Edwin Starr once asked in his song “War, what is it good for?” Indeed, it is something that can never be won and must never be fought. Alas, centuries of war and destruction, including two world wars, seem to be insufficient in teaching man the futility of it all. Weapons are being constantly invented that would increase the casualty number and efficiency of a kill. Weapon making has become both an art and science.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed thousands of people, but man kept looking for ways to improve on them. The results are weapons that can obliterate an entire country. Here is a list of the top ten weapons of mass destruction.
1. Biological Weapons
Biological weapons make use of some kind of virus or disease that can affect millions of people. The danger of this weapon is that it could be uncontrollable once released. Nothing could stop it from spreading outside the original target area. Whenever simulations are made in which the target is to kill all human beings in this world, the weapon of choice is always biological because no other weapon has the same potential and capacity. It is the most difficult weapon of mass destruction to detect and identify because doctors would probably point to natural outbreaks of disease before suspecting any use of biological weapons. Examples of biological weapons are anthrax, tularemia, plague and ebola.
2. Chemical Weapons
Chemical weapons make use of deadly chemical products, either in the form of blisters, blood, choking or nerve agents. Only miniscule amounts are required for it to become effective, and just like biological weapons, it would be hard to control it once released to the atmosphere. Even when identified, cleaning it up can be extremely hard and almost impossible. It would also take a lot of time, money and effort. It is probably the easiest of all weapons of mass destruction to obtain. Examples of chemical weapons are mustard gas, ricin and lewisite. These chemicals are so dangerous that countries are not allowed to own more than a ton of these.
3. Fission Bomb
Modern nuclear weapons get their explosive energy from fission reactions. Fission bombs get their explosion purely from fission reactions. We all know it as the atomic bomb. In this weapon, enriched uranium or plutonium, which are both fissile material, is arranged into a supercritical mass. This is the amount needed to initiate a nuclear chain reaction that will grow exponentially. Enriched uranium can be triggered by either the gun method or the implosion method. Plutonium, on the other hand, can only make use of the more sophisticated implosion method, in which sub critical spheres are compressed to several times over its density by using chemical explosives.
4. Fusion Bomb
Also called the hydrogen bomb, fusion bombs rely on fusion reactions between isotopes of hydrogen called tritium and deuterium. Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam developed it in the United States in 1951, though Andrei Sakharov was able to develop the same separately for the Soviet Union in 1955. While it uses a fission weapon to trigger the fusion reaction, a large amount of the energy produced by this bomb comes from the nuclear fusion. The energy of the fission bomb is used however to compress and heat the fusion fuel. It is considered a more efficient weapon than the fission bomb, though it is also more difficult to design and execute. Only the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China and India have been able to successfully detonate a fusion bomb.
5. Boosted Fission Weapon
The boosted fission weapon is basically a fission bomb that makes use of some fusion reactions to boost its yield. The fusion reactions are not that significant however to make the weapon count as a fusion bomb. It merely utilizes the neutrons produced by the fusion reactions to increase the weapon’s efficiency.
6. Neutron Bomb
This weapon is detonated with a blast of neutron radiation. It is basically a salted bomb, in which cobalt or gold or some other suitable materials surround the weapon. The resulting blast will yield an exceptional large amount of radioactive contamination. As the explosion produced is relatively small, the infrastructure of the place bombed would remain intact and the fallout should be minimal. The tremendous amount of contamination produced by the radioactivity, however, means that there would be massive numbers of casualties in the affected area.
7. Napalm Bomb
This bomb is made of petroleum jelly and was used extensively as an incendiary bomb in the Vietnam War by the United States. There were already incendiary bombs before, but it could be easily wiped off, so adhesive was added to prevent its removal and enable it to cause more harm. But it could be drowsed by water, so magnesium was added so that water would instead burn with it. And as if those were not enough, lead was also added to make it poisonous. Exploded napalm can reach a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius.
8. Pure Fusion Bombs
This bomb does away with the need for fission weapons to trigger the weapon. Development would be simpler and faster because it does not require the creation of a fission weapon first. A pure fusion bomb also has a much less amount of fallout compared to regular fusion bombs because there would be no fission products that would be dispersed upon explosion.
9. Radiological Weapons
This is considered a medium level weapon of mass destruction. It involves the dispersion of radioactive materials by using an explosive device. While it may be hard to clean it up, the death rate would most likely be on the low level.
10. Toxicological Weapons
Toxicological weapons employ a variety of natural and artificial poisons. This kind of weapon is highly effective in causing death. Its range of effectiveness, however, is very limited and restricted in terms of area. It is also relatively easier to clean up than other weapons. It is probably the least dangerous of all the weapons of mass destruction.
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