About two weeks ago, we looked at the first few milliseconds of nuclear explosions, as caught by a special camera that was specially designed by genius engineer Harold Edgerton. Richard Miller, author of Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing, contacted me with another startling picture — an amazing look at a glass-windowed building just after the initiation of the explosion, but just before the explosion destroys the building. Take a look at the strange effect that precedes the actual blast.


Nuclear bombs, in Nevada, were detonated on top of towers that reached hundreds of feet up into the air and weighed hundreds of tons, topped with houses covered with glass windows. The little houses were called shot cabs. They were obliterated by the blast, but before that happened, scientists took as many pictures as they could of exactly what happened to them. Although the camera helped them picture the various stages of an explosion, one quirk of the explosions made those glass houses a hindrance to photography. Over on the left you can see the house. Although the camera functions and the glass was clear, the entire picture looks blurred. Why?

Apparently, before the full blast of the bomb, neutrons and gamma radiation hit the windows. The sodium reactions to "frost" the entire glass, making it opaque. Occasionally, elements in the air react the same way, which accounts for the blurred spots in front of the building. What we're seeing is the first effects of the bomb, and last few milliseconds before the actual destruction hits.


Thanks so much to Richard Miller for the photo and the explanation of what's happening in it. Check out Richard's books, Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing and his science fiction novel, The Atomic Express!


Top Image: DOE

Share This Story

Get our newsletter