Do you recall the classic film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb? For our younger readers, this was a 1964 black comedy film that satirized the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. The idea is that a rogue United States Air Force general orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The U.S. President tries to call the strike off, but one of the B-52 bombers tasked with the assignment is damaged, fails to receive the recall order, and battles on to complete its mission. This film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick and stared Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, and Slim Pickens.

The effects of a 10 kiloton nuclear bomb dropped on Huntsville, Alabama, with a detonation altitude of 670 meters (Click image to see a larger version)

The reason I mention this here is that my chum Jay Dowling just sent me a link to something called NUKEMAP. On the off chance you want to see what kind of damage a nuclear bomb will cause, you can enter the name of a city, select a yield in kilotons (or select a preset — I chose a North Korean bomb that was tested in 2013), and click the “Detonate” button to see what the damage will be (fireball, radiation, blast radius, etc.). Not surprisingly, I selected Huntsville, Alabama, which is where I currently hang my hat. Having seen the result, I just dispatched the butler to fetch my lead-lined undergarments.

As an aside, thinking of Dr. Strangelove reminded me of another classic movie of this ilk — the 1974 American science fiction comedy film Dark Star, which was directed and produced by John Carpenter. In this case, the scout ship Dark Star is 20 years into its mission of searching nearby solar systems to find and destroy “unstable planets” that may threaten future human colonization. They do this using talking bombs equipped with artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, after 20 years in space, the crew are all a bit “space crazy” and the ship is more than a little dilapidated. During a “space storm” the ship is hit by a huge electromagnetic pulse causing Bomb #20 to receive an erroneous order to deploy. This leaves the crew having to have philosophical arguments with the bomb trying to persuade it to not explode. And then things start to go pear-shaped.

So, over to you. Do you remember watching either of these films? Also, did you resist using the NUKEMAP application to drop a virtual nuclear bomb on your hometown to see what the effect would be?