Talk:Operation Plumbbob

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Original source: Public domain text from the U.S. Department of Energy Nevada web page

manhole cover[edit]

So my paragraph was quoted. Cool! I wikified it a little more and adapted the wording to the scope of this article - also put back "true" in the heading, since it's a part of the UL about the humble manhole cover "really" beating them all. Femto 15:56, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I see someone has changed (with a sort of reliable source) this claim. Nevertheless I believe it is wise to watch [[1]] discussion. JunCTionS 06:25, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
Found another more conclusive argument here, will place it as source JunCTionS 06:38, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

The last line of this page -"This incident was not used as part of the technical justification for the Orion project." in the section entitled "the first nuclear propelled man made object in space" contradicts the article entitled "manhole cover" section "propelled into space" -"This incident was used as part of the technical justification for the Orion project." Somebody make up their minds!!

As "Robert Sneddon" recently pointed out (, the Pascal-B steel plate numbers don't add up. A 900 kg object with a speed of 66 km/s has a kinetic energy of 1.96 TJ. The yield of the Pascal-B explosion was only "300 t", which is 1.26 TJ. One would expect only a tiny proportion of the energy from the explosion to end up as kinetic energy of the projectile, so this is a big discrepancy. The story is not plausible.
Possibly; the qualitative decision that only "a tiny proportion of the energy ... ended up as kinetic energy" leaves me wondering how we manage to make shotguns work. The question becomes which number is wrong - the mass, the velocity or the energy imparted. Halving the velocity (measured from a single film frame) would more than compensate for any discrepancy and still leave the lid flying above escape velocity. The story may be plausible. SkoreKeep (talk) 17:59, 23 July 2015 (UTC)
I just backwards-math'ed it. The 300 ton Pascal-B explosion, exploding with 1.26 TJ of energy, will blast the manhole cover off of the shaft at 26.4 km/s, if it does this with 100% efficiency. This is over twice the escape velocity of earth (11.2 km/s). Now that being said, in reality the explosion would convert much of its energy into the sides of the shaft, and much energy would be lost through heating and instantaneous phasing of the air in the shaft and the material encapsulating the explosion. The manhole cover would then be subject to massive air drag and further heating on its journey upwards. Through no scientific means, my gut feeling tells me that at least 75% of the energy of the explosion would be lost through the aforementioned items, and therefore I believe that it is highly improbable that the manhole cover would have reached escape velocity. Wiki4Procrastination (talk) 05:02, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

There is some spurious maths going on here – who thinks that nuclear weapon engineers from the height of the atomic age were worse at math than random wiki contributors?

A 300ton yield represents approx. 1.255TJ. Slotting that into KE=1/2 * m * v2, gives an upper bound for the velocity of the plate (@900kg) of 52.8km/s – not far off the original calculated estimate of 66km/s.

Now who thinks that 300t yield is an exact figure? Nuclear weapon yields are notoriously difficult to A) calculate accurately for a built device, and B) measure directly from observing an explosion (including instrumentation). This makes perfect sense as tiny differences in the operation of the warhead can have significant effects on the released yield, and measuring the energy output of a ginormous explosion is difficult because it is only possible to sample a very small fraction of the released energy and they are not necessarily symmetric.

So it is safe to assume that the quoted 300t yield is an estimate of unknown accuracy – even if they intended the device to be 300t yield, it may have been 350t, or 500t or 200t (etc. ad infinitum). For example, the Castle Bravo test was calculated to have a yield of 4-8 megatons, but produced 15 megatons. Then there is the matter of secrecy and classification, it is entirely reasonable to assume that the *exact* yield may be kept a closely guarded secret (even though the *real* exact yield might not be precisely known) so a predicted yield of say, 327t (or 500, or 427 etc etc.) might be quoted as 300t.

