Talk:Neutron bomb/Archives/2014/May

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Old and unsorted comments

Don't free neutrons decay in about 15 minutes? Would that mean that (radiation aside) an area hit by a neutron bomb would be safe to re-enter by then? t

It refers to "salted bombs" being mentioned above, which are not, probably refering to something from the original article this used to be part of. The tactics section is confusing. Are Nbombs suposed to destroy buildings or not? Vroman 22:29 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Well, physicists who work for the U.S. Army say yes...

Sam Cohen, who invented the thing says no... at least in his book.

Neutrons are absorbed by hydrogen (water vapor), so maybe Cohen is right in Nevada, and the Army is right in Germany...

And I don't know the neutron absorption cross section of water vapor, so I can't even calculate it. Frustrating. User:Ray Van De Walker

This page says that "A radiation dose of 600 rads is normally considered lethal (it will kill at least half of those who are exposed to it)", whereas the RADIATION page says that a 450R (roentgen/hr) dose kills at least half, noone has been known to survive a 600R dose. Since these are old terms, it would be good to see the newer units used consistently across all radiation articles. The old/new terms and conversions are listed here:

No mention of the anti-war protests and peace activism in the Neutron bomb article? I remember there were huge demonstrations in the 1980's to stop neutron bomb making.

I found a quite interesting article about the history of the neutron bomb at Sundae 10:38, 20 August 2005 (UTC)


Kurt Vonnegut's book, "Deadeye Dick" is narrated by someone whose hometown, Midland City, OH, USA is... cleaned out by a neutron bomb that goes off on a freeway.

  • I converted the two referenced BBC articles to the modern referencing system using the Wikipedia cite templates. I'd like to do the same with the two books that were written by Dr. Cohen, but I don't know what information in the article is citing them. Could the person who added them let me know please? :-) -N. Harmon 13:15, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Can we please not discuss ways of killing people on the web? Doesn't anybody think terrorists or foreign enemies abroad could use this information to kill us?

-J —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:26, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

--too right. Imagine if foreigners like say, the Americans got hold of this information. Shudder. Foreigners, how I wish they'd all go back to foreign and leave us alone. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:59, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

Learned Elder

"The US stockpile is believed to have been largely dismantled by the elder Bush administration"

The word "elder" is mostly known among non-native speakers of english in relation with the infamous Protocols. Since Bush Sr. is not a sinister jew, a better wording is welcome. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 11:03, 8 January 2007 (UTC).

I see no reason to alter the use of the word elder to describe Bush Sr. It is obvious that elder means the older of the two men, and not a reference to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". I mean, are we forced to abandon any common adjectives that are used in titles? Just of books? Or of the more dubious variety? This is bizarre. Joe Giorandino (talk) 03:23, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

No fallout

How could it be that this device leaves no radiactive fallout?

As far as I know all nuclear weapons (including fusion weapons) require a fission reaction to initiate it. If there is a fission reaction it means that there will be at least some fallout. This needs to be addressed. 16:57, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Bizarre claims

Some of the claims by the inventor are pretty wildly off base. He's also claimed that iraq had 50 baseball sized nukes they were going to use on the coalition forces, and that "red mercury" is the key to pure fusion weapons. Red mercury, in this instance being a hoax. Id say delete the claims unless they can be substantiated. Also, the tsar bomba, which was about as powerful a neutron source as is possible to build, (50 Mt, 97% fusion) was detonated 45 km from the test pilots. If neutron radiation was as powerful as claimed, they would have been killed instantly, and they were not. 10:28, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Surely Red Mercury is a legend, that means we don't actually know whether it exists or doesn't. Its the kind of idea that was probably never more than a theory or speculation. As far as I know it was supposedly a Russian technology anyway, I'm partly paraphrasing what I think was a New Scientist article from many years ago. Certainly the theory about the baseball sized bombs is correct though, the whole reason red Mercury was such a fear was that you could make a working bomb very very small.
Being interested in such things (not for bomb making reasons) I believe Red mercury acted as some kind of energy absorber somehow storing free neutrons or ?. When exposed to a powerful chemical explosion it could be made to unleash an energy wave that would release a vast burst of high energy neutrons. The process that released the bust of neutrons was itself probably fission but the real question is how the extra neutrons could be stored (one should remember that neutron decay is very different from nuclear decay).
Sorry if I go on but I find this old 'rubbish' fascinating. Lucien86 (talk) 02:35, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

