Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military Space Science

A Look Back At Bombing the Van Allen Belts 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the shiny-and-fallout-y dept.
An anonymous reader points out a recent story at NPR describing one of the greatest lightshows in history — a US hydrogen bomb test 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean in 1962. The mission came about after James Van Allen confirmed the existence of radiation belts around the earth that now bear his name. As it turns out, the same day Van Allen announced his findings at a press conference, he "agreed with the military to get involved with a project to set off atomic bombs in the magnetosphere to see if they could disrupt it." According to NPR, "The plan was to send rockets hundreds of miles up, higher than the Earth's atmosphere, and then detonate nuclear weapons to see: a) If a bomb's radiation would make it harder to see what was up there (like incoming Russian missiles!); b) If an explosion would do any damage to objects nearby; c) If the Van Allen belts would move a blast down the bands to an earthly target (Moscow! for example); and — most peculiar — d) if a man-made explosion might 'alter' the natural shape of the belts." The article is accompanied by a podcast and a video with recently declassified views of the test. They also explain how the different colors of light in the sky were produced.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Look Back At Bombing the Van Allen Belts

Comments Filter:
  • by chill (34294) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:33AM (#32799236) Journal

    But if anything ever needed the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag, this was it.

    Wow, cool! Let's nuke it and see what happens!

    The mind boggles.

    • by Rotworm (649729) * on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:38AM (#32799282) Homepage Journal
      Yes, nowadays our view on the environment is that it is fragile. In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust. For instance, abandon a suburban house and nature will take it back over time. The summary quietly acknowledges this viewpoint, they were trying to see if they could disrupt the magnetosphere, much less damage it.
      • The summary quietly acknowledges this viewpoint, they were trying to see if they could disrupt the magnetosphere, much less damage it.

        This directly contradicts the article, which states that they wanted to know if they could transmit a blast radiation/wave down the bands to Moscow, for instance. The military is called the military for a reason. It doesn't conduct pure science like seeing if something is possible just for fun -- especially not given the costs and resources involved in atomic bombs. Either

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, nowadays our view on the environment is that it is fragile. In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust. For instance, abandon a suburban house and nature will take it back over time. The summary quietly acknowledges this viewpoint, they were trying to see if they could disrupt the magnetosphere, much less damage it.

        It's not fragile at all. However, the environment's capability to support human existence possibly is (as it gets worse, it can lead to fighting and wars over

        • We've found the cause of Global Warming!

        • by Jawnn (445279)
          You are technically correc,t of course, but I believe it a little disingenuous to ignore the context, wherein we are clearly discussing the impact on the environment of actions which may profoundly affect human life. That Gaia will "select out" those traits that swing Her out of balance is a given, so I'd prefer to not test Her too much. As for the hubris that led some of the world's brightest minds to go along with deliberately trying to "bat that beehive", yes, the mind does truly boggle.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:23PM (#32800332) Journal

        Yes, nowadays our view on the environment is that it is fragile. In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust.

        The environment is quite robust.
        The problem is that humans have a long tradition of overexploiting/overloading nature.
        The end result is that the environment either doesn't have an opportunity to, or can't regenerate itself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by oldspewey (1303305)

          The environment has, and will continue to, have the ability to regenerate itself. The interesting question is whether it can do so in a way that allows the continued existence of 7+ billion highly exploitative bipeds with a complex economic and agricultural system.

          Barring some sort of global cataclysm, the "earth" and the "environment" will definitely still be here in a thousand years. Millions of species will be here, actively filling their various ecological niches. Whether humanity is one of those specie

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by barzok (26681)

        In the sixties the general view on the environment was that it was robust.

        And in the 40s, the scientists running the Manhattan Project were afraid that the device detonated at Trinity would ignite the atmosphere.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:43AM (#32799326)

      Wow, cool! Let's nuke it and see what happens!

      And the truth about the origin of global warming is finally revealed!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357)

        And, Jah-Wren probably deserves "insightful" mods.

        Mankind still has little understanding of the magnetosphere, the Van Allens, and the ionosphere. Those nuclear blasts MAY HAVE started something. Just because we didn't change anything in any measurable way, doesn't mean that other changes, like global warming, aren't due to that tampering.