Given all of the above, the 66km/s figure can and should be taken as a reliable estimate for what *could* have happened to the plate, given that the figure was produced by *the person who designed the experiment himself* and not a random internet user writing calculations on the back of a napkin. All this is moot of course, because even the lowest estimates of the plates velocity would have it being destroyed or vaporised within the lower atmosphere from compression heating effects, nobody of any import believes it made it to space. It is not accurate to say “the plate left travelling 66km/s” nor is it accrate to say “the plate could not have been travelling 66km/s” (or 33km/s or escape velocity or any combination thereof). The only thing that can be said with any accuracy is that there is a lower (calculated from the frame rate of the camera pointed at it) and an upper bound (66km/s – best estimate, provided by people on the ground) to the speed which the plate attained and the plate was probably destroyed before it travelled very far.

It always irks me to read amateur opinions, referring to scientists in extremely prestigious positions (Do they think that idiots are hired to build nuclear weapons? This was the height of the cold war.), read like “I don’t think that’s plausible.” Even a lay-person ought to assume that there might be something other afoot, than a cold war nuclear engineer getting KE=1/2*m*v2 wrong. (talk) 09:07, 11 April 2016 (UTC) contains some discussion of the maximum speed of the gas form of the vaporized concrete plug, which correlates well with the estimates of the speed of the steel cover at the top of the shaft. Possibly, the official yeild estimates for the test were too low, and possibly the mass of the portion of the plate launched was less than the full 900kg. J.Mayer (talk) 13:41, 16 August 2016 (UTC)

Continental Drift Reversed?[edit]

This is a quote of a caption of the photo of the Hood shot, as of june 21 2009: "and the flash was seen by an airline pilot flying over Hawaii, over 800 miles from the NTS." The caption says California's 300 miles away, true enough, but I had no idea those folks three time zones further than California were only 800 miles out to sea. 8000? Doubt that too. More like around 4000. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:50, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

i just noticed that too. A couple of sources put the distance between Honolulu and LasVegas as about 2700 miles.[2][3] I'm going to go ahead and make that change.   Will Beback  talk  21:39, 15 October 2009 (UTC)


Why does thunderwell redirect here this has nothing to do with thunderwells (talk) 02:00, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Article says: "The use of a subterranean shaft and nuclear device to propel an object to escape velocity has since been termed a "thunder well". I guess there is no better article on the subject yet. --BjKa (talk) 23:35, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Sixth test series?[edit]

The article currently says: "The operation was the sixth test series". Now, in my reckoning it would have come after Trinity, Crossroads, Sandstone, Ranger, Greenhouse, Buster-Jangle, Tumbler-Snapper, Ivy, Upshot-Knothole, Castle, Teapot, Wigwam, and a few others. How do you arrive at six for this test series? --BjKa (talk) 23:35, 4 August 2012 (UTC)


The table was saying 0.5 kilotons. Reality, in every source other than Wikipedia says 0.5 tons.

Maybe there was some confusion concerning the design yield of 600 tons? Lassen was a fizzle. (talk) 02:12, 22 March 2013 (UTC)

More likely it was some well-meaning person "correcting" the omission of the "kilo-" prefix. We had that a lot on Operation Buster-Jangle with people changing the yield of Able to tons or kilotons, until I changed it to a direct quote with a cited source to keep it at <1 pound nuclear yield... rdfox 76 (talk) 02:33, 23 March 2013 (UTC)

Picture for series. Why not Hood?[edit]

Seriously, Priscilla??

Hood was the largest atmospheric test in the CONUS. Hood should be the picture for the article. <-- Here's one, you can always find another though. (talk) 02:23, 22 March 2013 (UTC)

Not only that, but is it really a picture of Priscilla? Looks a lot like Upshot-Knothole Grable to me.... Moletrouser (talk) 09:38, 5 May 2013 (UTC)


Coinmanj added a new section:

See also

   Totskoye nuclear exercise, a similar test by the Soviet Union

just below the list of tests in Plumbbob. The question for me is, which test was Totskoye similar to? The Totskoye test is infamous for Beria ordering a bomb drop in a relatively populated farm area as part of an Army maneuver without warning; it was not otherwise technically different from tens of other drop tests. I really don't see the connection with any Plumbbob test, unless this is a pretty involved attempt at vandalizing the article by drawing a parallel with one of the Desert Rock tests (Hood or Smokey, perhaps). I'll revert the change in a week or so if no answers are forthcoming; at a minimum, the comment needs to be extended to point out the similarity. SkoreKeep (talk) 03:53, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

