Duck And Cover?

Glenn Reynolds posted this as a recent article.

Now I don’t know if Glenn has been to Hiroshima or not, but if he has he might understand why some of the stuff recommended by those old civil defense people aren’t as crazy as they seem.

Now I posted about Hiroshima a while ago and one of the things I talked about briefly was Charles Pellegrino’s book.

Here’s a review of Charlie’s book in the New York Times.


Now Charlie is a bit of a character.  I know him best for telling long interesting, stories, getting into fights over strange stuff with weirder people and being a polymath who will put various disciplines of science together. He’s also a fairly well known as a science fiction author as well as a science author.  He’s written books on the Titanic, Herculaneum, the lunar module and other subjects.  He also essentially invented the discipline of forensic archeology. The thing that really lights him up is booms, big ones.

He’s especially interested in the secondary and tertiary effects in large dynamic events.  It turns out that large events don’t just blat everything in their path, that obstacles can divert the pressure waves and provide shelter for things behind  for crucial seconds.  Charlie calls this the shock cocoon effect.

What happens is that an obstruction in front of an air blast from an extreme event cause the air to go around it and when that happen the air, already very fast becomes supersonic, or tries to, creating a shockwave which force the blast force away from behind the obstruction and away, creating a small bubble of protection.  The bubble doesn’t last very long, but in one of these events, it doesn’t have to.

Things in those bubbles survive  even when everything around them is in total ruin.  Which is how so many survived at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The small bit of cover from a wall or desk was enough to protect them even as people right next to them were being vaporized.  Nothing is more strange than being inside and extreme even and surviving.  May “duck and cover isn’t so crazy after all.




One comment

  1. MadRocketSci · April 27, 2016

    Duck and cover wasn’t crazy, I don’t think. The point isn’t to survive dead-center in the total destruction radius. The point was to keep flying glass out of your face in the much larger area surrounding the epicenter, and keep from being blinded, so that you could cope with the aftermath.

    Same thing with bomb-shelters. In sci-fi and video games, bomb shelters have to be ginormous underground cities that keep people alive in a contained environment for hundreds of years, because the surface is a moonscape. Anything else is just “futility”.

    In reality, bomb shelters are supposed to keep the blast from killing you, and keep you out of the worst of the fallout (order of a few days to a week or two), and to ensure that you have a supply of food and water to cope with the aftermath (because the logistics of civilization near a nuclear strike might be disrupted for a while.)

    The original ideas for dealing with nuclear weapons, back when people thought of them as terrible weapons of war that they might have to deal with (when they were used to dealing with terrible weapons of war landing on their cities) were pretty much grounded and sane. The ideas that came in the 60s/70s were hysterical overreaction, and refusal to deal with the prospect of a nuclear exchange in any terms except “The end of EVERYTHING! OMG!” I had someone tell me point blank that I was an insane and dangerous maniac for even thinking about trying to survive and win a war like that. He told me that “if it happens, nothing matters anymore. Humanity doesn’t deserve to survive.” (eyeroll)


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