        Of course, I'm something of a global warming skepticist - so I'm not exactly arguing that is the case. I'm just pointing out that man should tread more carefully than h

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's kinda stupid to blow things up just because you can.

          Note to the ladies out there: penises are an exception to this rule.

        • I'm just pointing out that man should tread more carefully than he has in the past. It's kinda stupid to blow things up just because you can.

          Thank god for the upcoming, new, younger, more educated generation of young gamers, for whom this will no longer be a temptation.

        • by NotBorg (829820)

          It's kinda stupid to blow things up just because you can.

          As a US citizen and it being the day after the 4th of July (a holiday well known for exploits in the "blow things up" category), I'm having trouble seeing your point. :D

    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:22AM (#32799716) Homepage

      But if anything ever needed the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag, this was it.

      Wow, cool! Let's nuke it and see what happens!

      The mind boggles.

      Oddly, mine doesn't.

      Right now, *today*, there are thousands of politicians and millions of people who would tell you that global warming can't be man made because, like, the world is big and stuff, and so there's no way we could possibly damage it. Why would you expect people back in the dawning days of the nuclear age to think any differently?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:44AM (#32799948)

        > Why would you expect people back in the dawning days of the nuclear age to think any differently?

        They weren't born with as much brain-damage from excessive radiation exposure.

      • by Jawnn (445279)
        More "Insightful" for parent, please...
        I was going to go there, but I probably already rant too much about global warming and the slack-jawed dim-wittedness of the deniers. Thank you, Abcd1234, for stepping up to the plate.
    • Do we know of any long term consequences of these ill-advised tests?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That was back in the 50s and 60s though, a great time in some ways, if only for the freewheeling attitude to science. The dangers of nuclear weapons weren't really understood that well, they had plans for nuclear cars, nuclear planes, nuclear every damn thing, you could buy a chemistry set without being flagged as a terrorist, dinners in a pill and jetpacks were just around the corner. It was slicked back hair and giant cars, the time of Fats Domino, Elvis, and Buddy Holly.
  • by Cylix (55374) * on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:38AM (#32799276) Homepage Journal

    At least it will be a very pretty ending when the nuclear war begins.

    These images look very similar to what I had seen last night. The colors bouncing off of the clouds lit up the sky quite well. In fact, if no one replies in the next few minutes I can probably assume that was the end of humanity.

    In the end I suppose it's time to do what I always wanted to do. You know, the things we won't do because of societies "rules." However, now that society no longer exists I can finally bathe myself in chocolate sauce, whip cream, nuts and ride my bike around town screaming who has a banana!

    Even being the end of the world it's shaping up to be a great day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bennomatic (691188)

      I can finally bathe myself in chocolate sauce, whip cream, nuts and ride my bike around town screaming who has a banana!

      Someone [images-amazon.com] beat you to it.

  • Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jvillain (546827) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:39AM (#32799294)

    It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb. While their history is of irresponsibly setting them off like fire crackers on the 4th. How many atolls no longer exist? How many places on earth are radioactive? Yet we are all supposed to believe that they are the sole responsible country on the earth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

      It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb

      I believe there's an international treaty where you cannot nuclear attack a nation having an nuclear arsenaln, even if it's just "one nuke".

      This fact allows the US to nuke, say Irak, until they have developed their own nuclear weapons. That's why these nations are developing their own weapons, not to "nuke the Western world" but to get themselves safe.

      • by maeka (518272)

        I believe there's an international treaty where you cannot nuclear attack a nation having an nuclear arsenaln, even if it's just "one nuke".

        This fact allows the US to nuke, say Irak, until they have developed their own nuclear weapons. That's why these nations are developing their own weapons, not to "nuke the Western world" but to get themselves safe.

        Peter, hold on to that thought, because I'm gonna explain to you when we get home all the things that are wrong with that statement.

      • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:00AM (#32799490) Homepage Journal

        You probably have citations for your claims. May I look at some?

        I always thought that the western world didn't want Iran to have nukes because their president and their ayatollahs frequently pass judgement on Israel, saying that they should be bombed out of existence. I could be wrong. Maybe all those speeches are just so much propaganda, and I've been drinking to much Kool-Aid. Ayatollah Kookoomaniac and President Abinutter have really been searching for a way to play kissy-huggy with the Jews, right?

