Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
#1
Old 10-10-2013, 02:11 AM
BANNED
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 3,257
How many cobalt bombs would it take to hold the earth hostage?

Suppose a super-power decided it wanted to be able to credibly hold all of humanity hostage at UN meetings or whatever.

Wikipedia gives an example, stating that a fusion bomb with a cobalt jacket would produce a certain amount of cobalt-60 from the neutron flux at detonation. It states that if there were enough cobalt-60 to produce a gamma ray exposure of 10 sieverts per hour at minute 0, it would be enough to keep the area uninhabitable for between 50-100 years.

What "conversion ratio" of cobalt to cobalt-60 could you plausibly expect?

How many grams/square kilometer of C-60 could would it take to reach 10 sievert/hour, and how many square kilometers would an affordable bomb cover?

Knowing these numbers, and using historical prices for mass-produced nuclear warheads converted to today's dollars, how much would it cost for this many bombs?

What about the cost of the ICBMs to deliver them?

In total, is the price affordable for a major world power? Could someone plausibly hold all of humanity hostage? (since the only survivors would be in incredibly tiny and isolated enclaves, surrounded by countless square kilometers of irradiated wastelands. I think this amount of radiation would kill most large animal and plant life, so the world probably would turn into a brown desert. There's a plausible chance that no group of humans would survive the 50-75 years before things became inhabitable again, it depends on if every island and isolated area got a dose of the cobalt)
#2
Old 10-10-2013, 03:34 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,642
Quote:
Originally Posted by Habeed View Post
Suppose a super-power decided it wanted to be able to credibly hold all of humanity hostage at UN meetings or whatever.

What "conversion ratio" of cobalt to cobalt-60 could you plausibly expect?
I doubt we know the answer to all your above questions since as Wiki states Cobalt bombs have never been built.

But I'd just like to say its going to be a very inefficient way, you can hold the world hostage much more efficiently by instead using high altitude nuclear explosions, detonate them directly above the stock exchanges of every major financial capital. Google starfish prime to see what you would expect. You'd only need 15 or so bombs to take down civilization.
#3
Old 10-10-2013, 03:59 AM
BANNED
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 3,257
Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
I doubt we know the answer to all your above questions since as Wiki states Cobalt bombs have never been built.

But I'd just like to say its going to be a very inefficient way, you can hold the world hostage much more efficiently by instead using high altitude nuclear explosions, detonate them directly above the stock exchanges of every major financial capital. Google starfish prime to see what you would expect. You'd only need 15 or so bombs to take down civilization.
Everyone would still be alive after the bombs went off, they just would not know how rich or poor they were. Oh, and they'd all need new cell phones and a lot of other gear would be fried.

Technically, the backup tapes that contain the financial records would also survive, passive magnetic tape on a spool isn't going to lose information from an EMP. Of course, most of the computers and probably most of the electrical equipment in the building would be toast, so it might be a long time before those records were restored.

In any case, it's bad, but it isn't doomsday.
#4
Old 10-10-2013, 05:00 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Texas... Need I say more?
Posts: 2,042
Need answer fast?
__________________
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
#5
Old 10-10-2013, 05:17 AM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Zeelandia
Posts: 9,652
Nice try, Kim Jong-un, but we discourage pleas for homework help here.
#6
Old 10-10-2013, 05:32 AM
BANNED
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 4,322
One, the doomsday bomb. But there was never enough description behind it. The guinness said it had to have a 20,000 megaton force (!!!) That was the only weird figure I saw in that book (and hopefully a typo.)
#7
Old 10-10-2013, 11:33 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 22,473
Rule #1 of fiendish plans. Don't overcomplicate them. Just get a load of anthrax, use it on a demonstration target and then threaten to release it in random spots over the next 30 days or so.)

