For those of us that came of age during the 1980s and after, the threat of nuclear oblivion has never seemed to be a real threat. The dangers of AIDS, economic failure, terrorism have loomed large in the lives of Generation X, Y and the Millennials, but very few of us ever had to hide under our desks during a bomb drill or watch Dad obsess over the backyard underground bunker.
In 2003, Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto created a time-lapse video map of every nuclear bomb explosion in the world between 1945 and 1998. There were 2053 explosions in that time, including the tests that the United States made during the “Manhattan Project” and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ostensibly ended World War II. The 14-minute long video (below) is a beautiful and terrifying look at the nuclear era that defined world politics, warfare and humanity for more than half a century.
Hashimoto is a curator at the Lalique Museum in Hakone, Japan. The video was created in 2003 as a series expressing Hashimoto’s view of, “the fear and the folly of nuclear weapons.” The video represents nuclear tests with a colored dot and a beep on a map. It starts slow in 1945, showing a world view of a couple flashes in the southwestern United States before zooming in on the two bombs dropped in Japan. The video then pans out and continues for the duration from a birds-eye view of the world. The climax comes between 1955 and 1970 as the Soviet Union joined the U.S. as a nuclear power and England, France, India and Pakistan eventually joined the arms race.
The U.S. had the most nuclear tests, by a large margin, with most occurring in the southwest. The Soviet Union performed most of its tests in and around what is now Kazakhstan and the Lake Balqash region with many also coming in northern Siberia and Nordic border with Finland. When the British entered the nuclear race, their first tests were in the desolate regions of west Australia. The French were several years behind but made up for coming late by being very active with nuclear tests in the South Pacific, the most vast and uninhabited region on Earth. India and Pakistan tested nuclear bombs mostly in the northern section of the Indian subcontinent. China tested many of its nuclear weapons at Lop Nur in the northwestern part of the country.
Hashimoto’s data is based on research from the Swedish Defense Research Establishment and Stockholm International Peace Institute. It does not include two supposed nuclear tests by North Korea in 1998 that may or may not have actually happened. Pakistan was the last to test nuclear bombs in 1998.
“This piece of work is a bird’s eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second. No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier. The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world,” said Hashimoto according to the website CTBTO, a commission formed to ban the testing of nuclear weapons.
The gruesome tally: the U.S. tested 1032 nuclear weapons, U.S.S.R 715, France 210, Britain 45, China 45, India 4 and Pakistan 2.
See Hashimoto’s video “1945–1998″ below.
Wouldn’t it be great if MTV documented and showcased emerging bands on its television network, instead of making uninspired, irritating reality TV shows? Well if MTV won’t do that, then a new web site that launched this month will. Noisey is a video-based “new music discovery platform” that is profiling new bands and local music scenes from around the world. The site was built using HTML5 and as a result it delivers a visually appealing app-like experience. This could be the future of music TV. I for one hope so, at least.
Noisey, currently in public beta, features mini documentaries of bands alongside videos of live music. I tested Noisey out by viewing the coverage of a young band I discovered via this year’s SXSW Music festival.
I first discovered the band Yuck via NPR Music’s coverage of SXSW. Yuck is based in London, but is itself a global showcase – members come from London, New Jersey and Hiroshima. They’re a 4-piece who play a melodic and youthful blend of alt rock.
Noisey offers up a 5-part series on Yuck, starting with an introductory mini-documentary. The other 4 parts are mostly live songs, interspersed with commentary from the band and fans.
The interface has links to Yuck’s social media presence – the band is active on both Twitter and Facebook. Yuck also has a blog, which features songs via SoundCloud, videos via YouTube, tour date details, and more.
There’s a lot to like about Noisey. Discovering new music via an Internet version of a music TV network is compelling enough. It’s also truly global, by allowing users to peek inside the music scenes of countries all over the world. Yuck is from England. I also checked out Criolo, an underground hip-hop group from Sao Paulo in Brazil. “This is rap for real,” says a fan on the streets of Sao Paulo in the introductory video, “favela, slums, public housing.” Word.
Noisey is curated by music magazine VICE. It also boasts technical support from Dell and Intel.
If you want to know what a future MTV will look like, it will likely bear a lot of similarity to Noisey. Check it out!
Will we ever get a solid answer on what killed the dinosaurs? According to a new “K-T Boundary Dream Team” comprising of 41 international experts, including geophysicists and paleontologists, yes, the question has been settled: An asteroid is indeed to blame.
For years, scientists have argued over different theories of what killed the dinos–including one hypothesis that has gained ground recently, which suggests that massive volcanic activity in India’s Deccan Traps wiped them out 65 million years ago. However, the latest expert panel stuck to the asteroid theory, saying a massive impact wiped out the dinos and more than half of the Earth’s other species. The panel’s review was published in the journal Science.
