back to article Boffins show the 2017 Nork nuke can move, move, move any mountain (by a meter)

The explosion from North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in 2017 was seventeen times more powerful than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945, according to a paper published in Geophysical Journal International. A trio of scientists from the Indian Space Research Organization pored over satellite data to estimate the …

  1. Rainer

    Not a big problem, IMO - until

    North Korea has better missiles that can actually carry such a thing and land it on target.

    I would imagine the "gadget", was rather big. Think 1950s-style Castle-Bravo size.

    Until then, I'm not too concerned.

    I'm more concerned over India-Pakistan, TBH.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Not a big problem, IMO - until

      I'm more concerned over India-Pakistan, TBH.

      I'm not, that is basically a family feud (within the family), outsiders are relatively safe as long as they don't interfere, because if they do, both of them will turn against the outsider (China looks to be the final victim of this, thanks to its interference in Kashmir).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: [India-Pakistan] ... that is basically a family feud

        But is that "family feud", as you call it, goes nuclear, then your "outsiders are relatively safe" assumption is likely to be tested somewhat enthusuastically:

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: [India-Pakistan] ... Who's SARI now?

          But is that "family feud", as you call it, goes nuclear, then your "outsiders are relatively safe" assumption is likely to be tested somewhat enthusuastically:

          It's all very testing. Norks need nukes because Korea's been a pawn in proxy wars since the '50s or earlier.. And Iraq showed the risks of membership in the 'Axis of Evil', or bluffing about WMD.

          Meanwhile, India v Pakistan has a whole bunch of nuclear and geopolitical implications due to annexing Kashmir, spats between India and China (which already involve kinetic diplomacy in border areas) and threats of hydrological warfare and India cutting off water supplies to Pakistan. Then if Pakistan's destabilised, what happens to it's nuclear stockpiles and other weapons.

          And climate aside, there's around 1.5bn people at risk, or many more if conflict expands to include China. So estimated casualties of 'only' 44m are fairly small, but conflict would likely result in a massive refugee and humanitarian crisis.. Especially if irrigation, infrastructure & agriculture are destroyed, ie pollution from fallout or chemical weapons. And any conflict might expand to include Indian & Pakistan diaspora having a go at each other.

          So interesting times

          (and on which point.. The Sedan Crater.. why no lake like Chagan? Ok, less rainfall around Sedan, and guessing any 'glassing' effect from the nuke was offset by shattering underlying rock so it doesn't fill)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: [India-Pakistan] ... Who's SARI now?

            Added to which, Pakistan's nuclear program is actually Saudi Arabia's nuclear insurance against Iran

            Given that the Saudis other shopping options are UK/USA, France or Israel !

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: [India-Pakistan] ... Who's SARI now?

              Added to which, Pakistan's nuclear program is actually Saudi Arabia's nuclear insurance against Iran

              Given that the Saudis other shopping options are UK/USA, France or Israel !

              Politics is weird like that. But Saudi could also shop in Russia and has been floating the idea of buying reactors from them. And for that to work, ideally you want the whole fuel cycle, so enrichment and reprocessing.. Which can then of course end up creating proliferation problems. Saudi's are smart and capable of developing their own weapons programmes. And Israel isn't necessarily a friend of the Saudis, although they have been co-operating, but the Saudis still have the challenge of managing their own radicals & any returning jihadis who don't like the idea of Saudi dependency on the US. Or the age-old antagonism amongst the Semitic peoples & sectarianism between Wahabbi and Shia faiths.

      2. G.Y.

        Re: Not a big problem, IMO - until

        Sarajevo 6/28/1914 was also a family feud ...

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Not a big problem, IMO - until

      Indeed - IND-PAK is a mexican stand-off where they're also kicking each other in the shins.

      Kashmir would have become another all out war years ago if it were not for the nukes lurking in the background, at the moment both sides seem content to trade one-off air strikes & artillery against 'terrorist' targets.

      The Norks just want nukes to play with the big boys, being sandwiched between China and US backed South Korea would give any dictator throughout history sleepless nights.

    3. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Not a big problem, IMO - until

      Thanks to A.Q Khan and Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan exchanged nuclear know-how with North Korea in exchange for North Korean expertise in designing long-range missiles. So there's a good chance North Korea's warheads are much smaller than other country's first attempts at bringing about the end of the world.

