November 16th, 2008

#1354: I DON'T feel like crap!

I actually feel kind of good, which is highly unusual for after work.

Maybe I'm getting used to working 2 days in a row again. Or maybe I'm coming down with something. I really don't know.

What I do know is that I was able to stay an extra hour and help get the warehouse stuff done--I didn't feel ready for embalming at 6, so I agreed to stay and go back to the 'house and get it totally done.

Here's hoping I'll be in shape to go Monday--because I've got to go, regardless of how I feel.

I also learned that there may actually be a truck Monday after all, that there wasn't a truck last Monday--the one on which I called off--so at least I had good timing, I think.

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Buried in one of the opening paragraphs of this article on missing nuclear bombs there is an important detail which most people will probably miss:
During an aerial tanking maneuver, an American B-52 bomber and a KC-135 tanking aircraft collided in mid-air at 9,000 meters (29,000 feet), and both planes exploded in a giant fireball over Palomares. There were four hydrogen bombs in the hold of the B-52. One landed, unharmed, in tomato fields near the village. The non-nuclear fuse detonated in two others causing bomb fragments and plutonium dust to rain down on the impact site. The fourth bomb fell into the water somewhere off the coast, burying itself in several meters of silt.
Out of four multi-megaton thermonuclear warheads, two landed softly enough to be relatively unharmed. The other two exploded...but didn't detonate.

There is a difference, you see, between a nuclear bomb exploding and a nuclear bomb detonation. In the latter case, the nuclear core of the bomb is triggered and it releases an enormous amount of energy in a very short time, which results in a hell of a lot of unpleasantness for anything nearby.

But in the former case, the only thing that happens is what happened here: there is the of a certain (small) area with the nuclear fuel elements of the bomb.

It takes a certain sequence of events for a nuclear bomb to detonate properly, and the timing is utterly critical. For example, the wires from the detonator to the initiation points on the implosion charges must be exactly the same length--otherwise the firing signals will arrive at different times, and the implosion effect won't happen correctly.

A bomb that falls twenty thousand feet and hits ground hard enough to set off the HE surrounding the core won't detonate. The HE will scatter bits of bomb all over the place; but there won't be a nuclear reaction, because the detonation wave will have only one initiation point, and the shaped charges won't fire off correctly.

The same is true of a bomb which ends up being shot; it won't detonate. It might explode , certainly, but a single bullet can--again--only manage a single initiation point in the HE. And multiple bullets won't do any better. Even the fastest machine gun we've got--a Vulcan cannon--can only fire fifty rounds per second at most. 1/50th of a second is 0.02 seconds--twenty milliseconds--and on the scale that nuclear bombs function, twenty milliseconds is an eternity. A complete nuclear detonation takes thirty nanoseconds to complete from the time the explosives are triggered:

20ms: 0.02 seconds
30ns: 0.00000003 seconds

Basically, by the time the second bullet hits the bomb's HE, it's already finished going off, and the second bullet is striking a cloud of plasma (the HE that's finished detonating) and vaporized bomb components (including the bomb's nuclear core). So it's impossible to get even two initiation points from machine gun fire.

The article concludes by wondering if terrorists can get ahold of these missing nukes and use them for an attack. Well, if the US can't get them, it's unlikely terrorists can...and even if the terrorists somehow managed to get ahold of one of these bombs, the damn things have been sitting in salt water for decades--the nuclear fuel may still be usable, but the bomb itself sure as hell wouldn't be. (Read Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears for a good examination of what terrorists would have to do to build a bomb from a found nuke. Short form: it's not at all easy or simple to manage.)

* * *

Before going to bed Friday morning, I did another page of Chicory, and I know where the next page is going to start, so I may draw it before I go to bed. Then again, I might just hit the hay, because I--though I feel pretty good!--am tired.