back to article 60 slow-mo A-bomb test videos explode onto YouTube

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has released a recently-declassified collection of films depicting atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted between 1945 and 1962. The United States conducted extensive atmospheric testing during those years, and the Laboratory says they were all captured on film by multiple …

  1. Brenda McViking


    If anyone has the time to listen to an-almost-6-hour podcast, I've found the latest "Destroyer of Worlds" episode in Dan Carlin's Hardcore History Series to be a fantastic listen, all about the dawn of the nuclear age from 1945 to the mid 1960s, and it's currently free of charge.

    The cold war ended when I was born. Whilst I'm sure a lot of the 'reg readership were around for the ebbs and flows of the cold war, as a Millenial I have never really considered what it may have been like for the leaders of the times after WWII being introduced to having to play age-old political games on a chessboard which all of a sudden was booby-trapped with nuclear weapons, (which even in current times of course, it still is) so I thought I'd share.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Mesmerising

      Being closer towards the "old fart" end of the Reg readership than some, I thought I should share a link to a 1977 book ("Worlds within Worlds - A Journey into the unknown") that I recall fondly from my childhood.

      This includes several shots similar to the second video - including one of the bomb tower just after the fireball has started at detonation. The tower is still there, and it has not yet been vapourised - incredible.

      There are lots of other high-speed or specialised (e.g. Kirlian) images in there too.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Mesmerising

        If you want to kmow more of the background and technologies developed by the early atomic scientists, I can thoroughly recommend Rhchard Rhodes book "The Making Of The Atomic Bomb".

        Its really a history of atomic physics from 1873 to 1945 and covers all the major personalities involved, what they did as well as the politics and the technology involved. It starts with the discovery of subatomic particles and ends just after the bombing of Japan, so if you want to know the background to Hiroshima, then this is the book to read.

        His next book, "Dark Star", extends this coverage to the development of the hydrogen bomb and to other bomb projects and their participants: everybody has heard of the Mantattan Project and Russian efforts, but did you know that both the Germans and the Japanese were working on atomic bombs during WW2?

        1. HPCJohn

          Re: Mesmerising

          Martin I heartily back up your recommendation of the Rhodes books.

          I am a high energy pysicist, and have taken an interest in the history of the Manhattan project and the life of Oppenheimer.

          And sorry - thats Dark Sun. Dark Star was the John Carpenter film with the sentient talking Bomb and the beach ball alien!

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Mesmerising

          but did you know that both the Germans and the Japanese were working on atomic bombs during WW2?

          Yes, as an El Reg old fart.... I'll offer this starting point: For the Germans, Google on "Heavy Water Project" Germany. Fascinating reading both the tech and the efforts to stop them from developing it. The Japanese might be a bit more obscure to find.

          1. HPCJohn

            Re: Mesmerising

            For the German project, Google for 'Haigerloch'

            This is the place where the Allies found a prototype reactor, formed from cubes of uraniuam dangled on chains in a tank of heavy water. If I am not wrong the Allied side had gone far beyonf this, and it was already well outdated when found.

            My knowledge of the Japanese effort is more hazy. Tokyo University had a cyclotron and this was being used to do research into fission. I dont think they got much further than that.

          2. bep

            Re: Mesmerising

            "but did you know that both the Germans and the Japanese were working on atomic bombs during WW2?

            Yes, as an El Reg old fart.... I'll offer this starting point: For the Germans, Google on "Heavy Water Project" Germany. Fascinating reading both the tech and the efforts to stop them from developing it. The Japanese might be a bit more obscure to find"

            I can recommend the Netflix series 'The Heavy Water War' if you prefer a dramatised version of events. It helps that it's very well written and acted.

    2. Red Bren

      Re: Mesmerising

      "The cold war ended when I was born."

      Does that mean you're the lovechild of Reagan and Gorbachev? Sounds like the stuff of ancient prophesy...

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Mesmerising

      During the Cuban Missile Crisis my school had regular air raid drills where we went out into the hall and bent over trying to kiss your tush good by. Being roughly mid way between NY and Philly did not exactly make for good odds of surviving.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Mesmerising --- the Duck and Cover drills.

