Friday, 25 March 2011

The Four Minute Warning? That's SO Eighties Darling.....

The good thing about being awake since 5:30 am is that my brain generates all kinds of random questions.

Today's question is: Would there still only be a four minute warning of an impending nuclear strike, or would we now get a longer warning due to the advances in technology? Also, if there was the technology to give us more warning, would the powers that be tell us sooner or just leave it until four minutes before impact?

That's two questions, I hear you cry.

Naff off - it's early.

In the Eighties, tension between America and Russia was at an all time high. All the baddies were Russian in American Movies (Red Dawn, Rocky IV), and Russia sent terrifyingly huge female athletes to the Olympics to scare the Americans into second place. The threat of Nuclear war hung over our heads like a blood red gaudy chandelier of death, and even the music industry played on the sense of doom ("Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and "Russians" by Sting were popular records in the Eighties).
It was widely believed that if a Nuclear Missile was launched at the UK from Russia, we would have four minutes before it landed and killed us all. I never found out if it was four minutes from launch to impact, or whether it was four minutes from when the missile was detected by Radar.

I've just checked, and it must be from launch. Well, it has to be - according to the Internet, a Nuclear (cruise) missile travels as 5 times the speed of sound. The speed of sound is 340.29 metres per second, so the missile travels at 1701.5 metres per second, so in four minutes would travel 408, 360 metres, or 253 miles. Of course, it doesn't travel at that speed right from launch, so for arguments sake let's say that in four minutes it travels 200 miles.

Four minutes is not very long - as my ex wife used to tell me. There's not too much you can do in four minutes, and even less that you can do in four minutes that would enable you to survive a nuclear strike -unless boiling an egg somehow makes you immune to the blast, shock wave, and radiation. Boiling an egg was chosen as the most popular response to the question of what to do while you wait to be killed by a nuclear missile, because the real answer most people gave was too rude. That was the promiscuous Eighties for you - thanks Mrs Thatcher!

But the Eighties are long behind us, and since then technology advanced in leaps and bounds. Most things are now smaller and faster than they were in the Eighties - with the possible exception of Nuclear Missiles ironically. They are now even more powerful and, even though there are less of them, the damage they would do is just as great. I think we will end up with just one nuclear missile in the world that every country owns a part of. And if one country wants to launch it at another country, they have to get the permission of all the other countries that own a part of it. And as the intended target country would own a part in the missile, it would never agree and so the missile would never be used.

I've just solved the threat of Nuclear War - I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Nobel Peace Prize? Don't mind if I do.

Going back to my point - with the advancement in technology today, we would be able to warn people much sooner of a missile attack. In fact with advancements in news and media coverage, not only would you be able to follow the arguments leading up to the missile launch, you also be able to see and hear an in depth one on one interview with the missile to see how it is feeling! People would have days, weeks even to evacuate the area affected, rather than wait for the announcement on the TV and radio.
Actually, these days we would all more likely receive the warning about a nuclear missile strike by text:

"Msl in 4 mins :-( LOL "

Back in the eighties, the Missile detection system was good in the technological side of things - with radar and satellites etc. - but it still came down to some guy watching a screen somewhere. There had to be a bloke who saw the screen, and made a call to alert some more people, and then they alerted more people etc. What if the first guy was away from his desk when the missile was caught on radar? The fate of millions of people could have been decided by how full someones bladder was, or how tired and in need of caffeine they were. We could have died because some guy was making a coffee!! That's a scary thought.

I don't know what I would do in the event of a nuclear attack. it's a fair bet that the telephone and mobile networks would be in meltdown (like at New Years Eve, when you can never send a text for the first fourteen minutes of the New Year), so you couldn't call anyone. My dad said he would move towards the blast - he would rather die in an instant that suffer with burns and radiation poisoning. If I could get away, I would probably do the same thing.

Luckily the threat of a Nuclear War is far less today. True there are a few "dodgy" countries that we have to keep an eye on, but I believe that a disaster could be averted in the event. I don't think that we will see a nuclear bomb go off in anger in my lifetime, but if we do, at least we'll have enough time to put it in our diaries and plan for it.


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