        • The West doesn't want Iran to have nukes because what the west wants isn't important to Iran. We'd be much more comfortable with the idea if we had the illusion of control, or even a measure of influence. We don't

          Since the US doesn't have the political will to wage war on Iran, I guess we're going to have to find a way to accept them getting Nukes.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Gordonjcp (186804)

          I always thought that the western world didn't want Iran to have nukes because their president and their ayatollahs frequently pass judgement on Israel, saying that they should be bombed out of existence.

          Part of the reason for that is because the war criminal Ariel Sharon decreed that the Palestinians were "not human" and should be "exterminated". You may not be able to look this up online if you live in the US, because of your country's censorship filters.

          Let's get this straight - the previous (and fortu

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dbIII (701233)
          Hate of Israel and the USA is a good "we've always been at war with Oceania" rallying point for hardline Iranians that want to get as much power as popular support can get them while the real power lies with the theocrats. We shouldn't read much more into it or even assume most of the population think that way.
          An atomic bomb would more likely be used in the situation of "nice Island you've got there Bahrain, be a pity if something happened to it - we'd like to help but we're just a bit short of cash".
          It's
      • by compro01 (777531) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:08AM (#32799562)

        No such treaty and you have it backwards. There are statements by various countries (US included, also China) that they won't use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.

        "The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Non Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations"

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, when something happens. You know who has the nukes, no matter what treaty you sign up for.
          It's interesting how many people come out to defent the second ammendment and their right to bear arms, but they don't think it's right for other governments to have the same defense mechanisms in the event of a country who wanted to take advantage of their nuclear power. I'm not saying it's going to happen soon, or that everyone should be allowed, but it scares me not being part of the bunch with the nuclear ars

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lordlod (458156)

          That very recent United States policy is very pretty, but it only holds true until they change their mind. If someone invaded the continental United States, destroyed critical infrastructure and occupied US lands it would change very very quickly.

          The simple fact is that there has never been a war between two nuclear states. There has never been an invasion of a nuclear state.

          If your country was being routinely threatened with invasion and bombing why wouldn't you try and build a nuclear deterrence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In other words: "We made some horrible choices getting where we are now. For the sake of humanity, do not make the same mistakes we did!"

    • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by whatajoke (1625715) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:01AM (#32799500)
      Manifest destiny [wikipedia.org] is probably to blame here. Until americans do not get rid of their self-righteous crusadic attitude, it is difficult that they will realize how other countries see them.
      Other countries make horrible mistakes too, like war. But members of public against these mistakes are not condemned as unpatriotic, or anti-national. Just look at how the movie Green Zone was branded unamerican. I don't know how americans starring in the movie must have felt about that insult. I would have been furious enough to rip somebody's head off on being called anti-naional.
      • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:20AM (#32799692) Homepage Journal

        I prefer this version of the very same thing:

        This famous poem, written by Britain's imperial poet, was a response to the American take over of the Phillipines after the Spanish-American War.

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                Send forth the best ye breed--
                Go bind your sons to exile
                To serve your captives' need;
                To wait in heavy harness,
                On fluttered folk and wild--
                Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
                Half-devil and half-child.

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                In patience to abide,
                To veil the threat of terror
                And check the show of pride;
                By open speech and simple,
                An hundred times made plain
                To seek another's profit,
                And work another's gain.

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                The savage wars of peace--
                Fill full the mouth of Famine
                And bid the sickness cease;
                And when your goal is nearest
                The end for others sought,
                Watch sloth and heathen Folly
                Bring all your hopes to nought.

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                No tawdry rule of kings,
                But toil of serf and sweeper--
                The tale of common things.
                The ports ye shall not enter,
                The roads ye shall not tread,
                Go mark them with your living,
                And mark them with your dead.

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                And reap his old reward:
                The blame of those ye better,
                The hate of those ye guard--
                The cry of hosts ye humour
                (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
                "Why brought he us from bondage,
                Our loved Egyptian night?"

