2053: Every Nuclear Explosion. Ever. (VIDEO)
2053 Nuclear Devices Have Detonated on Planet Earth
Astonishing, isn’t it? Beginning in July of 1945, with the considerable assistance of Britain and Canada, the United States detonated a 19-kiloton fission bomb near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Directly following, near the end of World War II, were the infamous detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
2050 later, #2 and #3 remain the only detonations used in directed belligerence; the remainder were weapons tests, engineering experiments, or other scientific exploration. But mostly weapons tests.*
1945 - 1998
Using simple numbers to bypass any language barrier, Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto created 1945-1998 to educate any viewer anywhere in the world about the grave danger of nuclear weapons proliferation. Although the video’s been online nearly 4 years, it’s once again seeing popular circulation. And rightly so.
Last week, 34 American nuclear weapons ordnance officers in the state of Montana were suspended for alleged cheating on monthly proficiency tests. The U.S. Air Force claims this did not and will not compromise the weapons or safety, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. And Japan, of all nations, is facing criticism over plans to export its nuclear energy technology, particularly in trade accords with Turkey. As mentioned in Friday’s JTFF, the Turkish deal would allow for using the Japanese technology to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, and that can lead to the production of weapons-grade materials. This probably runs afoul of both post-war treaties with the United States and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, to which Japan is signed, ratified member.
As such, unfortunately, Hashimoto’s video does have a pressing contemporary context.
The simple graphics, blips, and beeps in Hashimoto’s video are in no way irreverent. Rather, they impart a sort of cold, unfeeling tabulation - a machine’s account of our tech-enabled species’ feverish pursuit toward increasingly horrific means of annihilating life on this planet.
Starting in July of 1945, the video counts one second as one month, and of course, things do speed up (set YouTube to 2x speed if you’ve got 7 minutes and not 14). While we see the number of detonations rise from 0 to 2053, we also see the number of capable actors advance from 0 to 7; eventually, the cold blips - the detonations - reach a frightening frequency and global distribution. It's one thing to read the number "2053," it's entirely another to see it played out across continents and oceans.
Theoretical physicist and Manhattan Project scientific leader J. Robert Oppenheimer, after witnessing and reflecting upon detonation #1, famously remarked that it brought to his mind a passage from the Bhagavad Gita:
“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
As you watch Hashimoto’s video, realize that human beings currently possess some 4500 immediately deployable atomic and thermonuclear weapons, many of which are hundreds, even thousands of times more powerful than those used in 1945.
What do you think - does the artist make his point?
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*Numbers here exclude North Korea’s claimed successful tests.
More on Hashimoto’s work from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization