Watch This: 5 Men Knowingly, Intentionally Stand Directly Under a Nuclear Explosion

By Sophie Bushwick | July 19, 2012 2:24 pm

On this date in 1957, five Air Force volunteers and one photographer stood next to a sign labeled “Ground Zero. Population: 5” and watched a two-kiloton nuclear bomb explode 18,500 feet over their heads. (The height listed at the beginning of the video is incorrect.) Before the dangers of radiation exposure were fully understood, the government undertook many such tests to determine the effects of atomic weapons. This particular trial was an attempt to prove that exploding nuclear missiles in the atmosphere could be relatively safe. While the men in this video were not greatly affected by the blast—at least three, including the cameraman, lived past age 80—many other people exposed to fallout from nuclear tests developed cancer. Check out the full story behind the video at NPR.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology
  • Matt

    Looks fun.

  • Phil Plait

    Interesting. The direct gamma rays and such would have been absorbed by the air, so that’s not a problem. Fallout – radioactive dust and such – would probably blow sideways, so directly beneath it and/or upwind would be relatively safe. In other words, I wouldn’t expect them to absorb any dangerous, ionizing radiation.

  • deirdrebeth

    Did any of them go blind? It seriously looks like the one with sunglasses never looked away.

  • Brenda

    Why weren’t they harmed by radiation?

  • Christina Macphreson

    “the men in this video were not greatly affected” – you say. But all six of them got cancer. You don’t count that?

  • mjschriver

    “many other people exposed to fallout … developed cancer” needs a linked statement to the effect that the exposed group had significantly more cancer than a non-exposed group to justify its inclusion in the context here.

  • DerekH

    Something to tell the grandchildren…. assuming they had any? 😉

  • floodmouse

    Have you seen the video where they sprayed DDT directly on young children playing in a swimming pool? I believe it was to keep off mosquitoes. I don’t have a link to the video (I think I saw it on cable, not the Internet). It hurts me to see people smiling when they do stuff like that to themselves.

  • Mike D

    I’m so pissed off right now that the explosion wasn’t shown.

  • TedF

    In response to floodmouse: Your ‘hurt’ is entirely misplaced, DDT was and is an excellent insecticide that did not harm humans; fact. It was however too persistant, degraded into even more persistant compounds which got concentrated into food chains, famously into raptor egg shells. The children had good reason to smile, DDT greatly reduced insect borne diseases. Don’t get all emotional about something you don’t understand.

  • Phil Plait

    Christina Macphreson (#5): You are incorrect. If you read the NPR article linked above, you’ll find that none of the men in this video (including the cameraman) got cancer from this. Many people did during atomic testing over the years, of course, and I have no wish to downplay that. But in this specific case, these men were in fact not greatly affected physically by this test, as I pointed out in my comment above (#2).

  • scribbler

    Uh, ground zero was at the center of the blast… 😉

  • Stephen Anderle

    scribbler, check up on that please. Ground Zero is the point ON the ground DIrectly Under the blast center, 0’0″N, 0’0″S, 0’0″W, 0’0″E.. BIG difference!!!!

  • Stephen Anderle

    Matt. Fun? Expensive way to get a tan!!!

  • Particle Man

    The air intercept missile used in this test only had a 1.5 kiloton yield which in nuclear terms is very, very small most weapons are measured in 100’s of kilotons if not megatons of yield.

    “The Douglas AIR-2 Genie (previous designation MB-1) was an unguided air-to-air rocket with a 1.5 kt W25 nuclear warhead”

    ” Lethal radius of the blast was estimated to be about 300 meters (1,000 ft).”

  • scribbler

    13: From Webster’s: “. the point on the surface of the earth or water directly below, directly above, or AT WHICH an atomic or hydrogen bomb explodes. ”

    If a bomb is set off so far above the ground that the blast does not touch the ground, such as those used for EMPs or those in space, then ground zero is usually referred to as the center of the blast…

  • Anthy Hellmers

    Thanks to everyone who made their comments. I found them very interesting and amusing and I mean that seriously. #10 TedF. you made my night with your statement, ‘ don’t get all emotional over something you don’t understand.’ I am going to use that statement in my life when in a situation that warrants it. Thank you.

    As for those poor human sacrificial lambs at ground zero; we’ve come a long way baby! I write this with regard to the population questioning their governments ‘bright’ ideas. No pun intended.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar