The Top 10 Largest Nuclear Explosions, Visualized
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The Top 10 Largest Nuclear Explosions, Visualized

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The Top 10 Largest Nuclear Explosions, Visualized

Just how powerful are nuclear explosions?

The U.S.’ Trinity test in 1945, the first-ever nuclear detonation, released around 19 kilotons of explosive energy. The explosion instantly vaporized the tower it stood on and turned the surrounding sand into green glass, before sending a powerful heatwave across the desert.

As the Cold War escalated in the years after WWII, the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested bombs that were at least 500 times greater in explosive power. This infographic visually compares the 10 largest nuclear explosions in history.

The Anatomy of a Nuclear Explosion

After exploding, nuclear bombs create giant fireballs that generate a blinding flash and a searing heatwave. The fireball engulfs the surrounding air, getting larger as it rises like a hot air balloon.

As the fireball and heated air rise, they are flattened by cooler, denser air high up in the atmosphere, creating the mushroom “cap” structure. At the base of the cloud, the fireball causes physical destruction by sending a shockwave moving outwards at thousands of miles an hour.

anatomy of a nuclear explosion's mushroom cloud

A strong updraft of air and dirt particles through the center of the cloud forms the “stem” of the mushroom cloud. In most atomic explosions, changing atmospheric pressure and water condensation create rings that surround the cloud, also known as Wilson clouds.

Over time, the mushroom cloud dissipates. However, it leaves behind radioactive fallout in the form of nuclear particles, debris, dust, and ash, causing lasting damage to the local environment. Because the particles are lightweight, global wind patterns often distribute them far beyond the place of detonation.

With this context in mind, here’s a look at the 10 largest nuclear explosions.

#10: Ivy Mike (1952)

In 1952, the U.S. detonated the Mike device—the first-ever hydrogen bomb—as part of Operation Ivy. Hydrogen bombs rely on nuclear fusion to amplify their explosions, producing much more explosive energy than atomic bombs that use nuclear fission.

Weighing 140,000 pounds (63,500kg), the Ivy Mike test generated a yield of 10,400 kilotons, equivalent to the explosive power of 10.4 million tons of TNT. The explosion was 700 times more powerful than Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

#9: Castle Romeo (1954)

Castle Romeo was part of the Operation Castle series of U.S. nuclear tests taking place on the Marshall Islands. Shockingly, the U.S. was running out of islands to conduct tests, making Romeo the first-ever test conducted on a barge in the ocean.

At 11,000 kilotons, the test produced more than double its predicted explosive energy of 4,000 kilotons. Its fireball, as seen below, is one of the most iconic images ever captured of a nuclear explosion.

iconic image of the castle romeo nuclear explosion of 1954

#8: Soviet Test #123 (1961)

Test #123 was one of the 57 tests conducted by the Soviet Union in 1961. Most of these tests were conducted on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in Northwestern Russia. The bomb yielded 12,500 kilotons of explosive energy, enough to vaporize everything within a 2.1 mile (3.5km) radius.

#7: Castle Yankee (1954)

Castle Yankee was the fifth test in Operation Castle. The explosion marked the second-most powerful nuclear test by the U.S.

It yielded 13,500 kilotons, much higher than the predicted yield of up to 10,000 kilotons. Within four days of the blast, its fallout reached Mexico City, roughly 7,100 miles (11,400km) away.

#6: Castle Bravo (1954)

Castle Bravo, the first of the Castle Operation series, accidentally became the most powerful nuclear bomb tested by the U.S.

Due to a design error, the explosive energy from the bomb reached 15,000 kilotons, two and a half times what was expected. The mushroom cloud climbed up to roughly 25 miles (40km).

As a result of the test, an area of 7,000 square miles was contaminated, and inhabitants of nearby atolls were exposed to high levels of radioactive fallout. Traces of the blast were found in Australia, India, Japan, and Europe.

#5, #4, #3: Soviet Tests #173, #174, #147 (1962)

In 1962, the Soviet Union conducted 78 nuclear tests, three of which produced the fifth, fourth, and third-most powerful explosions in history. Tests #173, #174, and #147 each yielded around 20,000 kilotons. Due to the absolute secrecy of these tests, no photos or videos have been released.

#2: Soviet Test #219 (1962)

Test #219 was an atmospheric nuclear test carried out using an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with the bomb exploding at a height of 2.3 miles (3.8km) above sea level. It was the second-most powerful nuclear explosion, with a yield of 24,200 kilotons and a destructive radius of ~25 miles (41km).

#1: Tsar Bomba (1961)

Tsar Bomba, also called Big Ivan, needed a specially designed plane because it was too heavy to carry on conventional aircraft. The bomb was attached to a giant parachute to give the plane time to fly away.

The explosion, yielding 50,000 kilotons, obliterated an abandoned village 34 miles (55km) away and generated a 5.0-5.25 magnitude earthquake in the surrounding region. Initially, it was designed as a 100,000 kiloton bomb, but its yield was cut to half its potential by the Soviet Union. Tsar Bomba’s mushroom cloud breached through the stratosphere to reach a height of over 37 miles (60km), roughly six times the flying height of commercial aircraft.

The two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had devastating consequences, and their explosive yields were only a fraction of the 10 largest explosions. The power of modern nuclear weapons makes their scale of destruction truly unfathomable, and as history suggests, the outcomes can be unpredictable.

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Money

Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?

Many countries around the world are facing double or triple-digit inflation. See which countries have the highest inflation rates on this map.

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.

Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.

With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.

Double-Digit Inflation in 2022

As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.

