An earthquake? Nuclear explosion? Division or synthesis? We learn, even if world leaders lie. There are not many things on the international scene that frighten more than the possibility of nuclear war. Many countries have warheads – some with division, others with more deadly synthesis – but not all openly declare that they have them. Some are exploding nuclear devices, denying this; others claim that they have thermonuclear bombs, whereas in reality they do not. Thanks to the deep knowledge of science, the Earth and the way waves of pressure pass through it, we do not need to expose the leader of the country to torture to find out the truth, believes Ethan Siegel with Medium.com.
In January 2016, the North Korean government announced that it had blown up a hydrogen bomb, which it also promised to use against any aggressors threatening the country. Despite the fact that the news agencies showed photos of mushroom clouds with a detailed description, these images turned out to be archival; The tests were not modern. Radiation entering the atmosphere is dangerous and will be a clear violation of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. So, if countries want to test nuclear weapons, they do it where no one can find radiation: underground.
In South Korea, the report about the situation was creepy, but inaccurate, since the mushroom clouds shown are old cadres not related to the North Korean trials
You can blow up a bomb anywhere: in the air, under the water in the ocean or underground. All three explosions can in principle be detected, although the energy of the explosion will be "muffled" depending on the environment in which it is distributed.
The air, being the least dense, drowns the sound worst of all. Thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions, rocket launches and nuclear explosions emit not only sound waves that can be heard, but also infrasonic (long wavelength, low frequency) that – in the event of a nuclear explosion – are so energetically powerful that detectors all over the world with their ease recognize.
Cloud of a nuclear explosion over Nagasaki
Water is denser, and although sound waves move faster in the water than in air, energy dissipates faster with distance traveled. However, if a nuclear bomb explodes under water, the energy released is so great that the generated pressure waves can easily be detected by hydroacoustic detectors deployed by many countries. In addition, there are no water phenomena that could be confused with a nuclear explosion.
Therefore, if a country wants to try to conceal a nuclear test, it will be best to conduct it underground. Although generated seismic waves can be very strong from a nuclear explosion, nature has an even stronger method of generating seismic waves: earthquakes! The only way to tell about them is the triangulation of the exact position, because earthquakes very, very rarely occur at a depth of 100 meters or less, and nuclear tests (for the time being) have always passed at a shallow depth below the ground.
To this end, countries that have signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty have established seismic stations around the world to sniff out any nuclear tests that are being conducted.
The International Nuclear Test Tracking System, which shows the five major types of testing and positioning of all stations. In total, there are currently 337 known stations active
It is this act of seismic monitoring that allows us to draw conclusions about how powerful the explosion was and in what place of the Earth – in three dimensions – it occurred. The seismic event of North Korea, which occurred in 2016, was recorded around the world; 337 active monitoring stations throughout the Earth were sensitive enough for this. According to the US Geological Survey, in January 6, 2016, an event in North Korea was equivalent to an earthquake measuring 5.1 points at a depth of 0.0 km. Based on the magnitude of the earthquake and the seismic waves that were recorded, we can restore the volume of released energy – about 10 kilotons of TNT equivalent – and to understand whether this was a nuclear explosion or not.
Due to the sensitivity of the observation stations, the depth, magnitude and position of the explosion, which caused the Earth to shake on January 6, 2016, can be clearly established
The most important clue, in addition to indirect evidence of the magnitude and depth of the earthquake, comes from the types of generated seismic waves. In general, there are S- and P-waves, shear, or secondary, and longitudinal waves, which are sometimes called primary waves. Earthquakes, as is known, produce the most powerful S-waves in comparison with P-waves, and nuclear tests give rise to more powerful P-waves. And so, North Korea states that it was a hydrogen bomb (synthesis), which is much more deadly than fission bombs. While the energy produced by uranium or plutonium bombs based on the fission reaction has a power of the order of 2-50 kilotons of TNT equivalent, hydrogen bombs produce energy thousands of times more powerful. The record holder of the event is a Soviet Tsar bomb with a capacity of 50 megaton TNT equivalent.
The Tsar bomb explosion in 1961 was the largest nuclear explosion on Earth and became one of the most important for the future determination of the fate of nuclear weapons
The wave profile obtained worldwide indicates that this is not an earthquake. So yes, North Korea most likely blew up a nuclear bomb. But which one? There is a difference between bombs based on synthesis and on the basis of division:
- A bomb based on nuclear fission takes a heavy element with a large number of protons and neutrons, for example, isotopes of uranium or plutonium, and bombards them with neutrons that can be captured by the nucleus. When capture takes place, a new unstable isotope is born, which dissociates into smaller nuclei, releasing energy, as well as additional free neutrons, allowing a chain reaction to begin. If done correctly, a huge number of atoms can pass through this reaction, turning millions of milligrams or even grammes of matter into pure energy according to the formula E = mc 2 .
- A fusion-based thermonuclear bomb takes light elements such as hydrogen and, with the help of tremendous energies, temperatures and pressure, makes these elements merge into heavier ones such as helium, releasing even more energy than a fission bomb . The temperature and pressure are so great that the only way to create a thermonuclear bomb is to surround the synthesis fuel with a fission bomb: so that a huge energy release can trigger the synthesis reaction. Up to a kilogram of substance can turn into pure energy at the stage of synthesis.
Many confuse tests with fission and synthesis bombs. But the scientists distinguish between them unmistakably
As for the energy output, the North Korean shaking was undoubtedly caused by a division-based bomb. If it were not so, then it would be the weakest, most effective explosion with the synthesis reaction on the planet, which even in theory can not be created. On the other hand, there is clear evidence that it was an explosion with the fission reaction, since the seismic station records showed an incredibly similar explosion in 2013, all in the same North Korea.
The difference between the earthquakes occurring in nature, whose signal was shown in blue, and the nuclear test shown in red, leaves no doubt about the nature of such an event
In other words, all the data that we have, point to one conclusion: the basis of this nuclear explosion was precisely the fission reaction, and not the synthesis. And it certainly was not an earthquake. S- and P-waves proved that North Korea is exploding nuclear bombs, violating international law, but seismic reports, despite remoteness, show that these are not synthesis bombs. North Korea has nuclear technology in the 1940s. Even if world leaders are lying, the Earth will tell the truth.