I would just like to comment on the "Tsar Bomba" comment above. Although the comment might hold weight if the device was an enhanced radiation device, it was not; the neutrons were captured in order to increase explosive yield. I arrived at this conclusion from this very entry (isn't Wikipedia awesome?). As for Red Mercury, it was a legend, and I suppose you can say that anything at all proposed and can not be tested might exist...but seriously, red mercury is a hoax. Pure fiction. Joe Giorandino (talk) 03:30, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

Actually the Tsar Bomba did not capture those neutrons to increase its power. As originally designed, it would have had a tamper made of U-238 which would have captured the neutrons produced by the fusion reaction and produced an additional 50 megatonnes of (fast fission) yield. However, this would have increased the fallout by at least an order of magnitude. Since the principle of increasing the yield this way was already well understood, the original tamper was replaced with a tamper made of non fissile tungsten for the actual detonation. Essentially the tsar bomba was the world's largest neutron bomb, and illustrates exactly why they don't scale up well. The blast and thermal radiation fall off slower than the neutron radiation, and thus anyone who would have been killed by neutrons would have been pulverized and vapourized by the other weapon effects. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cutoffyourjib (talkcontribs) 07:51, 29 April 2012 (UTC)


I just made a few deletes. The information was all tagged as "Citation needed", and it was further elaboration on something that is summed up very well in the technical section: "A popular misconception is that the neutron bomb "leaves the infrastructure intact" - in reality the blast from a neutron bomb would level almost any civilian structure inside the lethal radiation range." The Navy comment was included in this because it was just such a loose end, and it was also tagged as "Citation needed." 18:36, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Should the last line of the Neutron Bomb Tactics section "Moreover, these victims would likely be aware of their inevitable fate and react accordingly." be deleted? I think its implying that someone irradiated by a neutron bomb will suddenly go nuts and start fighting with no consideration of their own life because they know they'll die soon. It sounds more like a concept lifted from a movie and doesn't belong in an encyclopedic article. But I'm not going to delete it myself unless others agree. (talk) 02:14, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

It doesn't sound unlikely to me. But I don't have any references for it. Man with two legs (talk) 21:14, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Humans have a basic survival instinct, and even if severely irradiated, I don't think anyone would willingly throw themselves in front of bullets or make a suicide run at the enemy like this suggests, even if they were able to (which I think is unlikely in itself). A person would probably be more inclined to seek help for himself from his own side, and hopefully survive. (talk) 00:27, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Future Technology

It is implied in article that antimatter could be used to increase the bomb's effectiveness. Could someone please explain how you can store antimatter inside the bomb, as the bomb is made of matter itself?

antimatter, as long as it is electrically charged (usually antiprotons) can be contained within a magnetic bubble. it has been theorized that it could be used to catalyze a fusion reaction by firing it at a relatively heavy nucleus, which would be blown to pieces and set off fusion fuel. However, at current production rates, you'd have to wait till the heat death of the universe to make a quantity large enough to blow up a soap bubble. 13:01, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

Irak use

I deleted this utterly ridiculous claim. See my changes to the technical overview. If the US had used a neutron bomb in Baghdad, we would know about it. There would not have been a way to hide it, as well as the death and maiming of all the intelligence and news personnel of other nations that this would have brought about. Also (careful, sarcasm to follow) the US wouldn't have the problems there that they have now (because they would have flattened half the city in the process.)--Cancun771 10:51, 9 April 2007 (UTC)

What a joke you can't even spell Iraq and you're trying to act like you know anything about this topic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:24, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Irak is the correct spelling in some languages. Devil Master (talk) 17:54, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

