Why Nuclear Bombs Can’t Set The World On Fire

Before the first atomic bomb was detonated, there were some fears that a fission bomb could “ignite the atmosphere.”¬†Yes, if you’ve just watched Oppenheimer, read about the Manhattan Project, or looked into atomic weapons at all, you’ll be familiar with the concept. Physicists determined the risk was “near zero,” proceeded ahead with the Trinity test, and the world lived to see another day.

You might be wondering what this all means. How could the very air around us be set aflame, and how did physicists figure out it wasn’t a problem? Let’s explore the common misunderstandings around this concept, and the physical reactions at play.

Continue reading “Why Nuclear Bombs Can’t Set The World On Fire”

If They Fire The Nukes, Will They Even Work?

2022 was a harrowing year in a long line of harrowing years. A brutal war in Europe raised the prospect of nuclear war as the leaders behind the invasion rattled sabers and made thinly veiled threats to use weapons of mass destruction. And all this as we’re still working our way through the fallout of a global pandemic.

Those hot-headed threats raise an interesting question, however. Decades have passed since either Russia or the United States ran a live nuclear weapons test. Given that, would the nukes even work if they were fired in anger?

Continue reading “If They Fire The Nukes, Will They Even Work?”