15 Scary Facts About The World's Nuclear Arsenal

“You have to nuke them!" the barista exclaims, frantically gesturing toward the microwave and the breakfast sandwiches.

The trainee nods compliantly. His utter lack of experience is doing nothing to help her with the breakfast rush. To make matters worse, he forgot to put his phone on silent so when he gets a text message, the whole cafe catches an earful of the Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" single. Ironically, you get a text message at the same exact time as this bumbling trainee and even more strangely, so does everyone within earshot. You will later learn that this clashing ricochet of ringtones was your government's brilliant way of alerting the world to its inevitable doom.

Before anyone can comment on the oddity, though, a powerful blast renders the lot of you speechless. The frantic barista's face falls flat and she's sucked into the atmosphere like a lint ball in a vacuum cleaner. Upon witnessing this, the trainee becomes hysterical and laughs himself into oblivion until he is no more. Everyone behind the counter is reduced to ashes in a matter of seconds, banished from the planet as if they never existed at all. They were the lucky ones.

You and the other customers are still alive when the second blast hits, a blinding blaze of gamma radiation that rips through your retinas, temporarily taking your sight. At this point, the nausea sets in. You and your companions spill your guts all across the carefully decorated interior and each other because none of you can see. The vomit leaking from your mouth could easily belong to you or anybody else in the room. As soon as your vision is restored, you see it; the mammoth mushroom cloud of radioactivity moving toward you at high velocity.

And that, my friends,  is what the inside of a Starbucks looks like in the middle of a nuclear war.

Now in terms of sheer probability, when you figure in things like car accidents, heart attacks, secondhand smoke, Pokémon Go servers crashing and what have you, does the world’s nuclear stockpile really deserve a top spot on your list of worries? Well, on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being something you should not concern yourself with and 10 being a pant leg covered in urine, the most accurate answer is: Run. For. Your. Life. Here then, are 15 reasons you should stop everything you're doing and build a bomb shelter in your basement right away. Because you never know when the end might be coming.


15 We've Had More Close Calls Than You Can Shake A Can Of Plutonium At

If you're new to radioactive news you could be reading this and thinking… Restricted Areas? Chernobyl Disaster? Well, prepare to have your mind blown. We rub shoulders with nuclear powers and mass extinction on a regular basis. There was the Arms Race of the Cold War, the Chernobyl disaster, Hiroshima and, of course, the notorious Cuban Missile Crisis just to name a few. These are the nuclear blast offs we've been told about and bear in mind the fact that the general public tends to receive information on a 75 year or so delay.

The aforementioned flying mutants aren't even the result of nuclear war. They happened by accident due to the mishandling of nuclear weapons. Due, mainly, that is, to human error. If scientific projections maintain any level of accuracy, then the only thing more dangerous than humanity's thirst for war is humanity's tendency to err. So in an all-out battle of statistics, it seems that the only scenario that exists where we don't intentionally hurl weapons of mass destruction at one another and emerge in a dystopian future, grotesquely deformed, is one where we accidentally blow each other up instead.

14 Thousands of Aging Nuclear Warheads Pose a Serious Threat To All Of Humanity


You might not be aware of the fact that there are several thousand nuclear warheads on hand but you really should know this by now. It's old news. Really old news. It's dangerously old news, in fact. Some of the now depreciating weaponry dates all the way back to Hiroshima (August, 1945). To say that this stuff is not up to modern safety standards is an understatement indeed. What I can tell you is that it failed the National Nuclear Security Administration's inspection miserably and that's not even the worst part of the situation.

So here, in a nutshell, is what's happening now. The whiz kids who originally crafted all this heavy artillery, the type of toxic stuff that could level the planet in an eye's blink, did so without taking very many notes. The missiles are comprised of deteriorating, complicated components and there isn't a reliable instruction manual accompanying them. This makes it impossible to safely disassemble them, upgrade them or fire them at all. So, in an effort to rectify this, modern techs simply added new components on top of the old rusty pieces- because that's what you do. Like if your car grows old and rusty in the driveway you should totally put the engine back together with brand new duct tape. Works like a charm. To give you an idea of the antiquity of these warheads here's a fun little factoid. The most reliable information we have on them was stored on microfiche, a kind of film that can't even be viewed anymore and is starting to crumble and stick together.

13 Fallout. When It Rains It Pours

Survivors of nuclear explosions still have to be pretty leery of the rain. Post nuclear thunderstorms are not the sort of thing you should get caught splashing around in. Black rain, so aptly titled, carries dangerous carcinogens and is also known to dramatically decrease fertility rates and increase the risk for possible biological mutations. Decontamination of fallout is a daunting task best left to the guy who likes rifling through rabbit pooh. It requires sophisticated equipment, the likes of which would probably be destroyed in the event of a real nuclear war. The very fact that they already have fixtures in place that were designed specifically for fallout removal is very telling of itself.

It's notable to mention that we only understand fallout because of a mistake, several mistakes actually, wherein test runs of nuclear weapons contaminated neighboring villages, leaving whole communities in ruins. Some of the most horrific incidents took place on the islands of Rongelap and Utirik. These regions were never the same. Above, the picture you're viewing is of a building in Ukraine or at least what's left of it after it crumbled beneath nuclear fallout. Most of this was an accident or maybe it was a test. Eerily, this dilapidated facility was a middle school.

12 People Like Pushing Buttons


There's a great deal of denial and secrecy surrounding whether or not there's really a "nuclear button" like the big red ones we see in cartoons. The system described by world governments is much less dramatic. It consists of several commanding officials who issue a series of computer codes that need to be typed in prior to detonation. Many believe this to be a lie. I’d like to end the debate right now. Be it a button, a series of computer codes, or smoke signals being sent from Mars, the end result is the same---desensitization based on mass distribution of guilt and a great deal of distance between victims and "button pushers."

You see, pushing a button and/or typing a code isn't anything at all like pulling a trigger, watching a man die, and knowing with certainty that you personally took his life. The vaguer the situation is, the more distance between you and the victims, the more fingers on the theoretical trigger, the easier it becomes to shift the blame and carry out an otherwise unfathomable deed. This is how Hitler convinced legions of otherwise sane people into committing the unspeakable act of genocide, by distancing them from the victims and distributing guilt down a chain of command. Albeit, surrounding the most deplorable weaponry on the planet with the one thing that indefinitely corrupts the moral compass of mankind is only intelligent if you want to start a nuclear war, not if you're hoping to avoid one.

11 When Radioactive Mutant Rabbits Populate the Planet


Nuclear lore is riddled with depictions of radioactive mutant rabbits and for good reason. They're already here. The above pictured bunny is clearly an exaggeration but he's not that far off from the truth. Much of our planet's irradiated wildlife (yes, our planet is rife with irradiated wildlife) exhibits these mutated traits. Really awe-inspiring stuff like multiple heads, holes for ears, inside out faces, you know the drill. Sadly, none of them exhibit super powers. Thus far, that part of the story remains fictional.

Mutated rabbits might not be so easy on the eyes, but at least you can tell they're contaminated. The problem is not all radioactive creatures look contaminated. Some of them look perfectly normal but everything about them is toxic, including their dung. Rumor has it that their feces carries so many toxins that even today, several decades after the Chernobyl disaster, government helicopters are still circling the restricted area, looking for "hot fecal matter". You'd have to wonder who filled out an application for that job:

“To whom it may concern,

I have attached my resume detailing the many years of experience I have in digging up radioactive rabbit poop.


Your Hopeful Future Employee”


10 Irradiated Insects Are Out For Blood


Of course it's not just Peter Cottontail you have to think about in terms of radiation leakage. A much more substantial and immediate concern is in his flying friends, the mutant insects. You don't have to worry about them infiltrating your future though, dearie. They're already here. Fruit flies, mosquitoes, ladybugs and butterflies too; all of them carrying astronomical levels of radioactivity on their wings and dragging those toxins through the sky. They soar into and out of these restricted zones and spend a couple seconds in your cereal before you wave them away and nobody, seriously, nobody on the planet, knows exactly how this is going to affect us or our children. What we do know however, is that our entire global wildlife population has already been afflicted with exaggerated levels of radioactivity. So, the next time you examine a mosquito bite and get a little chill at the thought of the Zika virus, you should think bigger. Think Armageddon.