Popular culture references

This is a bit ridiculous. I don't want to play the deletionist here, and I know what a can of worms this whole thing is, but we're looking at two-thirds or more of the article. What's more, it spoiled the relevent part of a novel I was reading. I understand the content disclaimer, but the reason we don't put spoiler warnings on articles anymore is that such content should generally be clear from article headers and context. I don't actually care that much about the spoiler, but it pointed out how extraneous much of this content is. Any proposed solutions? Split to a "Neutron bombs in popular culture" article? Just cut this way down? Any thoughts? /Ninly (talk) 18:18, 16 September 2008 (UTC)

Yield explanation

The article currently says:

Neutron bombs have low yields compared with other nuclear weapons. This is because neutrons are absorbed by air, so a high-yield neutron bomb is not able to radiate neutrons beyond its blast range and so would have no destructive advantage over a normal hydrogen bomb.

I am not sure what this paragraph is supposed to say but neutrons are _not_ readily absorbed by air. The claim that a (high-yield or other) neutron bomb is not able to radiate neutrons beyond its blast range is dubious. Increasing the overall yield of a neutron bomb would increase the neutron flux as well as the blast yield.
Maybe the term neutron bomb is used incorrectly here? A neutron bomb is _defined_ as a hydrogen bomb with a low blast yield to neutron flux ratio. -- (talk) 18:23, 5 October 2008 (UTC)

High-energy neutrons are scattered easily in air (and water, and other light elements), at the distances one thinks of in terms of nuclear blasts (e.g. less than a thousand yards). This scattering dissipates a surprising amount of their energy (esp. since it is light elements that scatter better than heavier ones—this is discussed in Glasstone and Dolan's book). Thus the neutron effects curve falls off a lot quicker than gamma rays, and in large explosions, much quicker than the blast/heat effects, even though on a table-top scale, you're right, neutrons aren't really absorbed by the air. You can see this quite readily with any "nuclear effects calculator" -- put in a small yield and suddenly the radiation effects greatly out-strip the blast and heat; but with mid to large yields they don't get outside of the blast radius at all. I do think that the passage could be clarified, and maybe could be refined to indicate that the immediate radiation effects (that is, excluding fallout) of high-yield weapons are too small to make a "neutron bomb" like weapon (e.g. a weapon with more radiation than blast). (This is not the same thing as a salted bomb, of course.) --Mr.98 (talk) 17:03, 28 September 2009 (UTC)
Nitrogen is used as an emergency neutron absorber in MAGNOX gas-cooled nuclear reactors which suggests that the sentence above is actually correct as it is. It may be worth adding something about the distance over which it happens. I also remember, but I can't remember the source (perhaps, that neutrons are 90% absorbed by 500 metres of air. Man with two legs (talk) 14:07, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Mmm, I don't know. Glasstone and Dolan don't seem to agree with that. And I suspect it matters a bit whether one is talking about slow neutrons (as in most reactors, including a MAGNOX) and fast ones (as in a bomb). I'm also not sure if the nitrogen is a great comparison to air (is it gaseous, liquid, what pressure, etc.). --Mr.98 (talk) 15:38, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
I haven't read Glasstone and Dolan, but it is certain that nitrogen gas can absorb neutrons. In a reactor, the pressure would be greater but a large enough volume of normal pressure air will have a similar effect. If for some reason this does not work with fast neutrons, many will thermalise in air within a few hundred metres. Either way if the range is more than a few hundred metres then air will absorb neutrons. My guess is that anything that needs explaining on this point can be solved by being clear about the distances involved. Man with two legs (talk) 10:33, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

What does "formerly built mainly by the United States" mean?

In the introduction is the phrase "formerly built mainly by the United States".

What does this mean? I can think of several interpretations:

  • Several countries built it, mainly the US, but nobody builds it any more
  • Several countries built it, but the US and a few others don't build it any more
  • The US used to be the main builder, but now there are other countries who build more

I don't know which one is correct. Could this be re-worded to give a clear and unambiguous meaning? cojoco (talk) 01:14, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

I think it means, "several countries built it, mainly the US, and the US doesn't build them anymore, but maybe other countries do, we don't really know." --Mr.98 (talk) 17:05, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

Copyright violation?

