Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tsar Bomba

The Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear ambitions have been much in the news lately, and this has reminded Melancholicus of yet another anniversary.

Forty-six years ago on this day, 30th October 1961, there occurred the biggest man-made explosion in history. This was a thermonuclear device tested by the Soviets, and by them nicknamed Big Ivan; in the west it became known as Tsar Bomba.

Tsar Bomba was designed to yield 100 megatons, making it—arguably—the most powerful weapon ever constructed. However, the device tested on this day in 1961 was a scaled-down version intended to yield only half that amount, as the Soviets were afraid of the perils of detonating such an unimaginably powerful bomb even in the remotest corner of their vast territory.

There has been much quibble over the precise output yielded by the Tsar Bomba explosion. The official yield provided by the Russians was, and remains, 50 megatons. The U.S. estimated the explosion to have been as powerful as 57 megatons. Melancholicus has seen other figures quoted passim in various sources, all ranging between 50 and 58 megatons. In any case, it makes no difference.

Enjoy the video.

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