9 Testing, Testing- 120,000 People Perished


As you can see, the affects of nuclear testing are absolutely devastating. Unfortunately, the alternative is not nuclear testing (yikes!). If we don't know how to test our nuclear weapons and we don't know how to properly maintain them, what on Earth would make us believe that we deserve to have them at all? According to eyewitness accounts, victims of Hiroshima were in such immense pain after nuclear equipment was “tested” that upon arrival at the hospital, they begged staff members to kill them just to put them out of their misery. They suffered exterior and internal damage. Their descendants suffered rare mutations. All in the name of warfare. All under the umbrella of protection. To put things into perspective here, 120,000 fatalities is the equivalent to 80 Titanics sinking. Quite ironic that when the Titanic met its icy fate and took 1,500 lives 2.3 miles below the surface of the ocean, the event was commemorated for more than a hundred years but when our man-made nuclear arsenal wiped 120,000 people off the face of the Earth, you could hear a pin drop in the wake of the devastation. When the smoke is cleared, are we all just choosing what we wish to pay attention to?


8 Doomsday: It Isn't a Day, It's a Device


One of my favorite internet fan theories is the one where James Bond's name turns out to be a code instead of a moniker. In the same vein, when you think of "Doomsday", you're probably picturing an actual day when human beings gather for one final hurrah, knowing that the planet's gone into mass extinction mode. This vision is most likely complete with looting, crying, heavy circulation of intoxicants, and other vivid depictions brought to you by Hollywood. There might even be hot girls baring their naked bodies on Doomsday or, if you're really imaginative, hot Martians. None of this is likely to happen, not because hot Martians don't exist,but rather, because Doomsday doesn't exist the way that you envision it.

Doomsday, is a robotic arm that was installed in the mid 1900s and is designed to declare war all by itself. To be technical, it's a computer system connected to a series of bombs that are hidden in obscure places all over the world. This system wants nothing to do with pesky humans and its handiwork is not based on commands. It decides, based on extra sensory vision, whether or not nuclear war has been declared. It does so by measuring ground temperatures, monitoring sound and shock waves and scanning for the presence of what it perceives to be radioactivity. In other words, just to give you a full understanding of the Doomsday device, if 90% of the planet uses their microwaves at the same exact time and this robotic arm perceives that action as nuclear war instead of a worldwide craving for warm up food (which is not to say that it would, but if it did) it would set off every bomb it is attached to, in the spirit of literally leveling the playing field. In this scenario, nobody pushes the button. The button pushes itself.

7 ⋋∁MΤ∁=⋋IEP1P2P3 When Simplified, This Seemingly Complicated Math Problem = We’re All Gonna Die

If you’ve ever seen Good Will Hunting you might recollect the impossible math problem that was scrawled on a college chalkboard and only the janitor could solve it. Initially, nuclear war probability statistics were a lot like that. There were just way too many variables and not enough information. They were difficult. No. They were impossible.

Then along came a highly regarded statistician by the name of Dr. Martin Hellman who simplified the problem by removing most of the risk factors. This includes tons of risks we know are possible because of things that have already happened. Now with the risk factors stripped down to the bare minimum, the number-crunching presented odds that were on the optimistic side but still in tune with reality and the tally was---one out of ten.

That’s right. As of 2008, statistics say that the probability of a nuclear war taking place sometime in the next fifty years is about one in ten and that’s when you take away factors such as accidental explosions, human error, and radioactive leakage seeping out of poorly maintained weapons of mass destruction. Down the line, Scientific American challenged this statistic with an even more optimistic number---one out of 30. When you take into account all of the aforementioned dilemmas, you sort of have to wonder which sticky piece of microfiche they pulled that number off of. Perhaps it was a cave drawing. Nonetheless, if I was standing in a crowd of thirty people and I was told that one of us was going to be shot, I still wouldn’t like my odds.

6 You Might Survive


If you followed my advice and built a bomb shelter because you happened to have a couple million lying around then haha, joke's on you, rich kid. You picked the absolute worst time to be a survivalist. You're gonna have to come up for ashes, I mean air, at some point and when you do 100 million rotting corpses await. I'm not just sitting here pulling this stuff out of my, ummm...imagination either. These are stone cold scientific facts. Do you know how to dispose of 100 million corpses? Do you even know how to dispose of one corpse? Never mind. Forget about the corpses. They're the least of your troubles. You stand alone in the midst of a barren wasteland while the bones of people you locked out of your bomb shelter crumple underfoot. The Earth is dark and will likely remain so for quite a bit of time, as in years. Nothing is alive. Everything is death. It is at this very moment that you draw a new, horrific conclusion.

5 If You Want To Live, You Have To Eat The Bunny

Barf. I know. But here in this post-nuclear version of Earth, food doesn't exactly grow on trees. Shoot, trees don't even grow on trees at this point. You can’t survive on cockroaches. They’ve outlived you. They outnumber you and once they catch wind of what’s left on the menu (mainly ash, ash, and burnt ash) you’ll be lucky if they don’t all get together and devour you alive. Should they show you the mercy of letting you live for now, the newly depleted ozone layer will certainly scorch you up nice and crispy for them later. But that's later. Your most immediate situation remains as such.