(Rule #2 of course, is don't tell the hero all about the plan before you tell your henchmen to kill him.)
#8
Old 10-10-2013, 01:01 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota US
Posts: 15,669
I've seen references that claimed that 50,000 megatons of cobalt-salted devices would do it; either 500 100-megaton bombs or a single ginormous "doomsday bomb". Still looking for cites though.
#9
Old 10-10-2013, 01:12 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 18,431
Quote:
Originally Posted by Habeed View Post
... so it might be a long time before those records were restored.

In any case, it's bad, but it isn't doomsday.
Change is good,unless you are a one percent'er.
#10
Old 10-10-2013, 01:17 PM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 11,385
I have no cite, but during the 1980s I read that as few as 18 cobalt-salted hydrogen bombs would exterminate everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, if properly placed to account for wind patterns.

The Southern Hemisphere has much smaller land area and lower population, so presumably fewer than 18 would do it in.

Allowing for some margin of error, 30 ought to be quite effective.

Of course, you could "hold the world hostage" with the threat of damage, not needing total annihilation, so even one ought to bring people to the negotiating table...in theory.

Last edited by Sailboat; 10-10-2013 at 01:17 PM.
#11
Old 10-10-2013, 10:12 PM
BANNED
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 4,322
Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
Rule #1 of fiendish plans. Don't overcomplicate them. Just get a load of anthrax, use it on a demonstration target and then threaten to release it in random spots over the next 30 days or so.)

(Rule #2 of course, is don't tell the hero all about the plan before you tell your henchmen to kill him.)
The story will be too short if you follow 1 & 2. To assure victory, kill the hero straightaway. Don't put him in an unnecessarily slow-moving death device and then leave him to figure a way out.
#12
Old 10-10-2013, 11:54 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: N of Denver & S of Sanity
Posts: 12,318
50 bombs buried underground with cobalt-thorium g
#13
Old 10-11-2013, 06:38 PM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Baltimore
Posts: 971
But would they contaminate our precious body fluids?
#14
Old 10-11-2013, 07:14 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota US
Posts: 15,669
One Q-bomb could generate enough Carbon-14 to mutate all life on earth.
#15
Old 10-11-2013, 07:30 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 6,198
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
50 bombs buried underground with cobalt-thorium g
Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret! Why didn't you tell the world, eh?
#16
Old 10-13-2013, 06:39 PM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 764
Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
(Rule #2 of course, is don't tell the hero all about the plan before you tell your henchmen to kill him.)
But how is he to be awe-struck by my diabolical genius, unless i explain the plan to him in exhaustive detail?

You clearly haven't thought this through at all.

And what do you mean henchman kill him.

What is the point of building an elaborate death-trap that will surely destroy him, the poor fool! If you don't use it.
#17
Old 10-13-2013, 07:24 PM
Guest
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,538
Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
I doubt we know the answer to all your above questions since as Wiki states Cobalt bombs have never been built.

But I'd just like to say its going to be a very inefficient way, you can hold the world hostage much more efficiently by instead using high altitude nuclear explosions, detonate them directly above the stock exchanges of every major financial capital. Google starfish prime to see what you would expect. You'd only need 15 or so bombs to take down civilization.
I've read that the effects of EMP are massively overblown and wouldn't have nearly the devastating effects as depicted in fiction.

Actually having heard that unlike most nuclear weapons cobalt bombs really are doomsday weapons I'd be interested in a straight answer to the OP's question as well.
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:56 PM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: [email protected].

Copyright 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: rudi gernreich pubikini andrea gail wreckage titanium razor blades crt tv back freud scientific scalp wax ac1 5.8 laura tennessen catholic guilt definition wax dissolver east asian hair zathura imdb 2004 pontiac grand am radio removal what is parcel select ground two fingers behind head meaning safe deposit box keys what does sel mean on a car what is the difference between a cobweb and a spider web how to get a key made for a lock do planes have headlights how long does it take to get glasses from eyebuydirect what to wear to a funeral if you don't have a suit civil war boot camp running shoes not made in sweatshops