NUKEMAP Uses Google Maps API To Let You Blow Up The Outside World


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People make a lot of novel uses of Google Maps technologies. Some people give you ways to share your love with the world. Some people promote nature conservation. You can even take a virtual spelunking tour.

While all of those are impressive, none are quite as ambitious as NUKEMAP, an interactive Google Map that lets you select any city and nuke the absolute hell out of it.

The ingenious app was developed by Alex Wellerstein, a scholarly historian on all things nuclear weapons, who was not satisfied with the current nuclear calculators out there on the web so he created one himself. While you can select any city in the world that you want to blow way, Wellerstein put together a short buffet of cities that you might want to nuke to get you started. Even though this app is simulation of unleashing nuclear holocausts on cities, I still couldn't bring myself to choose Hiroshima or Nagasaki from the drop-down menu. The thought just shivers me timbers a wee bit much.

Additionally, amateur nukers can either choose their own yield - that's how strong your bomb is - or you can select from a menu of nuclear bombs that have actually existed, ranging from Davy Crockett, the smallest bomb ever manufactured by the United States, to Tsar Bomba, the largest nuke ever conceived (courtesy of the USSR).

So... what happens when you make like Slim Pickens riding the uranium bull?

Don't take this personally, Phillies, but I chose to drop Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, on Philadelphia. Here's the damage:

Once you drop your bomb on a city, you're presented with a fascinating report of what the bomb's effects were. For instance, my bomb had a fireball radius of 0.06 miles (that's the mustard orange center in the map above) and an air blast radius of 1.15 miles (indicated by the gray circle). The devastating facts about my bomb are, as Wellerstein himself astutely describes, "stomach-churning."

Oh, and in case you're wondering about what the death toll would be with one of these apps, I will pass along a quote from NUKEMAP:

A convenient rule of thumb for estimating the short-term fatalities from all causes due to a nuclear attack is to count everyone inside the 5 psi blast overpressure contour around the hypocenter as a fatality. In reality, substantial numbers of people inside the contour will survive and substantial numbers outside the contour will die, but the assumption is that these two groups will be roughly equal in size and balance out. This completely ignores any possible fallout effects." (Carey Sublette)

As abjectly grim as this all is, I gotta say, this is still the most fun I've had with Google Maps since... well, possibly ever.