Tsar Bomba

Exploring, and then shattering the known horizons has been the biggest passion of the most entrepreneurial of humans. It is this unending drive that has taken human civilisation to the insurmountable heights. But, there come times in the advance of human civilisation that the logic finally overcomes the blinding passion and makes humans to think, pause and wait. There are two such interesting examples, while one concerns biking, other is about “the single most physically powerful device ever deployed by mankind”.

Tsar Bomba, a Hydrogen Bomb tested on 30th October 1961 by the erstwhile USSR at the peak of their powers and the peak of the Cold War, remains the most powerful detonation achieved by human society. The scale of power generated by the single event was awe-inspiringly obnoxious. Power delivered by such atomic, nuclear bombs is measured in Kilotons/Megatons of TNT equivalent. The blast yield of Tsar Bomba was 57MT TNT, just for comparison, the strongest such weapon tested by US was 15 MT. The Tsar was 3800 times more powerful than Little Boy, the bomb dropped at Hiroshima which was measured 15 KT TNT. While the Pokhran tests in 1998 by India had a max yield of 43-45 KT still 1/1300th times the power of TSAR, a feat achieved 37 years later.

To get an idea of the conventional power of the TSAR, the energy released by that one single explosion in Oct 1961 was 10 times the combined energy of all conventional explosives used during the course of the World War II. Everything within a radius of ~35 kms was razed to ground, houses were destroyed 100s of kms, there were partially broken windows even upto 900-1000 kms from the test site. Yet, the m6ost other worldly thing about the Tsar for me, was the height of the Mushroom Cloud. Through all my studies and general awareness of Geography, anything human related, after breaching the Troposphere (the layer of atmosphere closest to earth surface) is only restricted to Stratosphere, a layer which extends upto 50 kms. But Tsar’s Mushroom cloud breached the natural barrier, extending into the Mesosphere acquiring a peak height of 65 kms, a new horizon breached by humans, something the USSR Scientists could be very proud.

Yet, here comes the interesting story. The Tsar had a maximum theoretical yield of 100 MT but after testing the 57MT mega bomb, finally the USSR scientists decided that enough was enough and a bomb any more powerful would pose severe existential crises in the form of fallout risk and escape of the carrier, thus saving our earth to an extent.

Thus, a bomb which was 10 times more powerful than the whole of World War II, still had a lot of gas remaining in the tank, thankfully for human civilisation, even the human greed can encounter some limits at times.