Saturday, February 13, 2010

100 Suns

"If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One... I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." - J. Robert Oppenheimer

There is something otherworldly in nuclear explosions. The amount of power, destruction and death is overwhelming and completely unimaginable for people who have not witnessed them firsthand. Hopefully no one will ever need to witness them again.

But from the artistic point of view nuclear explosions are very symbolic. Michael Light's book "100 Suns" takes a photographical approach to the subject.

100 Suns
(Pic from Amazon)

I bought the book years ago fascinated by the powerful images of different nuclear bombs, their form, shape and history. The book describes each of the explosions in short details, the name (yes, each bomb was named, and often with very macabre names, too!), where it went off, how big it was and so on. Even if it sounds a bit weird, I used to use the book as a sort of coffee table book, watching the pictures and trying to realise what happened in the explosion, when the atoms got split (or fused if it was an H-bomb) and caused the chain reaction. I find it captivating to think what happens to the air in the explosion, when the shock wave forces clouds to form from clear air, how it proceeds forward and creates a short-lived vacuum until the wind blows back to fill it, etc. It feels completely insane to think that people have ever been able to create something so powerful that it's completely out of their hands when it goes off. No wonder some people said those explosions look like harbinger of death itself.

But still, nuclear explosions are good material for designers. The colours, the mushroom shaped cloud, the force and impact... All is fare in graphic design and war. The winners will eventually set the rules.

Two explosions from 100 Suns
Featuring Grable (left), 15 kilotons, Nevada 1953 and Mike, the first fusion bomb, 10,4 megatons, Enewetak Atoll 1952.

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