For those of us that came of age during the 1980s and after, the threat of nuclear oblivion has never seemed to be a real threat. The dangers of AIDS, economic failure, terrorism have loomed large in the lives of Generation X, Y and the Millennials, but very few of us ever had to hide under our desks during a bomb drill or watch Dad obsess over the backyard underground bunker.
In 2003, Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto created a time-lapse video map of every nuclear bomb explosion in the world between 1945 and 1998. There were 2053 explosions in that time, including the tests that the United States made during the "Manhattan Project" and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ostensibly ended World War II. The 14-minute long video (below) is a beautiful and terrifying look at the nuclear era that defined world politics, warfare and humanity for more than half a century.
Hashimoto is a curator at the Lalique Museum in Hakone, Japan. The video was created in 2003 as a series expressing Hashimoto's view of, "the fear and the folly of nuclear weapons." The video represents nuclear tests with a colored dot and a beep on a map. It starts slow in 1945, showing a world view of a couple flashes in the southwestern United States before zooming in on the two bombs dropped in Japan. The video then pans out and continues for the duration from a birds-eye view of the world. The climax comes between 1955 and 1970 as the Soviet Union joined the U.S. as a nuclear power and England, France, India and Pakistan eventually joined the arms race.
The U.S. had the most nuclear tests, by a large margin, with most occurring in the southwest. The Soviet Union performed most of its tests in and around what is now Kazakhstan and the Lake Balkhash region with many also coming in northern Siberia and Nordic border with Finland. When the British entered the nuclear race, their first tests were in the desolate regions of west Australia. The French were several years behind but made up for coming late by being very active with nuclear tests in the South Pacific, the most vast and uninhabited region on Earth. India and Pakistan tested nuclear bombs mostly in the northern section of the Indian subcontinent. China tested many of its nuclear weapons at Lop Nur in the northwestern part of the country.
Hashimoto's data is based on research from the Swedish Defense Research Establishment and Stockholm International Peace Institute. It does not include two supposed nuclear tests by North Korea in 1998 that may or may not have actually happened. Pakistan was the last to test nuclear bombs in 1998.
"This piece of work is a bird's eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second. No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier. The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world," said Hashimoto according to the website CTBTO, a commission formed to ban the testing of nuclear weapons.
The gruesome tally: the U.S. tested 1032 nuclear weapons, U.S.S.R 715, France 210, Britain 45, China 45, India 4 and Pakistan 2.
See Hashimoto's video "1945--1998" below.