Physicists say this is the best place to hide from a nuclear shock wave indoors

A new research provides a realistic assessment of your odds of surviving a nuclear detonation. It implies that even if you shelter indoors and are far enough away to prevent quick disintegration, the high-speed winds created by the blast may be enough to kill or severely damage you. However, the results also indicate the ideal locations within a structure to seek refuge if the worst-case scenario occurs.

Scientists from Cyprus’s University of Nicosia conducted the study. They developed a computer model that simulates the effects of a 750-kiloton bomb exploding over a normal metropolis.

The detonation would destroy everyone caught in the initial fireball, which may spread for more than a half-mile around the bomb. The researchers discovered that within 10 seconds of the explosion, a shock wave bubble approximately 3 miles in radius would form near the ground. This wave would generate winds powerful enough to kill or injure anybody unfortunate enough to be stuck outside, and it may even bring down some weaker structures. The scientists emphasized that while concrete-reinforced structures would stay mostly intact, not all of the people who lived in them would.

“Prior to our work, the threat to people in a concrete-reinforced building capable of withstanding the blast wave was unknown,” study author Dimitris Drikakis stated in an American Institute of Physics release. “Our research reveals that high flying speeds continue to be a substantial hazard that can result in serious injury or even death.”

The findings of the team have been published in the journal Physics of Fluids.

The compact interiors in these structures, for example, may actually increase velocity, while the persistent wave may force these winds to bounce off walls or bend around corners. People might still be lifted off the floor and flung into the air against walls like rag dolls indoors, depending on position and timing. Even if you escaped the first turmoil relatively undamaged, the ensuing radioactive fallout and adjacent structural damage would make life after the nuclear difficult.

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As bad as these results are, they do show that certain hiding sites are better than others if you can get to them quickly enough after a nuclear bomb goes off.

The worst hiding areas appear to be near windows, entrances, and corridors, as this is where the blast wave has the biggest impact on the air. However, because flight rates are anticipated to be the slowest in the corners of the room farthest from these apertures along the walls facing the blast, these regions should be the best for immediate refuge. Researchers developed a model that predicts where air velocity would be maximum in a structure.

“The most dangerous crucial indoor sites to avoid are windows, passageways, and doorways,” author Ioannis Kokkinakis stated. “People should avoid these areas and seek refuge as soon as possible. Also, if you position yourself in the corners of the wall facing the explosion in the front room opposite the explosion, you will be protected from the high flight speeds.”

For those who are curious, the team did not investigate what would happen if you tried to survive a nuclear explosion by hiding in an Indiana Jones-style refrigerator, while other scientists who have reservations about this specific one have stated cinematic logic.

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