A world void of vegetation and covered in carcinogens is all you have left to cling to. Tomorrow’s still a promise but the horizon it used to sit upon is not. What’s a little side of deep fried, radioactive Thumper going to do but fuel you for at least another day? Is that too difficult to swallow?

4 You’ll Probably Starve To Death Like The Other 2 Billion Survivors


Talk about an optimistic statistic! When I first read that statisticians estimated 2 billion survivors in a post-nuclear scenario, my whole attitude toward nuclear war became more positive.

“Maybe it won’t be that bad after all,” I thought.

I began to dream up a sexy but stormy place where maybe I run into Rick, Michonne and Daryl Dixon. We take down a few mutants, catch a couple of squirrels; you know, live in a world where the rules are ours to make. But when I read on and learned that most of the 2 billion survivors would only live long enough to starve to death, I realized that this was singly the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in print. Imagine pulling yourself up through the wreckage in singed skinny jeans, masterminding a weapon to wield, talking yourself through hysteria, only to fall upon a food shortage. Well, not really a shortage, more like an absence. 2 billion growling stomachs reach the edge of eternity and live there just long enough to die.

3 On the Bright Side, At Least You’ll Have a Pet


This Demogorgon doppelganger known as the Tardigrade is seeking a friend for the end of the world and you, in your frail, post-traumatic state, are everybody’s top choice. Now this faceless sucker might be ugly as sin, but he’s not nearly as sinister as he seems. If you look at him from just the right angle he could be kinda cute. He could definitely grow on you. And he will because he’s a microorganism. At least he was before the launch. What all that radiation's going to do to him is anybody's guess.

What science knows about the Tardigrade is that he can withstand the radiation; approximately 1,000 times more radiation than other animals to be exact. He's also uncrushable and he can go years, possibly decades, without eating or drinking. Does he have teeth? Absolutely. Does he have relatives? Certainly. There’s currently more than 1,000 species of Tardigrade hanging out in the ocean near the plants and algae. They’ve taken a likin’ to lichen but that probably won’t be available in the apocalypse. There will only be you.

2 The End of the World Only Has Two Seasons- Nuclear Winter and Atomic Summer


I wonder if the term fallout is a play on words because in the wake of an atomic explosion fall really is out. Spring, too, and what you're left with is an icy winter followed by the hottest summer Earth has ever seen, theoretically at least. So what exactly is "Nuclear Winter?" In a nutshell, its pollution that catches on fire. Hadn't thought of that possibility when you erected the bomb shelter, did you? It covers the planet in a cloudy dust that could darken the world for years, maybe even decades, and dramatically decrease temperatures by up to thirty degrees.

Can't you just hear Jon Snow in the background of the nuclear ruins- "Winter is coming!"

Should you happen to survive the series of explosions, the physical and mental anguish that accompanies great loss, the cancer, mutations, thirst, hunger, and finally the black sky and Arctic chill, you should try not to get too excited. Remember that nuclear power that wiped out almost everything living and even completely extinguished some of the dead? What do you think it did to the ozone layer? Once nuclear winter is gone, you get to say hello to the ultraviolet sunshine. It is here to stay.

1 There Are At Least 16,000 Missiles But All We Really Need Is 10

When thinking about the world's nuclear arsenal, it seems like more nukes equals more danger. This is why a number like 16,000 or more (and it's probably a lot more) is intimidating. However, in the year 1945, the age of the weapons of mass destruction, a classified government declaration from Los Alamos explained that the actual number of atomic bombs needed to serve the purpose of mass extinction is ten. Just ten. The other 15,990 are only dangerous because they're rusty and leaking and nobody knows what to do with them aside from declaring war.

So...there you have it. There is a one in ten chance that 16,000 or more atom bombs will level the planet in your lifetime, leaving you in a fruitless, desolate existence to roam the Earth amidst mutant Tardigrades and later starve to death in a power struggle that you didn’t create and that doesn’t serve you. Did you want an extra shot of truth in your Venti Skinny Latte? Good morning.

Sources: How the End Begins: The Road To A Nuclear World War III, Ron Rosenbaum, 2011 Arsenals of Folly: The Making Of The Nuclear Arms Race, Richard Rhodes, 2007

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