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                Ye dare not stoop to less--
                Nor call too loud on Freedom
                To cloke your weariness;
                By all ye cry or whisper,
                By all ye leave or do,
                The silent, sullen peoples
                Shall weigh your gods and you.

                Take up the White Man's burden--
                Have done with childish days--
                The lightly proferred laurel,
                The easy, ungrudged praise.
                Comes now, to search your manhood
                Through all the thankless years
                Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
                The judgment of your peers!

      • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pentium100 (1240090) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:56AM (#32800050)

        Maybe it has something to do with the fact that nobody has invaded the USA recently enough for currently alive people to remember it.

        Maybe if more people knew what it's like to lie down in some ditch and hear bullets flying over it, be forced out of home because it currently is too near the front line or even worse, having your house (and everything you own) destroyed by a bomb (or the retreating army lighting it on fire so it could not be used by the enemy) with or without your loved ones in it, they would not talk about war as if it was a good thing.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Yet we are all supposed to believe that they are the sole responsible country on the earth.

      Meh, it's no different than pollution. Back in the day, the now-first-world nations were polluting like there was no tomorrow. Today, we expect the developing world to behave better. But is that hypocrisy? IMHO, no.

      Why? Because back in those days, we *didn't know what the fuck we were doing*. No, seriously. People thought radiation was *good* for you, ffs. Hell, we had chemists like the Curie's exposing themse

    • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... ro.net minus bsd> on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:37AM (#32799864) Homepage Journal

      Something completely missing from this article is nothing about the history of the high altitude tests [wikipedia.org] and some of the significant concerns raised about those tests.

      Perhaps more significant is the rapidity with which the Partial Test Ban Treaty [wikipedia.org] was negotiated, approved, and ratified when the full impact of these tests were finally realized. It is important to note that both the USA and the Soviet Union were involved with these tests, and it wasn't just a one-sided thing. The largest problem is that continued testing of nuclear weapons would have essentially ended manned spaceflight for awhile until the radioactive materials would dissipate from the upper atmosphere... potentially taking as long as a hundred years or more if it was really pushed.

      BTW, if you are complaining about islands, atolls, and other underground and surface tests, nearly every nation who has detonated a nuclear bomb has been involved with this sort of contamination including "enlightened" countries like England and France. Opposition to other countries getting nuclear weapons isn't restricted to the USA either, but America is painted as the bad guy usually. Most countries who can afford nuclear weapons [wikipedia.org], such as China, India, and Pakistan, already have them. Countries like Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, and Belarus even gave up nuclear weapons that they had at one point. South Africa even had nuclear weapons technology at one point. The number of countries with nuclear weapons or at least the capabilities of having them is quite a few. Some countries like Japan certainly have the wealth and the technology base to build them, but don't for very deliberate political reasons (not that I blame them for that attitude either).

      • Japan (Score:3, Funny)

        Some countries like Japan certainly have the wealth and the technology base to build them, but don't for very deliberate political reasons

        Gojira!!

    • US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb.

      Nuclear weapons are like iPhones. If everyone has one, it loses its cool factor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285)
      Much of the power of US comes from the fact that it is vicious, but more or less fair. In the revolutionary war,captured redcoats were often left to travel to the POW camp after promising to lay down arms. In the revolutionary war, the loser confederates were not, overall, made the subject of vengeful attacks, but rather reintegration through reconstruction.

      As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, they certainly solidified the US repetition as vicious. The US is the only country that has used nuclear w

      • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JSBiff (87824) on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:12PM (#32800920) Journal

        "It is true that the US has become particularly more vicious in the past 10 years, mostly due to religious fanatics taking over the US, much as they are taking over in other parts of the world. This is changing to the point where many extreme right conservative think our mix of nuclear weapons will be insufficient to defend against the modern random aggressors."

        Oversimplify much? I'm no particular fan of G.W. Bush, or the war in Iraq. Afghanistan, I think, was unfortunately necessary, but certainly a continuing tragedy. My point is, while Christian conservatives have certainly had an impact on U.S. politics, to say that religious fanatics have taken over the US is a bit of a stretch, don't you think? G.W. Bush might have been an Evangelical, but the wars the U.S. engaged with weren't about trying to enforce a religion on anyone. They were, in the end, basically wars driven by fear, I think. The U.S. was attacked by true religious fanatics in a spectacular way that caused a lot of terror. I think, perhaps, the terrorists didn't forsee the real end-result of that terror. U.S. Foreign policy since 9/11 was, in my opinion, not driven primarily by creed, but simply by fear, by a desire to protect ourselves. I'm not saying that makes it right, but it does make the parent post wrong.