    4. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Not a big problem, IMO - until

      Size is irrelevant as long as it fits on a boat you can park off a major US city and have go BOOM.

      1. JCitizen Bronze badge

        Re: Not a big problem, IMO - until

        Besides the fact that our THAADS anti-missile defenses would quickly exhaust these puny arsenals the Norks and Pakis would have. Before you criticize the effectiveness of these star-wars like defenses, just look at how well Iron Dome in Israel is working, and who do you think helped us improve our short range anti-missile defenses?

  2. defiler Silver badge

    Nice headline

    That was the first 12" single I ever bought, from Fopp on Cockburn Street in Edinburgh.

    Only heard of The Shamen because of John Peel - when he died it was a real loss to new music on the radio. :(

    Yeah - there was a nuclear something something complete in there too, but I ran off down nostalgia lane.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Nice headline

      Downvoted? Hahaha - somebody really doesn't like Cockburn Street, The Shamen or John Peel!

      Well, I'm just going to double-down on this one. :)

      The Shamen were ahead of their time, but much of their stuff aged poorly, when you compare it to the likes of Utah Saints, for example. But ProGen was a classic. Local boys round these parts as well.

      Cockburn Street has a fantastic pub on it, although Fopp has moved. I almost crashed a car there once too. Nothing to do with the pub; lots to do with wet cobbles and 18-year-old driving heroism. Oops.

      As for John Peel, the man was a legend and had such an eclectic range of new bands on his show. For me, ProGen came out of nowhere and whacked my adolescent ears. In later years I heard a lot of bands on his show and rushed off to the record shops, but ProGen was a seismic musical moment for me.

      Oh yeah - Move Any Mountain was called ProGen in its original release. In fact, this is the 12" single I've got:

      1. Wenlocke

        Re: Nice headline

        and of course no mention of the Shamen is complete without possibly their most (in)famous tune, Ebeneezer Goode. Great fun, and possibly the most transparent "we really aren;t fooling anyone here, but dear god it is funny" with the bloke in the cape and hat on TOTP

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: Nice headline

          Ach - loads of their tunes were drug-laden. Like Primal Scream.

          With lyrics like "MDMAzing" and "Can you pass the acid test?" it was a bit of a giveaway. :)

        2. Jess--

          Re: Nice headline

          I thought the titles from the Hempton Manor summed up their feelings towards their labels owner

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Nice headline

        For some reason I thought "Move Any Mountain" was by the KLF, thanks for putting me straight.

  3. lee harvey osmond

    what sort of nuke

    As I recall all the early Nork Tests had very small yields -- people were pointing the finger of fizzle, or even suggesting there had been no gadget, someone had lit off a big pile of TNT instead and lied about it.

    It is possible, but highly unlikely, that this involved about 200,000 tons of TNT.

    Any indication of what they were up to? Plutonium pit? Oralloy? Single or two-stage device? I dare say there are US technical agencies that know, but aren't telling.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: what sort of nuke

      I'm wondering that. It's the small end of a first hydrogen bomb test, so I'd predict they've found a way of boosting a fission bomb using a slug of deuterium and tritium. It would be comparable to Operation Greenhouse by the US (1951) which produced up to 225kT in the Greenhouse George explosion:

      Obligatory 1950s 'What the hell were they thinking of' video:

      Either that or the North Koreans have recreated the Sloika layer cake design that the Soviets used to catch up with the Americans in the Joe-4 test. It isn't as efficient as the Ulam Teller design, but it does give you the option of megaton yields.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: what sort of nuke

        Mmmm cake... Yellowcake, layer cake it's all good. I saw a rocket cake in Tesco's last week. It was the size and shape of a large cake, but full of fireworks. Basically a small display in a box.

  4. Arthur the cat Silver badge


    satellites like ALOS-2 allow researchers to study secretive nuclear tests, when they have no access to seismic data.

    But the entire point of seismic monitoring is that it can be done remotely as the shock waves bounce round the planet. The only way to avoid that is to let off the bomb in a huge cavern large enough avoid much coupling of the explosion to the rock.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What?

      The seismic data from half a world away lets you know there was a test and some guess about how deep and how big a bang.

