September 23, 2019 11:36 PM   Subscribe

This four-minute audio-visual piece is based on independent assessments of current U.S. and Russian force postures, nuclear war plans, and nuclear weapons targets. It uses extensive data sets of the nuclear weapons currently deployed, weapon yields, and possible targets for particular weapons, as well as the order of battle estimating which weapons go to which targets in which order in which phase of the war to show the evolution of the nuclear conflict from tactical, to strategic to city-targeting phases.

Description of the piece from Princeton’s Program on Science & Global Security.

This video, which was reported globally, was developed as part of a two-year American Physical Society grant intended to encourage nuclear threat reduction advocacy within the U.S. community of physicists:
The impulse for the effort is the grave and worsening global threat from nuclear weapons, according to the Princeton group. The world arsenal contains roughly 10,000 operational nuclear warheads, mostly held by the U.S and Russia. It includes about 2,000 warheads on alert status, capable of launch within minutes of an order. There are numerous new dangers such as U.S. withdrawal from several important arms control treaties, a buildup of offensive capabilities by Russia and China in response to the growth of U.S. ballistic-missile defense, and cyberthreats to nuclear command and control systems.
Casualty estimates were produced using NUKEMAP (previously, previouslier).
posted by chappell, ambrose (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a version with better music.

Unless there's a contingency that doesn't end in
Global Thermonuclear War
why bother with detailed narratives?
posted by angelplasma at 11:59 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Sort of depends what you mean by “global”, doesn’t it?

The War Games clip shows the whole world going up, including Africa and Latin America. Those very large, very populous areas are completely untouched by direct strikes in the SGS video. Although presumably they’d suffer from fallout, nuclear winter etc, the world would look very, very different a few years after the two scenarios - under the SGS scenario, the world would still contain about half its population, major centres of culture and industry, etc.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 12:25 AM on September 24, 2019

Of course it all begins with blowing up my hometown...
posted by mit5urugi at 12:54 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

So Gibraltar is more strategic than Madrid?


posted by chavenet at 1:39 AM on September 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nice to publish this on the 35th anniversary of Threads.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:51 AM on September 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm not gonna say it couldn't happen as shown, but the scenario proposed seems unlikely, at least absent a better sense of time involved from first strike to final salvo. NATO advancing on Russia itself seems iffy because of the awareness of the nuclear strike option. Would that happen, the exchange that follows in the scenario still seems to be one of automatic response rather than considerations of any goals involved. That may well indeed be how something could play out, but it doesn't read as a particularly reasonable scenario for the threat involved to the parties in the conflict. Russia leaving Europe a wasteland doesn't really make much sense for Russia absent the certainty of losing their own land and even more the notion that once Europe would be laid waste the US would then respond by sealing their own doom rather than writing Europe off and negotiating with Russia over the ashes doesn't seem to capture US overweening self interest very well.

None of that is to discount the real possibility of some sort of nuclear exchange happening that might indeed have something of the same overall effect in the end, just that this one seemed a bit too by the book and not what I would expect. The US launching simultaneously with Russian missiles heading towards Europe perhaps, but less as a secondary retaliatory strike after the fact. This scenario feels very 80s, painting Russia as the one acting and the US reacting rather than acknowledging the US's own potential capability to initiate this kind of scenario, which in the age of Trump, seems perhaps the more likely event, though centered around someplace in Asia rather than Europe perhaps. But then I'm not at all a military expert, and may well be discounting the automatic nature of nuclear exchanges more than I should be.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:42 AM on September 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:27 AM on September 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

The War Games clip shows the whole world going up, including Africa and Latin America. Those very large, very populous areas are completely untouched by direct strikes in the SGS video.

Not only that, there are no strikes in (or from) Red China or the Middle East, not to mention India, Pakistan, Japan, France, Spain outside of Gibraltar, and it looks like only a couple in England and none in Ireland.

Maybe I played too much Twilight: 2000 as a kid, but if the US/USSR are engaged in a countervalue strike to impair the other side's recovery, its seems questionable they wouldn't deny the other side access to middle eastern oil supplies. It seems highly questionable that Britain, a major NATO ally, wouldn't participate more actively and be struck in return.
posted by Gelatin at 5:58 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by zerobyproxy at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

why did i watch that
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:39 PM on September 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

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