        Yes, yes, I don't think the war in Iraq really had a substantial basis in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. They weren't really linked with Al Qaeda. But, the administration and much of the public (including what you call "religious fanatics") *perceived* a terror threat from Saddam. Even though there were no links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, there was a not entirely irrational or unfounded fear of Saddaam allying with terrorists. He is known to have supported the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who killed Israelis. Although it turned out he didn't have WMD at the time of the invasion, he had certainly been pursuing a nuclear program in the past, and had kicked out U.N. IAEA inspectors for a period of years. He was certainly no friend or lover of the U.S. in particular, or "The West" in general. He *had* used aweful weapons, like Chemical Weapons, against civilian populations (his own people, at that - certainly someone who would use terrible weapons against the civilians under his own rule would not blink an eye at using such weapons against foreign civilian targets, if given opportunity).

        Were there other possibilities for dealing with Saddam instead of invasion - possibly. From what I've read about the history of the invasion, the Bush administration rushed things, jumped the gun. But that doesn't mean there wasn't any non-religious basis for the invasion.

        While I think the war in Iraq may have been a mistake, I think people oversimplify things a lot, whether it's the "No Blood for Oil" crowd, who I think there is substantial evidence to show they are just wrong about presuming Iraq to be a war for oil, or people such as the parent post, who just say that the U.S. has been taken over by religious extremists (the Christian-right in the U.S. is predominantly nowhere near as extreme as the Islamist-extremist [I suppose you can probably find an extremely small number of examples (from my experience, it's not any statistically signifance proportion of U.S. Christian's) of Christian's who are almost as extreme as the Islamic global-jihadists, and in any case, the religious right was far from having complete control over U.S. politics or policy, though they were influential during the Bush years).

        • by Kjella (173770)

          At least one reason it didn't make sense for the religious to attack Saddam - Iraq was probably the least religious country in the area. Saddam was very clear that he was the only source of power in the area and didn't take very well to religious leaders threatening his power. Militant and aggressive yes, but trying to run some global muslim jihad? No. If that was the real threat, Iran was (and probably is) by far the most obvious target. You can take your pick of reasons why they did the Gulf War 2, but th

        • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Informative)

          by mickwd (196449) on Monday July 05, 2010 @04:01PM (#32802650)

          I think, perhaps, the terrorists didn't forsee the real end-result of that terror.

          On the contrary, they foresaw it only too well, and the USA's reaction meant that they had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Having the population of the USA live in a state of fear would be an important goal for them (after all, is this not the very definition of the word "terrorism"?), and in this the subsequent actions of the USA government, and their stoking of the perceived terrorist threat, helped Al Qaeda succeed in this.

          If you recall, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was worldwide sympathy for the USA, and not just from its usual allies. How quickly, and how damagingly (to the USA itself) this goodwill was squandered by what happened in Iraq (and the decision to start a war there in the first place) and the more-extreme excesses of the "war on terror". Portraying the conflict as some sort of religious crusade also played into their hands.

          The Bush administration was played like a fiddle by Al Qaeda.

    • Re:Hypocrasy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:49PM (#32800632)

      It is amazing how the US comes down on on other countries for even thinking of having 1 bomb. While their history is of irresponsibly setting them off like fire crackers on the 4th. How many atolls no longer exist? How many places on earth are radioactive? Yet we are all supposed to believe that they are the sole responsible country on the earth.

      Amazing? Not at all. It's called "self preservation." Funny you should mention firecrackers: they're illegal in many states (which pisses me off, actually: paternalistic politicians trying to "protect the children"), and if you knew more about us, you might understand their cultural and historical relevance. Regardless, you can complain about our history of testing nuclear weapons, but you know, we don't anymore. You also conveniently forgot to mention that Russia has a similar history, and in fact set the record for the largest fusion explosion ever: fifty megatons of TNT equivalent, and that was tuned down from the design yield of one hundred megatons, over concerns about fallout. I believe our biggest detonation was about twenty-five (and at that, it exceeded expectations.)