I see that johnfos put the section and the mention of Totskoye back in, with no reason given. Well, there it lies. SkoreKeep (talk) 05:04, 26 October 2013 (UTC)


It is not apparent to me in Operation Plumbbob how exactly the code:

   [ [Effects of nuclear explosions#Thermal radiation|thermal pulse] ] ----> "thermal pulse"

is an EasterEgg. Your change makes it

   [ [Effects of nuclear explosions#Thermal radiation] ] pulse ----> "Effects of nuclear explosions#Thermal radiation pulse"

which is grammatical nonsense. I think we'll leave it the way it was, as there is no hidden meaning or inside joke, or even much jargon, involved. I'm aware you dislike piped links, but all I can suggest is to get over it. SkoreKeep (talk) 17:01, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

OK, now you've changed it again with the explanation "(WP:EASTEREGG (you're mistaken: this has nothing to do with hidden meanings or inside jokes).)", to:
   [ [Effects of nuclear explosions#Thermal radiation|thermal radiation] ]  ---->  "thermal radiation"
That change I can support; it actually makes grammatical sense, and it didn't change the meaning of the sentence very much. It certainly isn't the change you first essayed. However, I'm somewhat flumoxed by your interpretation of "Effects of nuclear explosions#Thermal radiation|thermal pulse" as an Easteregg, which seems to be defined as "Do not use piped links to create 'easter egg links', that require the reader to follow them before understanding what's going on". First, I don't see how it applies, and second, you didn't remove the piped link, all you did is replace "thermal radiation" for "thermal pulse", leaving the piped link as it was. I could agree and won't argue with the edit but your explanation this time is gibberish. But, nevermind, don't try to explain, you've confused me quite enough. SkoreKeep (talk) 19:15, 25 April 2014 (UTC)


The opening paragraph describes this as being, among other things, the most controversial test series. It would be nice to have a section discussing the controversies, and whether they were controversies at the time, or only became controversial later on, when more information about the tests specifically as well as generally became known.Wschart (talk) 13:42, 30 July 2014 (UTC)

The table on this page is generated by database[edit]

The table on this page and the contents of any nuclear tests infobox are generated from a database of nuclear testing which I have maintained and researched for a number of years. The table is automatically generated from that database by a Visual Basic script, and then has, periodically, been inserted into the page manually. I began doing this in October of 2013.

Recently a user complained (politely) to me about the practice. It seems to him that it removes control from all editors besides myself over the content. He believes it is tantamount to WP:OWNED of the pages affected. He also points out that there is no public mention of the fact anywhere on wikipedia, and that is true, through my own oversight, until now.

There was no intent that the pages affected should be owned by myself; in fact, one of my reasons for building these pages was to solicit (in the wikipedia way) criticism and corrections to the data, perhaps additional references that I had been unable to locate. I have regenerated the tables twice in the days since they were originally placed. Each time I did so, I performed a diff between the current version and the version that I put up in the previous cycle; all corrections were then either entered into the database or corrected in the programming, as appropriate. As may be guessed, the programming corrections were frequent to start out as suggestions about the table formatting were raised, and most incorporated. I have not made judgements on the "usefulness" of corrections; all have been incorporated, or I have communicated directly with the editor to settle the matter. In fact it was in pursuing such a correction that this matter came up.

I am posting this comment on the Talk page of every page containing content which is so generated. If you would like to comment on this matter, please go to the copy on Talk:List of nuclear tests so the discussion can be kept together. I will also be placing a maintained template on each Talk page (if anyone would like also to be named as a maintainer on one or all pages, you are welcome). I solicit all comments and suggestions.

SkoreKeep (talk) 02:21, 18 August 2014 (UTC)