      But knowing exactly how many m^3 of rock moved how many meters gives you much better figures

  5. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

    Nukes are so overrated! They need Plutonium and Uranium enrichment and other technical sundries when it's SO MUCH EASIER to make a Heavy Metal Isomer Bomb using barely $100,000 U.S. worth of Cyclotron gear and a decent laptop for linear induction coil control and some LASER/MASER gear.

    ANY stable heavy metal (i.e. Tungsten, Gold, Lead, Mercury, Manganese and even IRON!) is actually only METASTABLE !!! By ADDING extra energy to a heavy metal target via a circular linear induction-powered particle accelerator (aka a Cyclotron) you can CHANGE the configuration of the heavy metal to a Structural Isomer, whereupon at a certain point it will enter a TIP-OVER energy phase. And much like the straw that finally breaks the camel's back, another small input of energy will cause a catastrophic atomic-scale cascade avalanche deflagration-like energy release event (I actually call it a LENR or Low Energy Nuclear Reaction!) which can result in an explosion in the range of 2 to 5 kilotons BUT creating NO radioactive fission by-products! So technically, this is a SAFE nuclear weapon!

    The KEY ISSUE is to PULSE the bombardment of a heavy metal target using other heavy nuclei at an energy level that DOES NOT CAUSE ABLATION of the target material, but rather causes the equivalent of atomic-level earthquakes/reverberation indicating energy is being released AND absorbed by the heavy metal target. This means energy is being ABSORBED in such a way that the structural configuration (aka at an atomic-level) of the heavy metal will change. It's like filling a balloon with water! At a certain point it cannot hold any more pressure and can suddenly explode outward at the slightest provocation.

    And that "explosive decompression" is quite a bit larger than a conventional explosion (conventional explosions are deflagration events). It's not up to FISSION/FUSION levels, but a HEAVY METAL ISOMER is considerably more powerful than your typical MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs). Since it HAS NO fissionable by-products, once a Cyclotron imparts energy into the target to form the Structural Isomer, it can be hidden into a space as small as a filing cabinet giving off NO RADIATION at all. AND it can be put over the Metastability Boundary with a small multi-kilowatt sized LASER or MASER which can ALSO fit inside of a filing cabinet. It means you have an undetectable nuke!

    Once the LASER/MASER fires and adds that final bit of tip-over point of energy, the heavy metal will release a cascade avalanche of energy in the form of a large explosion of about 2 to 5 kilotons! I should note that ANY 2nd year engineering/materials science/chemistry student or a really smart senior high school student can build this! Cyclotrons are EASY to build at house size and you DO NOT NEED to impart many Giga or Tera Electron-Volts into your target which means the electromagnetic coils you use on your cyclotron to accelerate heavy nuclei into your target heavy metal, can be CHEAP and EASY to control via a simple laptop and power from a simple commercial-level gas/diesel generator. You're NOT ABLATING your heavy metal target but rather imparting extra energy using a pulsed bombardment rate at a specific energy level such that its structural configuration changes to become unstable enough that it is at a final resting point that is just before the tip-over point, where if another Joule was imparted, an avalanche energy release would occur!


    Who needs NUKES when a HEAVY METAL ISOMER device can be built by ANYONE with an undergrad level of education!

    Build your own multi-hectare-size lake in mere seconds! Dig a long and wide trench! Get rid of a pesky view-blocking hill!

    AND show off a big bang on Halloween or New Years Eve for all your Champagne-soused friends!



    1. JCitizen Bronze badge
      Black Helicopters


      As far as that goes, you can set off a tiny fusion reaction with a focused set of lasers, and a ball of heavy water. Of course the collimator must be extremely precise, and building the small porous glass beads to hold the water is quite a trick, because the beads must also be precisely manufactures as well. The only problem is, that the reaction of a reasonable sized device is only about as powerful as a good sized firecracker. To make one as powerful as a stick of dynamite, you would probably have to build one the size of a building. The precision required to make the water "fish bowl" would become even more difficult to build as well.

      A Canadian company has surprisingly claimed to be able to generate fusion energy using rather simple mechanical means that are similar to the laser method, but rely on focused pressure in a plasma target - the General Fusion design instead uses a large number of steam-driven pistons to mechanically compress a vortex of liquid metal. As I understand it, the liquid metal solves the neutron problems associated with fusion energy, and also acts as the transfer of heat to the generator mechanisms. Obviously they must be claiming the resulting energy is greater than the energy used to generate the steam pressure.

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