      Just get one thing through your silly little head: this is NOT A MATTER OF FAIRNESS. It's just not. We aren't discussing trade agreements, or illegal immigration, or any of a hundred other issues that the world faces every day. We're discussing weapon systems that can kill millions of innocent people in a few milliseconds. Do you really want everyone to have them? Is it "fair" that a city should die because you don't like the U.S.?

      Look, the United States and Russia exercised the requisite restraint during the Cold War and after. Yes, that was the desired outcome of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction), but put it this way: MAD worked. No ICBMs were fired, no long-range bombers dropped heavy weapons on Moscow or Washington. So here's the question: do you honestly believe that all countries in the world capable of building atomic weapons would do the same? Do you believe that the leaders of all countries are sufficiently rational to understand the concept of MAD? Yes, we dropped small tactical devices on an enemy twice during World War II, but when you consider the power of modern fusion weapons when compared to Fatman and Littleboy, well, you really need to rethink your position.

      This is a matter of "we have them, Russia has them, China has them, England has them, Israel has them, and a few other countries have them, and that's enough." It less to do with who is the "most responsible", and more to do with the odds of thermonuclear weapons being used increasing the more nations have them. Consequently, we'd like to keep anyone else who doesn't already have them from acquiring them, and the United States is hardly alone in that position. Nobody who has atomic weapons, nobody who has seen what they can do, is at all comfortable with an unstable nation owning them. You can bitch all you want about that, but the fewer nations that have the things the better.

      You're concerning yourself that it's "unfair" that the United States and a few other powerful nations have nuclear weapons and don't want anyone else to have them. Well, you're damn right, it may be unfair, but it's the sanest approach to the issue that we have. And you know what? The first time some two-bit "nuclear power" like Iran, Pakistan or North Korea decides turn a few square miles of someone else's city into a glass lake, you'll be the first to complain that the United States should somehow have prevented those deaths. I just know it.

      Hypocrites.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Jeian (409916)

        There's another aspect to be concerned about when more people get nuclear weapons.

        I am an Air Force missileer. The US nuclear arsenal has an unbelievable amount of safeguards and fail-safes - procedural, physical, and technical. I dislike saying that anything is "impossible", but for anyone unauthorized to get access to one of our nuclear weapons and manage to use it (that includes us) is the closest thing to impossible that I can think of.

        I am not nearly as confident that the rest of the nuclear world has

  • The article listed the questions the experiment was to answer and then concentrated on political, visual and show-business value of the experiment but it didn't answer the questions in the end.

    Could someone...?

    • by mbone (558574) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:19AM (#32799674)

      I will give this a shot. I assume you mean these.

      a) If a bomb's radiation would make it harder to see what was up there (like incoming Russian missiles!); b) If an explosion would do any damage to objects nearby; c) If the Van Allen belts would move a blast down the bands to an earthly target (Moscow! for example); and — most peculiar — d) if a man-made explosion might "alter" the natural shape of the belts.

      a. Yes, especially in the radio.
      b. Yes, in a fairly predictable fashion (from heat, gamma rays).
      c. No
      d. Yes, for a short while, sort of like a solar flare. That can actually cause a "geomagnetically induced current," which could be a problem for long electrical transmission lines.

      However, the real find from the test was the prompt EMP, which was not anticipated. (See my post further down on that one.)

  • Azimov story... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ei4anb (625481) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:47AM (#32799366)
    Isaac Azimov wrote a short sci-fi story about an explorer, who had just come back from visiting the newly contacted planet "Earth", adding humans to the "Register Of Intelligent Life". Some minutes later, after the explorer explained how humans tested atomic bombs "on their own planet" the registrar erased the entry as being unqualified for inclusion under "Intelligent".
    • after the explorer explained how humans tested atomic bombs

      If you judge a planet based on how and by whom its governed, then we are really not as intelligent we might pride ourselves with.

