cleaner, meaning they are less radioactive.

For the most part, big Uranium based nuclear missles are over. The damage Uranium does when it is broken down is, I think, too much for us to handle. IIRC, Uranium breaks down into a radioactive Strontium isotope which replaces the Calcium in human’s bones. This is what causes the radiation sickness. Cleaner bombs would probably only cause cancer.

Now, I can’t speak for India, Korea, China and the smaller nuclear countries. They probably have the dirtier, easier to manufacture atomic weapons. I am sure Pakistan and India’s weapons are very dirty, and relatively weak. Their blast range is probably only a bit over a mile. All that radioactive dirt flying in the air is the major problem.

I am not personally convinced that all the nuclear weapons can destroy all of human life. I think the claim that it can is merely sensationalistic, and for that reason it persists.

"I am not personally convinced that all the nuclear weapons can destroy all of human life. I think the claim that it can is merely sensationalistic, and for that reason it persists. "

Well it seems ignorance can indeed be a good thing sometimes, imagine if all those dudes during the cold war thought the same way

Welcome to the SDMB, Aezur.

The person who wrote that did so seven years ago. If you’d like to start a new thread on this topic, do so in Great Debates (the pros and cons of nuclear weapons/power) or General Question (what would actually happen).

I’m going to close this thread, though.

twickster, MPSIMS moderator