CountryInflation Rate, Year-Over-YearDate
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe269.0%Oct 2022
🇱🇧 Lebanon162.0%Sep 2022
🇻🇪 Venezuela156.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇾 Syria139.0%Aug 2022
🇸🇩 Sudan103.0%Oct 2022
🇦🇷 Argentina88.0%Oct 2022
🇹🇷 Turkey85.5%Oct 2022
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka66.0%Oct 2022
🇮🇷 Iran52.2%Aug 2022
🇸🇷 Suriname41.4%Sep 2022
🇬🇭 Ghana40.4%Oct 2022
🇨🇺 Cuba37.2%Sep 2022
🇱🇦 Laos36.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇩 Moldova34.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇹 Ethiopia31.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇼 Rwanda31.0%Oct 2022
🇭🇹 Haiti30.5%Jul 2022
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone29.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇰 Pakistan26.6%Oct 2022
🇺🇦 Ukraine26.6%Oct 2022
🇲🇼 Malawi25.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇹 Lithuania23.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇪 Estonia22.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇮 Burundi22.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe21.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇻 Latvia21.8%Oct 2022
🇭🇺 Hungary21.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇬 Nigeria21.1%Oct 2022
🇲🇰 Macedonia19.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇲 Myanmar19.4%Jun 2022
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18.8%Oct 2022
🇵🇱 Poland17.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇬 Bulgaria17.6%Oct 2022
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan17.5%Dec 2021
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina17.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇪 Montenegro16.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇴 Angola16.7%Oct 2022
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso16.5%Sep 2022
🇪🇬 Egypt16.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇲 Comoros15.9%Sep 2022
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan15.4%Oct 2022
🇷🇴 Romania15.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇾 Belarus15.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇿 Czech Republic15.1%Oct 2022
🇷🇸 Serbia15.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇰 Slovakia14.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇳 Mongolia14.5%Oct 2022
🇳🇱 Netherlands14.3%Oct 2022
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan13.7%Oct 2022
🇦🇫 Afghanistan13.6%Sep 2022
🇬🇲 Gambia13.3%Sep 2022
🇭🇷 Croatia13.2%Oct 2022
🇧🇼 Botswana13.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇳 Senegal13.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇱 Chile12.8%Oct 2022
🇽🇰 Kosovo12.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇺 Russia12.6%Oct 2022
🇬🇳 Guinea12.4%Jul 2022
🇧🇪 Belgium12.3%Oct 2022
🇨🇴 Colombia12.2%Oct 2022
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan12.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇬 Congo12.2%Oct 2022
🇳🇮 Nicaragua12.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands12.1%Jun 2022
🇲🇺 Mauritius11.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇿 Mozambique11.8%Oct 2022
🇮🇹 Italy11.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇱 Mali11.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇷 Mauritania11.3%Sep 2022
🇬🇧 United Kingdom11.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇹 Austria11.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇪 Sweden10.9%Oct 2022
🇺🇬 Uganda10.7%Oct 2022
🇬🇪 Georgia10.6%Oct 2022
🇩🇪 Germany10.4%Oct 2022
🇭🇳 Honduras10.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇰 Denmark10.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇹 Portugal10.1%Oct 2022
🇯🇲 Jamaica9.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇮 Slovenia9.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇹 Guatemala9.7%Oct 2022
🇿🇲 Zambia9.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇪 Kenya9.6%Oct 2022
🇦🇲 Armenia9.5%Oct 2022
🇮🇸 Iceland9.4%Oct 2022
🇲🇬 Madagascar9.3%Aug 2022
🇮🇪 Ireland9.2%Oct 2022
🇱🇸 Lesotho9.2%Sep 2022
🇹🇳 Tunisia9.2%Oct 2022
🇬🇷 Greece9.1%Oct 2022
🇺🇾 Uruguay9.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇷 Costa Rica9.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇩 Bangladesh8.9%Oct 2022
🇨🇾 Cyprus8.8%Oct 2022
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands8.8%Sep 2022
🇩🇿 Algeria8.7%Sep 2022
🇳🇵 Nepal8.6%Sep 2022
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands8.5%Aug 2022
🇲🇽 Mexico8.4%Oct 2022
🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau8.4%Sep 2022
🇦🇱 Albania8.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇧 Barbados8.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇮 Finland8.3%Oct 2022
🇲🇦 Morocco8.3%Sep 2022
🇵🇪 Peru8.3%Oct 2022
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic8.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇻 Cape Verde8.2%Oct 2022
🇵🇾 Paraguay8.1%Oct 2022
🇹🇱 East Timor7.9%Sep 2022
🇹🇬 Togo7.9%Sep 2022
🇵🇭 Philippines7.7%Oct 2022
🇺🇸 U.S.7.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇲 Cameroon7.6%Sep 2022
🇳🇴 Norway7.5%Oct 2022
🇸🇬 Singapore7.5%Sep 2022
🇿🇦 South Africa7.5%Sep 2022
🇸🇻 El Salvador7.5%Oct 2022
🇲🇹 Malta7.4%Oct 2022
🇦🇺 Australia7.3%Sep 2022
🇪🇸 Spain7.3%Oct 2022
🇹🇩 Chad7.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇿 New Zealand7.2%Sep 2022
🇧🇿 Belize7.1%Sep 2022
🇳🇦 Namibia7.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇼 Aruba7.0%Sep 2022
🇨🇦 Canada6.9%Oct 2022
🇱🇺 Luxembourg6.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇴 Somalia6.9%Oct 2022
🇮🇳 India6.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates6.8%Jun 2022
🇬🇾 Guyana6.5%Sep 2022
🇱🇷 Liberia6.5%Jul 2022
🇧🇷 Brazil6.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇸 Bahamas6.3%Aug 2022
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast6.3%Sep 2022
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago6.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇷 France6.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇯 Djibouti6.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Bhutan6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Qatar6.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇭 Thailand6.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇿 Swaziland5.8%Aug 2022
🇮🇩 Indonesia5.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇷 South Korea5.7%Oct 2022
🇹🇯 Tajikistan5.7%Sep 2022
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.5%Jun 2022
🇰🇭 Cambodia5.4%Jul 2022
🇮🇶 Iraq5.3%Sep 2022
🇯🇴 Jordan5.2%Oct 2022
🇫🇯 Fiji5.1%Sep 2022
🇮🇱 Israel5.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇨 New Caledonia5.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇿 Tanzania4.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇲 Bermuda4.5%Jul 2022
🇪🇷 Eritrea4.5%Dec 2021
🇲🇾 Malaysia4.5%Sep 2022
🇭🇰 Hong Kong4.4%Sep 2022
🇵🇸 Palestine4.4%Oct 2022
🇧🇳 Brunei4.3%Sep 2022
🇱🇾 Libya4.3%Sep 2022
🇻🇳 Vietnam4.3%Oct 2022
🇪🇨 Ecuador4.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇭 Bahrain4.0%Sep 2022
🇯🇵 Japan3.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇼 Kuwait3.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇪 Niger3.2%Sep 2022
🇲🇻 Maldives3.1%Sep 2022
🇬🇦 Gabon3.0%Jul 2022
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇭 Switzerland3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇨 Seychelles2.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea2.9%Dec 2021
🇧🇴 Bolivia2.9%Oct 2022
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇫 Central African Republic2.7%Dec 2021
🇻🇺 Vanuatu2.7%Mar 2022
🇴🇲 Oman2.4%Sep 2022
🇧🇯 Benin2.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇳 China2.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇦 Panama1.9%Sep 2022
🇲🇴 Macau1.1%Sep 2022
🇸🇸 South Sudan-2.5%Aug 2022

*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.