      • by thijsh (910751)
        Intelligence does not exclude stupidity. You can have both in a large amount...
        • That is one of the theories included in the Encyclopedia Galactica. Unfortunately, most of the proponents have managed to extinct themselves. One opposing theory says that if stupidity exceeds x% in any given population, then the population can't truly be called intelligent. Races that believe that theory seem to have spread throughout all of known space, and the known dimensions. The scholar should draw his own conclusions.

      • by Abcd1234 (188840)

        If you judge a planet based on how and by whom its governed, then we are really not as intelligent we might pride ourselves with.

        So you believe that those in governance are *dumber* than average?

        Really?

        No, seriously, really??

        • So you believe that those in governance are *dumber* than average?

          I'm active in politics: Not maybe the median, but not the top 20% either.

        • by thijsh (910751)
          "based on How and whom"... and you read "Earths leaders are idiots"... Really? No, seriously really?

          When a violent tyrant of a leader is actually chosen by the people, the people are pretty fucking dumb... not the leader. And shit like that is no exception, smart but terrible leaders are chosen again and again. There are of course examples of extremely stupid leaders, but it's fairly obvious this sentence is just as well a reference to the stupidity of the masses...
        • by gmuslera (3436)
          If you asked that question in USA like 3 years ago, probably the answer would have been "yes".

          And in modern "democracy", what is chosen is not because how much intelligent is, there are very limited options (at least in USA, remember that Simpsons joke where you have to choose between 2 evil aliens or throw your vote?), and media campaing, not truth (or real candidate intelligence/honestity), is what matters.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Isaac Azimov wrote a short sci-fi story about an explorer, who had just come back from visiting the newly contacted planet "Earth", adding humans to the "Register Of Intelligent Life". Some minutes later, after the explorer explained how humans tested atomic bombs "on their own planet" the registrar erased the entry as being unqualified for inclusion under "Intelligent".

      He didn't cross of humans as "being unqualified for inclusion under intelligent." He crossed off humans under the assumption we would cause ourselves to go extinct, as many other species who had qualified as intelligent, had. Also, the explorer hadn't contacted Earth, he had observed/explored it. Humans had no knowledge of the Explorer or the Register.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by LongearedBat (1665481)
      There's a big difference between intelligence and wisdom.

      I saw a documentary once about a native american who was the last survivor of a little known tribe in the early 1900's. When he saw San Fransisco for the first time, with gas lamps, trams, etc., he said:
      The white man is very clever, but not very wise.

      Was that foresight, or are we modern people really so blinded by our cleverness that we fail to see our lack of wisdom?
  • It began earlier (Score:5, Informative)

    by rumith (983060) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:50AM (#32799384)
    In case anyone got interested, the 1958 test was called Operation Argus [wikipedia.org].
    By the way, despite what TFA says, there are two electron radiation belts, not just two of them at all; there's also a proton one. Wikipedia considers it to be a part of the inner radiation belt, but the accepted terminology says otherwise to the best of my knowledge.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      It's a crying shame that the goddamn Wikipedia Cabal has stopped us peons from correcting inaccurate articles. [citation needed]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324)

        It is a crying shame that you roll over whenever somebody tries to stop you from trying to correct articles like that in the first place. There certainly are a bunch of cyber bullies on Wikipedia, and there is an attempt to be a check on their actions, but it does take some effort and standing up to those bullies in the first place.

        • by evilviper (135110)

          It is a crying shame that you roll over whenever somebody tries to stop you from trying to correct articles like that in the first place.

          Some people have better things to do with their lives...

          There certainly are a bunch of cyber bullies on Wikipedia, and there is an attempt to be a check on their actions, but it does take some effort and standing up to those bullies in the first place.

          There is no practical attempt. Administrator intervention applies only to blatant vandalism, and it's trivial to hide vand

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:53AM (#32799418)

    was to nuke rainbows. A high ranking general was quoted as saying the military applications of rainbows and rainbow based technologies can't be ignored.

    • by game kid (805301)

      The general, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was classified, added that such "[expletive deleted] rainbows" were "pure [expletive deleted] magic" and would "blow [our] brain" if further analyzed.

      JCS Chairman Mullen refused to comment on the general's statements.

  • (puppy eyes)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, it's not like there's law against it.

