Standing roughly 10 miles from the detonation, the explosion came like thunder. First, silence. A bright light. A quiet eruption of flame. Then, a shocking BLAST as it reached the ears of spectating civilians.
Welcome to the new world, everybody.
That’s an atomic blast at Yucca Flat in Nevada in 1953. Civilians were allowed to watch a good distance away, partly in an attempt to assuage “public fears” regarding nuclear fallout.
And why not? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Right?
Actually, Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy pointed out today that, sometimes, nuclear blasts aren’t all that dangerous, even if you’re nearby.
Case in point, these guys:
Of course, it depends on the yield and your distance from the blast. In this case, the fission explosion (lower energy than fusion) was small, and the men were standing far enough below the airblast to avoid dangerous exposure to ionizing radiation.
I highly suggest checking out Plait’s article if you get the chance.
Even so, if you asked me to stand still while you exploded an atomic bomb (of any size) over my head, I wouldn’t say yes.