World War 2
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Atomic Bombs

What are the effects of atomic bombing?

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05/04/2008

The energy released from a nuclear weapon detonated in the troposphere can be divided into four basic categories: * Blast-40-50% of total energy * Thermal radiation-30-50% of total energy * Ionizing radiation-5% of total energy * Residual radiation-5-10% of total energy However, depending on the design of the weapon and the environment in which it is detonated the energy distributed to these categories can be increased or decreased to the point of nullification. The blast effect is created by immense amounts of energy, spanning the electromagnetic spectrum, with the surroundings. Locations such as submarine, surface, airburst, or exo-atmospheric determine how much energy is produced as blast and how much as radiation. In general, denser mediums around the bomb, like water, absorb more energy, and create more powerful shockwaves while at the same time limiting the area of its effect. The dominant effects of a nuclear weapon where people are likely to be affected (blast and thermal radiation) are identical physical damage mechanisms to conventional explosives. However the energy produced by a nuclear explosive is millions of times more powerful per gram and the temperatures reached are briefly in the tens of millions of degrees. Energy from a nuclear explosive is initially released in several forms of penetrating radiation. When there is a surrounding material such as air, rock, or water, this radiation interacts with and rapidly heats it to an equilibrium temperature. This causes vaporization of surrounding material resulting in its rapid expansion. Kinetic energy created by this expansion contributes to the formation of a shockwave. When a nuclear detonation occurs in air near sea level, much of the released energy interacts with the atmosphere and creates a shockwave which expands spherically from the hypocenter. Intense thermal radiation at the hypocenter forms a fireball and if the burst is low enough, its often associated mushroom cloud. In a burst at high altitudes, where the air density is low, more energy is released as ionizing gamma radiation and x-rays than an atmosphere displacing shockwave. In 1945 there was some initial speculation among the scientists developing the first nuclear weapons that there might be a possibility of igniting the Earth's atmosphere with a large enough nuclear explosion. This would concern a nuclear reaction of two nitrogen atoms forming a carbon and an oxygen atom, with release of energy. This energy would heat up the remaining nitrogen enough to keep the reaction going until all nitrogen atoms were consumed. This was, however, quickly shown to be unlikely enough to be considered impossible [2]. Nevertheless, the notion has persisted as a rumour for many years.