After studying all the available data on the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) mass extinction, the panel concluded that the catastrophic event was caused by a 6-mile-wide asteroid that struck Earth at an angle of 90 degrees and a speed of about 12.4 miles per second – about 20 times faster than a speeding bullet [Guardian]. The asteroid hit Chicxulub, Mexico, with a force one billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima [Science Daily News].
The impact of the crash would have triggered large scale fires, landslides, earthquakes that measured 10 on the Richter scale, and subsequent tsunamis, scientists said. Debris loosened by the impact would have shrouded the planet, clouding the skies, causing a global darkness, and “killing off many species that couldn’t adapt to this hellish environment” [Science Daily News], according to study coauthor Joanna Morgan.
The scientists noted that the asteroid put an end to dinosaurs, the bird-like pterosaurs, and large marine reptiles, but it also marked a new beginning. Said study coauthor Gareth Collins: “Ironically, while this hellish day signalled the end of the 160 million year reign of the dinosaurs, it turned out to be a great day for mammals, who had lived in the shadow of the dinosaurs prior to this event. The KT extinction was a pivotal moment in Earth’s history, which ultimately paved the way for humans to become the dominant species on Earth” [Science Daily News].
The asteroid theory is far from new. The idea was first proposed by the father-son duo of Luis and Walter Alvarez three decades ago, when they found high levels of iridium in geological samples around the world. The element iridium is rare in the Earth’s crust but is common in asteroids, and can be found at asteroid impact sites. The current panel analyzed soil samples to find that immediately after the iridium layer, there is a dramatic decline in fossil abundance and species, indicating that the KT extinction followed very soon after the asteroid hit [Science Daily News].
The team also based their conclusions on “shocked” quartz. Quartz is shocked when it is hit very quickly by a huge force; shocked quartz is found only at asteroid impact locations and nuclear explosion sites. The abundance of shocked quartz in the rock layers associated with the KT boundary add further weight to the asteroid impact theory, the team declared.
Study coauthor Kirk Johnson says the team discarded the theory that large-scale volcanism made the dinosaurs extinct because the eruptions at the Deccan traps site started at least 400,000 years before the Chicxulub impact with no effect on life. The team traces the extinctions to within plus-or-minus 10,000 years of the impact 65.5 million years ago. “So we are back to where we started with the Alvarez hypothesis, a single, large, (6-mile-wide) impact,” Johnson says [USA Today].
Take a look at seven amazing videos of nuclear (and thermonuclear) bomb tests and their aftermath, plus a sobering look at Hiroshima one year after.
Are CT scans putting thousands of people in unnecessary jeopardy for cancers and death? That was the suggestion by two new studies out this week, leaving radiologists scrambling to explain the true level of danger to worried patients.
A CT scan, also known as computed tomography, gives doctors a view inside the body, often eliminating the need for exploratory surgery. But CT scans involve a much higher radiation dose than conventional X-rays. A chest CT scan exposes the patient to more than 100 times the radiation dose of a typical chest X-ray [Reuters]. However, a study out of the University of California, San Francisco says, we might not have as good a handle on CT radiation as we thought. The researchers found that radiation differed greatly between machines, and some emitted 13 times more than others.
A separate study, published in the same journal—the Archives of Internal Medicine—cited those radiation levels and the fact that CT scans have grown tremendously (from 3 million in 1980 to 70 million in 2007) to try to quantify the danger. Excluding scans performed after a cancer diagnosis and within the last five years of life, they calculated that the scans would contribute to about 29,000 cancers in the next 20 to 30 years [Chicago Sun-Times]. They also estimate that half that number could die.
Some radiologists questioned this methodology. The estimates of cancer cases caused by CT scans were based on the rates of cancer that occurred in people exposed to radiation from the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two. But many experts disagree on whether that model offers a fair comparison [Reuters]. The American College of Radiology said that wasn’t necessarily a fair standard because CT-scan patients expose only a small portion of their bodies exposed to radiation. And, the organization of 34,000 radiologists argues, CT scanners today produce lower doses of radiation than those two or three years ago.
Because CT can save lives by catching diseases, and because an individual’s chance of getting cancer from any one scan are quite low, the question at hand becomes when it’s worthwhile to do the scan. “Nobody knows how many CTs are too many, but I would estimate about 20 to 30 percent of the scans are not necessary,” said Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a radiology professor at UCSF and lead investigator of the study [San Francisco Chronicle]. And then there’s the other elephant in the room: money. Those scans are pricey and can bring in big money to doctors practices, hospitals and imaging centers. At a time when the nation is trying to rein in health care costs, could more prudent use of CT scans help [Baltimore Sun]?
Just about everybody in this scientist smackdown agrees on one thing, though: If you’re getting a CT scan, talk to your doctor about why he or she thinks it’s necessary.
Image: Wikimedia Commons / NithinRao