An Australian coding outfit, Carlos Labs, has come up with a tool that lets you input a location to see a what would happen in the event of a thermonuclear attack centered there. You can pick from among seven different weapons–and if you’re feeling really nihilistic, you can even call in an asteroid strike.
Below is a representation of what might occur if Boston, a city with an extended metropolitan area that includes myself and close to seven million other people, were hit with the force of the 50-Megaton “Tsar Bomba” hydrogen bomb that was detonated off the northern Soviet coast in 1961 to create the largest explosion ever recorded.
This device would be detonated at a height of two and a half miles. The resulting mushroom cloud would rise forty miles into the sky and over a dozen miles radially. A 5.25-Richter magnitude seismic shock would be detectable after three passages around the earth. People up to 60 miles away would suffer third-degree burns; some windows would shatter at a distance of many hundreds of miles from ground zero.
The innermost “purple” zone represents the area in which most buildings would be destroyed and virtually everyone killed within 24 hours. The next band would be filled with fire, and exterior regions would incur major blast damage. Note that none of this takes into account the subsequent effects of nuclear radioactive fallout.
If the Boston attack pinpointed, say, Government Center on State Street, the city proper and the immediate suburbs would be eradicated: Logan Airport, Harvard University, MIT, Boston University, Fenway Park, Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, Mass General and Brigham & Women’s hospitals–gone in an almost supernatural flash of subatomic energy release.
Direct blast damage would be inscribed, with eerie precision, within the I-495 beltway, so little would be left of the point-to-point Boston Marathon course (which starts in Hopkinton). Not that many humans would be left to evacuated, but the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), the Southeast Expressway (I-93) and I-95 would all be unserviceable–probably more so than surface streets, because over overpass and underpass bridge destruction. The North Shore as far away as the artsy haven of Rockport would fall. To the south, Quincy, the corporate home of Dunkin’ Donuts, would burn, as would Lynn to the north (although it’s quite possible no one there would notice).
To the west, Worcester (population 150,000; home of angry comics Denis Leary and Doug Stanhope) would probably fare poorly. The Quabbin Reservoir, from which Boston gets its water, might not be directly damaged, but this is clearly a moot point.
That such an event would be catastrophic (and, since it would no doubt be part of a global war, spell the end of civilization) is unquestioned, but it is nonetheless sobering to consider the particulars.