What would happen if a nuclear weapon fell in your backyard? You and everything around you would be destroyed, of course. But how many casualties would there be in the surrounding area? And what would it look like if it was a North Korean nuke versus a Russian nuke?
GIF: Operation Teapot nuclear test in 1955 (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory/YouTube)
There's a new interactive map that helpfully answers all of these questions. And it's almost too pretty for its own good.
Screenshot: A simulation showing what would happen if a Russian-made nuclear bomb were dropped on Los Angeles (Outrider Foundation)
The Outrider Foundation has released a new interactive nuclear bomb simulator, and it's incredibly similar to an older nukemap you may already be familiar with. The older nukemap was made by researcher Alex Wellerstein at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and he even helped inspire the creation of this new simulator.
"It was definitely inspired by Wellerstein's nuke map. He consulted on the project and was very helpful," Dr. Tara Drozdenko, managing director of the Outrider Foundation, told Gizmodo.
So what can you do with this new map? You can type in your ZIP code, and then choose between different types of nuclear bombs, such as North Korea's Hwasong-14 or the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever tested by the Soviet Union.
You can even decide if the imaginary bomb drops directly on the ground (less deadly) or is exploded in the atmosphere (far more deadly).
Screenshot: A nuclear bomb simulator app that allows you to choose what kind of bomb is dropped anywhere you like (Outrider Foundation)
So what's the purpose of this experiment? Dr. Drozdenko told Gizmodo that she simply wants to raise awareness about the challenges that humanity faces right now.
"Outrider believes that the global challenges we face together must be solved by working together," said Dr. Drozdenko. "Among the greatest threats to the future of humankind are nuclear weapons and global climate change. Outrider makes the bold claim that both threats can be overcome — and not just by policy makers but by people with the right tools and inspiration."
"We live in a dangerous world. Nuclear weapons don't make us safer, quite the opposite," Dr. Drozdenko continued. "Understanding the dangers is the first step in making a change toward a safer future."
For whatever it's worth, it might raise awareness, but it might be too beautiful for its own good. As I was playing with the simulator, my wife, who was sitting on the couch across the room said, "that's a pretty flower." When I explained that it was actually a simulation of roughly 3.4 million people dying in a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles, she thought it was slightly less pretty.
You can go to the Outrider Foundation's interactive Bomb Blast app to try it for yourself.