These websites let users calculate the damage from a nuclear missile

nukemap missilemap nuclear weapons cuban missile crisis dc
As if we weren’t all on edge enough following the accidental release of an imminent ballistic missile warning in Hawaii (thankfully a false alarm), a historian who studies science and nuclear weapons created two applications that are outright scary.

The first, Missilemap, lets users precisely calculate the range, accuracy and warhead size of a nuclear weapon, launched from anywhere in the world, and with a target anywhere in the world. Missilemap was designed to make it easy to see the relationship between missile range, accuracy, and warhead size to help people understand the power of nuclear warheads and long-range missiles.

In real-time use, Missilemap creates a graphical representation of ranges, targeting paths, accuracy, blast damage, and probabilities of death. In simple terms, you can theoretically ask if North Korea can hit, say, Honolulu or San Francisco, with their latest missile.

Its companion app, Nukemap, lets users pick their target and see how the target zone would be affected by a nuclear blast, including the fireball radius, radiation radius, air blast radius, and thermal radiation radius. Users can also export findings from Missilemap to Nukemap to see how their targets would fare.

For a single example, if we target Honolulu with a 10-kiloton weapon allegedly tested by North Korea in 2013, the app calculates that the fireball would be 500 feet, give victims third-degree burns up to a mile away, and result in nearly 50,000 fatalities and nearly 100,000 injured victims.

Meanwhile, if we target New York City with a “Tsar Bomba,” the largest weapon ever designed by the USSR and carrying a 100-megaton payload, we get a fireball nearly four miles in diameter, burns up to 45 miles away, and 8,012,450 fatalities.

The websites are the brainchildren of Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science and technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Wellerstein, who has devoted his life to the study of nuclear arms and their effects on geopolitics, is on the advisory committee of the Atomic Heritage Foundation as well as the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues. He is also the author of “Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog.”

The sites aren’t meant to be used by professionals who work in the field of nuclear security. Wasserstein notes that the apps use somewhat simplified models for understanding the effects of nuclear weapons. All of the data employed by these sites come from unclassified sources.

As far as the geopolitical implications of the site, Wasserstein takes a position and it’s a clear one. On the Nukemap site, he writes:

“The Nukemap is aimed at helping people visualize nuclear weapons on terms they can make sense of — helping them to get a sense of the scale of the bombs. By allowing people to use arbitrarily picked geographical locations, I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results.”

Movies & TV

Chernobyl: 10 burning questions we still have after watching the HBO miniseries

If you're like us, after watching the HBO miniseries about the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, you still have many burning questions about what really happened. Here are some answers to those the series doesn't cover.
Movies & TV

Prime-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite TV series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Air, Pro, or just a MacBook? Here's our guide to finding the right Apple laptop

Apple's lineup of MacBooks has started to swell, leaving fans a bit confused about which laptop they should buy. Depending on what you're looking for, we'll point you in the right direction.

Russian hackers behind ‘world’s most murderous malware’ probing U.S. power grid

A hacking group linked to the Russian government has attempted to breach the U.S. power grid. Security experts tracked the hackers, and warn that they were probing the grid for weaknesses.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

15-inch laptops come with extra power, but which of these wields it better?

HP's latest "gem-cut" Spectre x360 15 adds powerful components to make it the fastest 2-in-1 we've ever tested. Can it take on the equally fast and incredibly svelte Dell XPS 15?
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.

Make your games sound amazing with one of these sets of awesome gaming speakers

If you want to take your gaming sound to the next level, you need to find the best gaming speakers for your set up. Whether you're on a tight budget, want some fancy RGB lighting, or just need the best speaker set money can buy, these great…

I bought a four-year-old MacBook Pro instead of a new one. Here’s why

The new MacBook Pros have a ton of advantages over the older options, but when it came to buying a replacement machine for myself, I found myself returning to 2015 rather than picking up Apple's latest and greatest.

Why OLED gaming monitors may be further from reality than we thought

Earlier this year, Dell showed us the promise of an exciting new future for gaming monitors with the reveal of the Alienware 55-inch OLED gaming display. We loved it. But according to new reports, it may never see the light of day.

Walmart cuts $300 off Dell Inspiron 5680 gaming desktop for gamers on a budget

If you're stashing money but want an upgradeable rig that will go a long way, then this solid deal on the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop 5680 with Intel Core i5-8400 is for you. It is now available for only $700 at Walmart.

Genius uses 19th-century tech to prove Google copied its song lyrics

Song lyrics website Genius says that it proved that Google has been copying its lyrics and posting them on its own search results page. And Genius says it was able to do it by using a decidedly old-school form communications tech.