From 1945 to 1962 the United States conducted more than 200 nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in order to fully explore the power of nuclear weapons. These horrific explosions have taken at any possible angle and from all distances. Then movies — and there were about 10,000 — were preserved in secret vaults scattered across the country. And now, for the first time in history, about 4200 of these films were scanned, and another 750 — declassified by the us government. 60 of them can be viewed on YouTube. Some in color, some in black and white, all have fancy names top secret missions: operation "Plumbbob", operation "Teapot", etc.
The project is led by nuclear physicist National laboratory Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) Greg Spriggs, who hopes to save the movies to perform again and squeeze them for every bit of data. In fact, we still do not know much about the effects high-altitude nuclear explosions, and now they're prohibited by the Treaty on comprehensive ban of nuclear tests. Publishing movies and analyzing them, Spriggs hopes to help other physicists with nuclear weapons to learn more about nuclear explosions.
"we Have no experimental data on modern weapons in the atmosphere," says Spriggs. "The only data that we have, it's an old test, so it's not that simple."
Over the past five years, Spriggs analyzed about 400-500 movies. It is very important to digitize them, because they are all made on the basis of cellulose acetate which decomposes with time. "You smell vinegar when you open the banks," he says. "We know that these movies are on the verge of decay and will become useless".
The Declassification of the movies is "a huge bureaucratic exercise," says Sarah Zhang at Wired. For each film Spriggs need to fill out a form which then goes to the Ministry of energy for approval. Nuclear test operation is already known, so there's no reason to keep films secret. They may have been compromised will take a long time. .
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