Most of the article seems to have been ripped from the Nuclear Weapons FAQ without attribution: section 1.5.4. I've added a reference but I'm not clear how Wikipedia's usage falls under the licence, which can be found at the top of that page. Jamougha (talk) 10:21, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Why can't a simple number be given in days or years

I really only know about the Neutron Bomb because of a famous Halloween Special for the Simpsons. The main character homer is running around care free as if there was no radiation left behind after Springfield was destroyed by the french with a neutron bomb.

I know its only a cartoon, but it got me curious about how long radiation from a nuclear weapon, or more specifically, a neutron bomb would last/be dangerous.

The problem is I can't find one solid/direct answer or piece of info on Wikipedia, this article or anywhere else.

It seems no one knows, and most of the places I've found give some INDIRECT answer about multiple variables like weather or isotopes BUT NO GENERAL OR DIRECT answer.

So how long in days or years would the radiation from a bomb, or in this case a Neutron bomb last/be dangerous. I just want a direct general assessment. Like "the radiation from a Neutron Bomb lasts x days or x years"

It would be nice if the article actually had a clear direct answer to this. Yami (talk) 03:16, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

The radiation from a neutron bomb poses no long-lasting danger. The effect comes from prompt neutrons, emitted in the nuclear detonation. The radiation from fallout comes from the decay of short-lived fission products and decays rapidly over a period of days to weeks. NPguy (talk) 04:43, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

Technocrats ruining the article

First references in popular culture removed, then international criticism and controversy references removed. That's awesome-- separate the weapon from absolutely all historical, political and cultural context, as if you were writing a spec manual on ERWs. A good example among many of everything that is wrong with Wikipedia. Sickening. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:07, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

On the contrary, those that believe everything they see on TV are ruining reality.

Popular culture constantly protrays weapons(from non-nuclear to nuclear) as being capable of things they are not. E.g conventional bullets routinely blowing up cars, which is actually pretty impossible.

The international controversy is largely, again, based on the weapons false and misleading protrayal in the media, and therefore I understand why these sections were removed.

Boundarylayer (talk) 01:47, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

Bogus Claim

The following text claims that a neutron is ionising radiation. A neutron has no charge.

"ER weapons are meant to kill a much higher percentage of enemy personnel inside such protected environments through the release of a higher percentage of their yield in the form of neutron ionizing radiation, against which tank armors, excluding depleted uranium, are ineffective."

I think this should be DNA, protein and cellular damage. (talk) 01:29, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Gamma rays are ionizing, even though they have no charge. Neutrons cause ionization by collisions with light nuclei and are actually considered more biologically harmful (per unit energy) than gamma rays. NPguy (talk) 23:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

NPguy is correct Neutrons are ionising radiation. Boundarylayer (talk) 01:52, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

Misconceptions of Neutron Bombs

This article needs a section on the misconceptions of neutron bombs. The lack of understanding that these weapons produce radiation as well as a significant blast should be covered more extensively. Currently, the article only has a single sentence each in the introduction and in the "use" section addressing this: "Although their extreme blast and heat effects are not eliminated, it is the enormous radiation released by ERWs that is meant to be a major source of casualties." and "Although neutron bombs are commonly believed to "leave the infrastructure intact", current designs have explosive yields in the kiloton range, the detonation of which would cause considerable destruction through blast and heat effects." The pervasiveness of confusion about the weapon is easily demonstrated by the multitude of comments/sections above that are related to [dispelling/combating] these misconceptions. I noticed that inclusion of a sentence on this was previously deleted although it has seemed to be replaced by the sentence presently in the "use" section. The issue is that the near universality of this misconception demands more of a representation in the article. The popular culture section that was deleted also would seem to demonstrate this; most uses of neutron weapons in popular culture depict them as doing no damage whatsoever to non-organic things. To supply an a example I personally encountered: in the computer game Command & Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour China is depicted as having self-propelled artillery that can fire "neutron shells" and "neutron mines" that, if used on infantry, will kill them instantly, but if used on vehicles, it will only kill the crew inside and leave the vehicle perfectly untouched - even if the explosion hits them directly. In summary, this article would benefit from having a section on misconceptions and not just a few sentences. --Noha307 (talk) 19:52, 28 March 2012 (UTC)

