Between 1945 and 1962, the United States conducted more than 200 atmospheric nuclear tests in remote sites in New Mexico, Nevada, the Pacific Ocean, and Atlantic Ocean. Each nuclear detonation used several cameras to capture footage, yielding around 10,000 films of tests. These recordings have slowly decaying in high-security vaults. Recently, after these films were deemed declassified by the U.S. Armed Forces, researchers are now working to scan the decomposing footages and reanalyzed before it’s too late. So far, these experts have scanned some 4,200 recordings. Many experts also studying the footages discovered that much of the original published data on nuclear explosions are wrong.
A team of experts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been working for the last five years to declassify, preserve, and study the films. Their main objectives are to preserve these important historical materials as well as to reanalyze previous data for more accurate figures. Unfortunately, many of the film canisters have sat unopened for decades. Upon opening of the canisters, some wafted out smells of vinegar, which is one of the by-products of the decomposition process of films. A few have even decomposed to the point of becoming useless. Of course, anything that can still be saved must be preserved in digital form because no matter how well preserved or stored the films will be, they will still decompose in time.
Films are made out of organic material and anything organic will decompose. It’s a good thing these films have declassified now because a few years more and the majority of these films would have been destroyed by decomposition. There are actually roughly 6,500 films that were stored away as top secret material. Of these, 4,200 have been scanned, so far, and around 500 are being reanalyzed for their data. 750 films have been declared declassified for public viewing, and around 60 of these have been published on the LLNL’s YouTube channel. When re-analyzing the footages, many of the experts noted that previous data like fireball and shockwave measurements are off while tonnage yield of explosions were off as well. In the 1950’s and 60’s, analysts had to manually enlarge the image on a single frame, shine it onto a grid, and make measurements. This led to much major discrepancies in the numbers, with figures being off by as much as 20 or 30 percent.
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The team’s software experts and the use of modern technology can now make proper measurements using automated processes. What took more than 8 hours of work before for a single footage to be analyzed can now be done in just 5 minutes. New data is showing that nuclear yields, fireballs, and shockwaves of nuclear explosions are much larger. Perhaps this new data can be presented as a deterrent to ensure that no nuclear weapons should ever be used in the future. Many of the experts are finding it unbelievable at the amount of energy expended by more than 200 nuclear explosions. Jokingly, all these tests is probably why Godzilla and Kong were created.