A terrifying reminder of the thousands of nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world

February 1, 2012

My son recently sent me a very beautiful but frightening piece of video art that more than 609,000 people have seen since it was uploaded onto Youtube in October 2010. The video punches us in the face with the realization that we have already poisoned the Earth with radiation from testing nuclear bombs.

The video, by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto, shows a time-lapse map of the 2,053 nuclear explosions which took place from 1945 to 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998. The time-lapse of the map unfolds at about one month per second.

Each nation gets its own musical note that is short like a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the bars above and below the map. Once the explosions get started by 1950, we hear a strange and terrifying music that is also beautiful, like the etchings of World War I battlefields by Otto Dix. The more textured and complex the music becomes, the more radiation we see erupting into the atmosphere. Yet because the sound is generated by the symbolic detonation through time, there is a random quality to the sound, very much like some serious contemporary classical music.

After the show, we get an encore, which consists of a series of explosions for each of the 7 countries to have exploded nuclear devices between 1945 and 1998.  The more bombs a country has detonated, the longer its little fiery dance lasts.  The countries are ordered from fewest explosions to most.

Here comes the most frightening part for American citizens, as we see and hear the stark truth: our country is responsible for 1,032, or just over 50% of all nuclear explosions.  By ourselves, the United States has exploded more nuclear devices than the rest of the world combined and 44% more than the second place Soviet Union.

I urge everyone to see Hashimoto’s video and send it to their network of friends and acquaintances.  I also urge you to write your senators, congressional representative and President Obama and tell them you support a unilateral ending of the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The news media constantly worries about Iran or North Korea developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons, and we’re pretty freaked out about Pakistan having them, too. Yet no one has acted more irresponsibly when it comes to nuclear weaponry than the United States has. We have tested the most weapons and we have the second most bombs stockpiled. More significantly, the United States is the only nation to use a nuclear bomb in war, dropping it on innocent citizens not once, but twice.

I was going to wait until Hiroshima Day in August to mention this video, but I realized that until every nation destroys its stockpile of nuclear weapons, every day is Hiroshima Day.

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