I agree, they were originally designed as an anti-tank weapon. See the inventor's medal from the pope for his work, as the USSR had a tank advantage during the Cold war, and the prior pope being from, at the time, the Warsaw pact Poland, he knew all too well of the capabilities of the USSR to continue invading into the rest of Europe, the Pope saw anything that gave the Europeans an advantage as something that might level the playing field and hopefully deter the USSR from invading.
However with the increase in armor that I referenced in the article a while back, they are now no longer fielded, as larger weapons would do the job of killing tanks just as well.
I agree that the article should make a stronger emphasis that the weapon will not leave infrastructure entirely undamaged as is popularly presented in the media, however I do not agree with a media section or a controversy section being added.
Furthermore, mention should be made that Neutron bombs are probably not the best way to kill people without causing much infrastructure damage, that dubious honor probably falling to Biological weapons or Chemical weapons. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Boundarylayer (talkcontribs) 02:08, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

Questionable effectiveness in modern anti-tank role - according to Cohen there's no question here, metal armour isn't effective at stopping Neutron radiation (it's effective against Gamma radiation which is produced in greater quantities in conventional nuclear weapons). That was the reason for the development of the Neutron bomb, a means of leveling the playing field between the western/eastern forces. [1]

Biological/Chemical weapons aren't the best of things to use in an allies territory, both can be blown back onto friendly troops and they can be effective for years, whereas the radiation from a Neutron bomb has a very short half life posing little to no threat after a few days. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:58, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

The Neutron activation of building material in a city after a neutron bomb designed to kill city dwellers would render the city pretty inhospitable to many a wary civilian who might like to live in the city afterwards for 1-5 years after the detonation. As I said, the description of a weapon that kills people and leaves infrastructure intact falls to biological and Chemical weapons. You can also easily vaccinate troops against the effects of a biological agent, unlike the effects of radiation. As for modern tanks and Cohen, he was completely right for his time, but please see the Boron jacket(neutron shield) that was fielded on many a Cold War era Soviet tank - T72. I actually had a mention to the T72 tank in the article when I first created the section, but for some reason another editor removed it for no rational reason.
Boundarylayer (talk) 05:30, 30 March 2013‎

Use against ballistic missiles

It says in this section that neutron bombs defeat ballistic missiles by destroying their electronics with their neutron flux. However, I thought that incoming ballistic missiles were destroyed when the intense neutron flux caused their cores to undergo premature fission. Which one is correct, or are both correct?--Witan (talk) 00:53, 21 November 2013‎

Expert review needed

This article has been extensively rewritten by a single IP editor. It seems review by a subject matter expert would be warranted. NPguy (talk) 04:00, 8 March 2014‎

As the aforementioned IP user, I welcome the review. Who do you have in mind? I've referenced practically everything I wrote from public domain material. Which was a difficult task let me tell you, most of the serious neutron transmission codes are behind pay walls etc, but would be a reference mining avenue to look into. (talk) 02:05, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

Off topic material

I found the following at the end of the history section:

However for those who truly "hold life cheap", chemical and biological weapons are far more effective at leaving property/"capital" undamaged and people dead, indeed although the US officially disbanded their BW program in 1972, the Soviet Union, despite also signing the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972, clandestinely continued the Soviet biological weapons program by reclassifying it as the civilian "Biopreparat", with offensive weaponization of pathogens continuing in that facility right up until the dissolution of the state in 1991.[30]

While I agree with the above, it comes across as a rebuttal that seems out of place and goes on too long about biological weapons. If a quote from a person instrumental in the development and discussion of such weapons can be found that says essentially the same thing that could be used in stead of the above. Zedshort (talk) 03:22, 12 March 2014‎

Why was the Concrete neutron shield sentence removed?

It appears that in one of their recent edits to the article, User:Bgwhite, on 9 April 2014, while they were doing some superfluous rearranging of the order of the paragraphs, perhaps by accident, removed the sentence and references about high density concrete being the most effective neutron shield, information added by a prior IP user.

Having spotted this strange deletion of material, that is well referenced, I have reinstated the sentence and references. (talk) 03:22, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ page 135 of The Truth About the Neutron Bomb, 1983,