How to Blow Up Kentucky – 3D Simulations of Nuclear Bombs in NUKEMAP

What would a nuclear bomb do to your city?
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

Calling NUKEMAP a game is perhaps erroneous. What it is a Google Map mashup, which allows you to simulate the destructive force of a nuclear bomb on different locations on a version of Google Earth. The graphics aren’t mind bending, the mushroom clouds are manipulated regular clouds, and you don’t get to see the destruction when you zoom into Google Street View. 

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These facts are not detrimental to the point of the game. 

Alex Wellerstein, the creator of the simulation, discusses in the FAQ section:

“…We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do.” 

Inside the simulation, you can drop multiple bombs on multiple locations. You can choose historical sites where bombs were dropped. There’s a section where you can control the explosive yield of the bomb, or just pick a bomb that already existed. Want to see how destructive the “Ivy King,” the largest pure fission bomb tested by the US, would be if dropped on a small town in Kentucky? You can. Want to compare the kilton yield of a USSR bomb to one tested in North Korea in 2006? Have you never had Cold War level nuclear panic before? Try out NUKEMAP, you’ll get there. 

After picking the detonation style you would most like, you can choose a good viewing location and have the simulation estimate casualties and plot the fallout based on wind speed and direction. It’s truly awe inspiring to watch an explosion take out Chicago and then lay waste to the entire Eastern seaboard. Awe-inspiring and incredibly discomforting. 

See, regular fall-out models look like this: 

 

Being able to zoom into Google Street View (which is so ubiquitous) and see the area that you just detonated, peaceful and idyllic, is what brings this simulation to life. 

NUKEMAP 3D has been hugged too hard by the internet, so it’s been going in and out, but if you get a chance to tool around with it, it’s definitely an eye opening experience. Check out the FAQ here, and it includes links to the simulation once it gets back up and running. 


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Amanda Wallace
Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.