From BoingBoing I found this cool pointer to the DOE Photo Library of atmospheric nuclear tests. I find these pictures utterly mesmerizing. I am can’t stop wondering about what it must have been like to witness some of these big boys. The atmospheric H-bomb shots in the Pacific are the creepiest of all. Consider
Castle Bravo, a dry lithium that obliterated Bikini atoll in 1954. It was fully two and a half times more powerful than expected, tipping the scales at 15 megatons. Imagine the consequences of a miscalculation like that… Witnesses on nearby naval vessels said the heat was terrifying in its intensity and persistence. “The cloud top rose and peaked at 130,000 feet (almost 40 km) after only six minutes. Eight minutes after the test the cloud had reached its full dimensions with a diameter of 100 km, a stem 7 km thick, and a cloud bottom rising above 55,000 feet (16.5 km).” Castle Bravo was the largest bomb ever exploded by the United States.
But was it the largest ever? No. That distinction goes to the “Tsar Bomba” (“King of Bombs”) which the Soviet Union exploded over Novaya Zemlya in 1961 for a yield of 50 megatons. Khruschev got the weapon he wanted, but as the FAS site says, “a bomb this size is virtually useless militarily.” Still. Ka-BOOM!