Ingeniously Charting The Horrifying Power Of Today's Nuclear Bombs

The mushroom cloud of Russia’s biggest nuke was 8 times the height of Mt. Everest. This infographic will give you a visceral feel for that that means.

It was called the Tsar Bomba, but the Russians nicknamed it the Kuz’kina Mat—or what roughly translates to the "We’ll Show You." This 50,000-kiloton hydrogen bomb was the largest detonated nuke ever, and it’s considered the most powerful man-made creation in history.

Heck, it was immensely powerful on the galactic scale. If you built a bomb of the same size and shape from the material in the sun’s core, it would take 10 million years to generate the same amount of energy.

The human mind simply can’t fathom the numbers, but this extra-long infographic by Maximilian Bode , a former art director at The New Yorker, begins to put the Tsar Bomba into perspective, at least in terms of other nukes. It gives you, even just sitting at your desk, a sense of the horrifying scale of the bombs we’ve made. Working your way from the top, you can see how tiny Little Boy and Fat Man were—the devastating nukes that the US dropped on Japan during WWII. If you’ve ever seen media of the aftermath, you might be able to grasp some of the mass horror of those weapons. But they were tiny in comparison to Tsar Bomba. Tsar Bomba was 1,400 times more powerful than Little Boy and Fat Man, combined.

Scrolling through the image, seeing red square after red square as your fingers grow tired, begins to scale the true terror of the nuclear arms race between the US and Russia. We didn’t just decipher how to make nuclear weapons; we’d mastered them.

When Tsar Bomba was dropped, the fireball had a 5-mile diameter that reached over 6 miles into the sky. From 62 miles away, the heat could still give you third degree burns. Windows were broken 560 miles away.

Now consider this: Russia had actually planned to build Tsar Bomba twice as large, but they opted not to in order to reduce nuclear fallout.

Add New Comment


  • Great infographic, but the title of this piece is totally misleading; big nukes are weapons of the past, not of today. Neither the US of Russia stockpiles weapons even remotely as large today; strategists on both sides long ago concluded there was no useful military purpose to multi-megaton weapons and they have all been dismantled. The most powerful nuke the US maintains is the B83 free-fall bomb at 1.2 megatons; the last multi-megaton weapon went out of service in 2010.

  • Guest

    Now these were way before today. Tsar Bomba was tested on Oct 30, 1961 i.e. more than 50 years ago. No body has any clue what today's warheads power is! World peace!

  • Nieseset

     More importantly, what are some of the after effects of the bomb, does anybody know?  The effects of the hydrogen bomb on the Bikini Atolls are gross to say the least.  US has been paying the indigenous millions of dollars, but are very slow keeping their promises!!! Figures!!


  • Vintage Gibson

    For every action there is a equal and opposite reaction. I wonder if when they would detonate those things they considered how it might affect the earth's orbit around the sun? Wouldn't it be interesting if global warming was really caused by nuclear testing in the 1950's and this carbon concern is only the governments of the world's way of covering up for the damage they have done, while using it as an excuse to shift wealth from people to themselves through carbon taxes, new regulations, restrictions of personal liberty etc.?

  • Ben Murray

     It would indeed be very interesting were that to be the case. But it's not. Climate change is not caused by nuclear testing but by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. I'm happy to be able to put your mind to rest on that one.

  • Mark Rojas

    wow, the infograph was powerful, the added video was a great use of multimedia to put this issue in perspective

  • mikeoutandabout

    Here in the UK there were a network of small nuclear fallout bunkers for the Royal Observer corps to observe blast and fallout in the even of nuclear war. Most in the UK know little or nothing about them yet they are often in the most accessible places, people walk past them every day and don't realise what they were for. I've visted a few - take a look on my blog.


  • Mark

    Size matters, but it could not save a dying empire. That weapon was, and is, obsolete.

  • John Stanowski

    TYPO: The B53 says it was 9000 Kilotons but the graphic kinda says it was 900.

  • Chuck

    Really, this is what goes for 'ingenious' these days?

    Also, 1000 kiloton = 1 megaton, the Tzar Bomba was 50 megatons, not 50000 kilotons.

  • Margarete

    By your own  conversion rate, 50 megatons = 50,000 kilotons.  They're not mutually exclusive figures.

  • Leonard Eiger

    Very effective visual!!! Although not nearly as huge as Tsar Bomba or Castle Bravo, the warheads currently deployed on U.S. Trident submarine launched nuclear armed missiles are one of either 100 or 455 kiloton yield.  Not exactly small stuff!!!  As the commander of the U.S. Atlantic Trident submarine fleet recently put it, "A single Trident submarine is the sixth largest nuclear nation in the world all by itself."