Nukes in media

TheMysteriousGX

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Been watching SG-1 recently and when the bigs bads brought a couple space ships to menace the Earth with, the Asshole Military guy's plan was launching a couple modified nukes with a 1000 megaton warheads and they just kinda...poofed.

Like, the 50 megaton Tsar Bomba was apocalyptic and that was modified down from its original estimates specs of 100 megatons for "possibly killing the world" concerns...and nothing? Just poof? 200 times bigger than the largest nuke we've ever used.

And that got me thinking...why does media, particularly western sci-fi media, hilariously underestimate the nuke? It's like, the baseline space missile. Throwing spitwads at each other in most instances.

Like, in Stellaris, nukes are the shitty tech 1 missile that you fire by the hundreds into planets with any effect. I'm Star Trek, they're so weak as to basically be unmentioned.
 

meiam

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That really depend on how space battle would be actually fought. Space is real big and anything that would be able to traverse space would be by definition able to travel really freaking fast. The nukes might have to be detonated very far from the target if they can't reach it. Nukes are also not that powerful when compared to all the crazy things you can find in space. Using nuke as a form of space travel was genuinely considered, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)
 
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Terminal Blue

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For an example of this actually working though, in the two part mini-series that opened Battlestar Galactica the Cylons use nukes to completely eradicate the twelve colonies. However, the Galactica itself survives a nuclear detonation in space with seemingly minor damage. This might seem dumb but is actually a weird concession towards realism. Without gravity or atmospheric pressure, the energy of a nuke would be much, much more dispersed. Still a very powerful explosion, but not the world ending monsters they are in planetary atmospheres.

1000 megatons is sorta dumb though, yeah.
 

Hawki

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Been watching SG-1 recently and when the bigs bads brought a couple space ships to menace the Earth with, the Asshole Military guy's plan was launching a couple modified nukes with a 1000 megaton warheads and they just kinda...poofed.
Isn't that a false baseline though? IIRC, the nukes were equipped with naquedah, increasing their yield to insane levels, yet the goa'uld shields can still withstand it.

It's made up science being used against made up science, so it's not really representative of much.

And that got me thinking...why does media, particularly western sci-fi media, hilariously underestimate the nuke? It's like, the baseline space missile. Throwing spitwads at each other in most instances.

Like, in Stellaris, nukes are the shitty tech 1 missile that you fire by the hundreds into planets with any effect. I'm Star Trek, they're so weak as to basically be unmentioned.
I'm not sure if sci-fi really underestimates or overestimates nukes, because you're gauging the realism of made-up settings. For instance, in Star Trek, I assume from your comment that nukes are useless against ships/shields (I actually don't recall nukes ever being used in the series), but how strong shields are compared to nukes is something that we can't seriously gauge.
 

TheMysteriousGX

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I mean, sure: we've never set off an unobtainium-enhanced nuclear weapon in low earth orbit, but we did set off a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon called Starfish Prime as part of Operation Fishbowl. The EMP took out three satellites, caused electrical damage 900 miles away, and created artificial radiation belts that damaged satellites for months.

They took a big round number to sound scary and drove it straight into the land of absurdity.
 

Breakdown

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There was one episode in the original series of Star Trek where the Romulans really fucked up the Enterprise with a nuclear warhead.
 
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laggyteabag

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My guess is that most of these properties want to make their new cool sci-fi weapons look cooler/more powerful, by diminishing the power of modern-day equivalent weapons.

Nukes may be powerful, but how about Turbo Lasers, or Photon Torpedos, or Magnetic Accelerator Cannons? That is real firepower.

Also, explosions can only get so big, before they start to look absurd. Besides, the warfare of the 30th century, or whatever, wouldn't be quite so cool, if the pinnacle of weaponry peaked in the 20th century.
 

Dirty Hipsters

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As someone who hasn't seen SG-1 and doesn't know the episode you're talking about at all, did the nukes explode in space?

Bombing space does quite a bit less damage than bombing a planet. Explosions move and do damage mostly through concussive shock-waves,. On earth they would travel through the air and the ground but there's no air in space so there's nothing for those concussive waves to travel through, thus greatly reducing the range of the explosion.

Also, because there's no air in space the heat from the explosion wouldn't travel very far either, since there's no material for the heat to be absorbed by an move through.

So yeah, it's entirely possible that a 1000 megaton nuclear bomb exploded in space would be fairly unimpressive compared to the damage it would do on a planet with an atmosphere. Space battles would require specialized weapons specifically made to be effective in space.
 
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TheMysteriousGX

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As someone who hasn't seen SG-1 and doesn't know the episode you're talking about at all, did the nukes explode in space?

Bombing space does quite a bit less damage than bombing a planet. Explosions move and do damage mostly through concussive shock-waves,. On earth they would travel through the air and the ground but there's no air in space so there's nothing for those concussive waves to travel through, thus greatly reducing the range of the explosion.

Also, because there's no air in space the heat from the explosion wouldn't travel very far either, since there's no material for the heat to be absorbed by an move through.

So yeah, it's entirely possible that a 1000 megaton nuclear bomb exploded in space would be fairly unimpressive compared to the damage it would do on a planet with an atmosphere. Space battles would require specialized weapons specifically made to be effective in space.
Low earth orbit, where a weapon 0.14% the size knocked out power 900 miles away and created radiation belts that cruised around the planet damaging satellites for months.

Like, I get that there's no pressure shockwave, but c'mon. In that example specifically it's not necessarily that the nuke was ineffective, it's that the nuke was of an incomprehensible size and was completely ineffective. Nuke that size going off in orbit should've caused people on the planet to get sunburned