Fun activities for you and your nuclear warhead

The Skulls in the Stars blog has a funny/terrifying look at all the different uses for nuclear bombs that the United States and the Soviet Union tried to come up over the course of the Cold War. From blowing out a new harbor in Alaska, to mining, to a few less realistic ideas.


  1. The deep seismic sounding application is arguably the best of these ideas, but I suspect it was really piggybacking some geological research on top of weapons testing.

  2. I don’t recall where, but as a kid in the late 80s or early 90s, I read something, where the author proposed (or talked about in his fiction) of using nuclear bombs to vaporize large spheres in the moon.  These chambers would then be connected together to build rooms, and water chambers for a moon base.  

    And I think there were whales? 

    I have no idea where I read that, but it was an image that always stuck in my head for obvious reasons.

    1. The concept was treated in the classic Dandridge M. Cole  & Roy Scarfo Beyond Tomorrow: The Next 50 Years in Space, but I believe it may have originated with G. DiLeonardo’s 1962 article “Lunar Constructions”in the ARS Journal.  Alas, I can’t locate Scarfo’s great illustration of the concept at the moment.

  3. The only nuclear test detonation in Colorado was an experiment to try to blast usable oil out of deep oil shale deposits. It failed to do that, but it DID irradiate a bunch of ground water, making the area unsuitable for mining development since it would release that irradiated water into the rest of the aquifer system. Residents are STILL battling to keep oil companies from developing the test area.

    I think there should be some sort of social contract where-in anytime someone says, “Oh, I know what will fix the problem, a bunch of nuclear bombs.” Everyone else in the room can say, “HOLD ON. Let’s just step back a moment and think hard about this.”

  4. It may just be a translation artefact; but I love how the American program has a so-puppies-and-mom’s-apple-pie-as-to-be-downright-sinister name, while the Reds just went with ‘Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy”.

    1. You know, with the temperatures involved, that might have actually worked.  If you didn’t care to use the beach or the surrounding countryside thereafter.

  5. Also you can get rid of billions of your people by dumping them around volcanoes and then nuking them. This has been tried before, but unfortunately it gave rise to Tom Cruise.

  6. So “deflecting a comet or asteroid heading for a collision with Earth” isn’t even on the list? What about “sending Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum to infiltrate and destroy the alien mothership?”

    1. I thought that they were talking about tested ideas or thoroughly researched, “shovel ready” ideas…

      Wasn’t there a Soviet project to build a natural gas reservoir by nuking underground to make a cavity, then installing piping to reach it?

      I actually like the idea of using nukes to propel outer space spacecraft, if they can design spacecraft to handle it.  Once the craft is far enough from the Earth to avoid irradiating us, the craft can use the nukes as propellant, and can slow down at the other end with them too.  Their mass is small compared to the amount of chemical fuel that would be necessary, so a very large craft could be moved with a lot less mass dedicated to fuel.  It’d also help us to use up stockpiles that we spent billions and billions of dollars to develop.

      I don’t like the idea of using nukes terrestrially.

  7. Or you could keep it in a sidecar on your motorcycle and tie it to a heart monitor attached to you, so no one will mess with you…

  8. “… But parts of Los Alamos are in serious disrepair. Inside one critical building, pipes carrying dangerous wastewater are duct-taped together at the joints to plug leaks; plastic bags have been wrapped around the tape to trap seepage. The building, called Wing 5, is part of the 50-year-old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research plant, which performs research on plutonium cores, the explosive “pits” for nuclear weapons. Sometimes liquid accidentally splashes under the ill-fitting doors and spills into the hallway, Bret Knapp, who heads the lab’s weapons program, said during a rare visit by an outsider. When a spill occurs, the building must be evacuated until inspectors can make sure that the liquid is not radioactive….”

  9. In the US the experiments were called Operation Plowshare from the Bible verse that said people would put an end to war and beat their swords into plowshares.  There were lots of ideas that didn’t get mentioned like using atomic bombs to widen the Panama canal and blasting out a highway and rail tunnel.  It all would have worked as planned too, except for one detail, high levels of radioactivity would have made everything the bombs did unusable.

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