      We finally have a Supreme Court that takes the Second Amendment seriously, and there is nothing there in the Constitution that would allow the Government to limit your capacity to defend yourself and your family against your neighbors and tyrants.

      In fact, the Second Amendment's intent can only be fulfilled if every family owned a nuclear weapon. Only then will the Government think twice before using the eminent domain and tax-and-spend laws to confiscate your Priva

  • on Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea [amazon.com]
    "The Van Allen Belt Is On Fire!"
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:59AM (#32799474)

    ... but the more I read about what some of these scientists got up to the more I begin to wonder if some of them weren't borderline insane or at least so totally absorbed in the narrow science they were persuing that they didn't think about or didn't care about the potential consequences if things went wrong.

  • I wonder... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sootman (158191) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:59AM (#32799480) Homepage Journal

    ... if this plan involved any of the same people who wanted to set off a nuclear bomb on the moon. [guardian.co.uk]

    • Compared to much of the rest of the stuff that we filed under "keeping the Reds in line" nuking the moon would be downright humanitarian...
    • by radtea (464814)

      the same people who wanted to set off a nuclear bomb on the moon

      I think they got the date on that story rong: it says May 14 but should be April 1.

      Seriously, a "scientist" talking about "the dark side of the moon"? Which side would that be? And a few kilotonne nuke leaving a crater that would "ruin the man in the moon" appearance?

      This looks like a combination of an elderly scientist suffering from senile dementia and a journalist being a sensationalist ignorant hack, although I guess describing a journalist that way is kind of redundant.

      • by Trails (629752)

        The dark side of the Moon refers to either the face not currently illuminated by the sun (hence, dark) or the side which is never exposed to the Earth (the moon's rotation about it's own axis, as well as its rotation about the Earth is such that we only ever see one hemisphere).

        Not sure what you're complaining, it's a perfectly accepted (if somewhat ambiguous) term. The pink floyd album in fact refers to the latter

        As to altering the man in the moon, it's clear that, at least at one point, Cobra Commander w

        • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          or the side which is never exposed to the Earth

          No, the correct term for that is "the far side of the moon".

          "Dark side of the moon" is commonly, but incorrectly, used to refer to the dark side of the moon. A scientist using this phrase instead of the correct phrase certainly sets off alarms.

    • The proletariat plays "Will It Blend?" The governing class plays "Will It Nuke?"
  • EMP (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:12AM (#32799610)

    This test series (specifically, Starfish Prime [wikipedia.org]) uncovered the electromagnetic pulse (EMP [globalsecurity.org]) effect, an unexpected side effect of nuclear explosions at altitude. The gamma rays from a high altitude burst hit atoms and thus eject electrons high in the atmosphere over a wide area, more or less simultaneously, and the current from the ejected electrons can cause a very wide-spread electromagnetic pulse, which can knock out power lines and electronics at great distances (> 1000 km).

    So, I guess we can call Allen the father of the EMP, although I am not sure he would have wanted the honor.

  • by psychogre (1475893) on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:05PM (#32800834)

    Those radiation belts are composed of trapped electron and proton particles, bouncing back and forth along those magnetic field lines. There are several numerical models that predict what the population of these particles based on their location, and general behavior under different conditions (solar cycle variations, solar flares, etc).
    Anyone building a satellite will use those models to determine what levels of radiation levels the satellite will encounter along its orbit, and add on the appropriate level of shielding to protect the electronics.
    A nuclear bomb will never be able to alter the shape of the belts. All it will do is add a spectacular amount of electron and proton particles to the radiation belt, potentially frying the electronics of most of the low to medium orbit satellite (geosynchronous ones will probably be ok). Depending on the size of the bomb, the radiation belt may take weeks or even months to return to a 'natural' state.
    There are some experiments in the works to 'tweak' the radiation belts by beaming low frequency EM waves, to change the energy of the existing particle populations. In theory, that will enable some of the particles to become 'untrapped', thereby reducing the overall population.

  • It is sometimes baffling that after the past half century of America being a nuclear power, we are actually still here.

"Consequences, Schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich." -- "Ali Baba Bunny" [1957, Chuck Jones]

Working...