As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.

Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.

The Role of Energy Prices

Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.

Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.

Double-Digit Inflation

Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.

Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.

“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.

-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA

Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?

If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.

Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.

If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.

It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.

While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.

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Misc

Visualized: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

We introduce the visual diversity of bacteria and illustrate how they are categorized by appearance—from a single cell to an entire colony.

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Invisible Diversity: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

Bacteria are amazing.

They were the first form of life to appear on Earth almost 3.8 billion years ago.

They make up the second most abundant lifeform, only outweighed by plants.

And most interesting of all: they exist in practically every environment on our planet, including areas where no other lifeforms can survive. As a result, bacteria exhibit a wide variety of appearances, behaviors, and applications similar to the lifeforms we see in our everyday lives.

The incredible diversity of bacteria goes underappreciated simply because they are invisible to the naked eye. Here, we illustrate how researchers classify these creatures on the basis of appearance, giving you a glimpse into this microscopic world.

A Life of Culture

Though bacteria may look similar to other microorganisms like fungi or plankton, they are entirely unique on a microscopic and genetic level.

Bacteria make up one of the three main domains of life. All life shares its earliest ancestor with this group of microbes, alongside two other domains: the Archaea and the Eukarya.

Archaea are very similar to bacteria, but have different contents making up their cell walls.

Eukarya largely consists of complex, multicellular life, like fungi, plants, and animals. Bacteria are similar to its single-celled members because all bacteria are also unicellular. However, while all Eukarya have nuclear membranes that store genetic material, bacteria do not.

Bacteria have their genetic material free-floating within their cellular bodies. This impacts how their genes are encoded, how proteins are synthesized, and how they reproduce. For example, bacteria do not reproduce sexually. Instead, they reproduce on their own.

Bacteria undergo a process called binary fission, where any one cell divides into two identical cells, and so on. Fission occurs quickly. In minutes, populations can double rapidly, eventually forming a community of genetically identical microbes called a colony.

Colonies can be visible to the human eye and can take on a variety of different shapes, textures, sizes, colors, and behaviors. You might be familiar with some of these:

Superstars of a Tiny World

The following are some interesting bacterial species, some of which you may be familiar with:

Epulopiscium spp

This species is unusually large, ranging from 200-700 micrometers in length. They are also incredible picky, living only within the guts of sturgeon, a type of large fish.

Deinococcus radiodurans

D. radiodurans is a coccus-shaped species that can withstand 1,500 times the dose of radiation that a human can.

Escherichia coli

Despite being known famously for poisoning food and agriculture spaces from time to time, not all E.coli species are dangerous.

Desulforudis audaxviator

Down in the depths of a South African gold mine, this species thrives without oxygen, sunlight, or friends—it is the only living species in its ecosystem. It survives eating minerals in the surrounding rock.

Helicobacter pylori

Known for causing stomach ulcers, this spiral-shaped species has also been associated with many cancers that impact the lymphoid tissue.

Planococcus halocryophillus

Most living things cease to survive in cold temperatures, but P. halocryophillus thrives in permafrost in the High Arctic where temperatures can drop below -25°C/-12°F.

‘Bact’ to the Future

Despite their microscopic size, the contributions bacteria make to our daily lives are enormous. Researchers everyday are using them to study new environments, create new drug therapies, and even build new materials.

Scientists can profile the diversity of species living in a habitat by extracting DNA from an environmental sample. Known as metagenomics, this field of genetics commonly studies bacterial populations.

In oxygen-free habitats, bacteria continuously find alternative sources of energy. Some have even evolved to eat plastic or metal that have been discarded in the ocean.

The healthcare industry uses bacteria to help create antibiotics, vaccines, and other metabolic products. They also play a major role in a new line of self-building materials, which include “self-healing” concrete and “living bricks”.

Those are just a few of the many examples in which bacteria impact our daily lives. Although they are invisible, without them, our world would undoubtedly look like a much different place.

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