A time map created by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto beautifully illustrates the devastating impact of one of mankind’s most notorious activities on the planet, nuclear weapons testing from the mid-20th century.
Over the period 1945 – 1998, some 2053 nuclear explosions have occurred somewhere on Earth, starting with the Manhattan Project’s test near Los Alamos on 16 July 1945, up to Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998.
Hashimoto has plotted them all to produce the scariest ‘video game’ ever (and to show what he calls “the fear and folly of nuclear weapons”). Blips and flashing dots on the map mark the detonation of each nuclear weapon, and a running tally is kept for each ‘new player’ entering the game: the US in 1945, the Soviet Union in 1949, the UK in 1952, France in 1960, China in 1964, India in 1974, and Pakistan in 1998. A total tally runs at the bottom corner of the screen, and the date runs at the top corner. After a slow start, the proliferation from 1962 onwards is mind-boggling.
Nuclear weapons were detonated in all environments: onboard barges, on top of towers, suspended from balloons, on the ground, over 650 feet underground and over 2000 feet underwater; they were also dropped by aircraft and fired by rockets up to 335 miles above the Earth’s surface. In 2000 the UN Scientific Committee reported:
“The main man-made contribution to the exposure of the world’s population [to radiation] has come from the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, from 1945 to 1980. Each nuclear test resulted in unrestrained release into the environment of substantial quantities of radioactive materials, which were widely dispersed in the atmosphere and deposited everywhere on the Earth’s surface.”