        Not exactly fun times as a youngster was it? I was in Dayton, Ohio, not far from Wright-Patt AFB and that was considered a major target. As kids, we'd ask innocent questions like "Will hiding in the hallway actually save us? Why can't we watch the nukes blow up? " Never got a good answer. Just some mumbo about "this is required and will help". As I got older, around 13 or 14 or so, I realized it was a placebo.

      2. Adrian Tawse

        Re: Mesmerising

        I too was at school during the Cuban missile crisis. This was boarding school in England, just close enough to London for death to be certain, but not merciful. There was an early warning radio in the Bursar's office. All the time it went beep, beep, we knew it was working, and all the time it did not scream we knew we were not do die, at least not today. Our air raid drill was more realistic, we were to go to the chapel and ask forgiveness for whatever part we had played, by commission, or omission, in bringing about the destruction of God's creation.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    Thanks for the article!

    I shall pass it on to Dad.

    Although not strictly the same, he was at the Anglo-Australian nuclear tests. (Christmas Is, Monte Bello and Maralinga)

    Icon: Turn around!

    * Also to: Brenda McViking for the link

  3. Tom 64

    Ruddy Noora!

    ... that is all

  4. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Oh humans...

    ... I think we should be hearing from Klaatu.

  5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    kubrik would have loved these...

    Or how I learned to love the bomb....

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: kubrik would have loved these...


      /me waving my grey-hat-hacker-hat - ride 'em cowboy!!!

      Nuke 'em 'till they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark!!

      Or, like that one Far Side comic: "Ooooh... Ahhhh!!!"

      I *LOVE* the smell of NEUTRONS in the morning!

  6. Jason Hindle


    Especially the second video embedded into the article. I watched Rogue One over Christmas, and thought the Death Star was the real star of the film. Somehow made more real, and menacing than in the original film. That second video more impressive than Disney's special effects!

  7. David Gosnell

    Not video, but...

    This is pretty cool stuff, in a chilling way:

    Images from a series of ~10 nanosecond snaps of an early nuclear blast.

    1. kryptonaut

      Re: Not video, but...

      Incredible images - and mind-boggling to think that in 10 nanoseconds light travels just 3 metres, so the more distant parts of the fireball images must be significantly earlier in time than the nearer parts. Wow.

  8. Gobhicks

    If you haven't already...

    ... you should see The Atomic Cafe, a documentary compiling film clips (military, news, propaganda, civil defence) from the days of US nuclear testing, released in 1982 when cruise missiles were being deployed at Greenham Common.

  9. SkippyBing

    Pascal B Test?

    Is that on there? I want to see if I can spot the manhole cover...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most impressive

    I must say, I would have loved to have seen an atmospheric test (from a suitable distance if you don't mind). What a sight, destroyer of worlds and all that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    1. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

      Re: Do you see the death's head

      I couldn't see a "'death's head' (and I tried, really, but then I've never been too good at that kind of stuff. Lack of imagination or some such...)

      All the same, ISTR an Isaac Asimov short story about an imaginary atomic test blast, filmed in microscopic detail. On viewing the results, the physicist(s) involved saw the face of the devil in the fireball.

  12. Version 1.0 Silver badge


    Looking at the videos you can see the ones that worked well and that some of the detonations were imperfect and therefore probably inefficient ... not surprising that these have been classified for so long.

  13. Pedigree-Pete

    No audio.....

    Where is my Earth shattering Kaboom, I wanted an Earth shattering Kaboom. PP

    credit: Marvin the Martian.

  14. DanceMan

    Blowed up Good

    Blowed up real good!

    Billy Bob Thornton

    Mine's the bib overalls with a copy of Farm Film Report.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't Try This At Home

    During the 50s my father flew over and took air samples after tests - their squadron patch had a bee with a butterfly net catching flying atoms.

  16. DocJames

    Eric Schlosser book

    Command and control - worth reading for just how amateur the US system was... and probably still is. (He doesn't comment on others, but the probable Soviet record of safety makes me blanch even more, particularly around their biological and chemical weapons.)

    "On the beach" is another good read.

  17. FozzyBear
    Black Helicopters


    I've saved the links and reading suggestions from above.

    I have an uneasy feeling that I wont make it into work if I start reading this material on the train.

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