Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 11.29

At Thanksgiving dinner, Tim3P0 and I got into an interesting hypothetical discussion with another dinner guest about nuclear holocaust (happy, I know). This other guest stated that he’d rather just die in the bomb blast and be done with it, while I said I’d want to survive, no matter how bad it got. I mean, shit, it’d be like a real live Fallout 3 game :p

Which would you choose: Die in the blast? Or try to survive through the aftermath?

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59 Comments

  1. Considering the likely effects of an all-out nuclear war, I think I’d rather be vaporized in the initial exchange. Fallout III sounds like a great idea as long as you can push “Reset” or turn it off and go get a beer if things don’t go well.

    From what I have read about the aftermath (radiation poisoning, starvation, nuclear winter, massive disease), I don’t know if there is a such thing as a “survivable” in this case.

    BTW carrd2d, with topics like that, I’m not sure I’d want to come to your place for a holiday dinner. ;-)

  2. I won’t be able to play Fallout 3 till Christmas. Which mean I have a month to finish Oblivion. (I bought a used copy recently).

    Oh, and I’d rather die in the blast. Outside of video games, I lack all basic survival skills, and at least the blast would be quick.

  3. No question for me: die in the blast! I’d like to be as close to the epicentre as possible, please! (This is something I think about often. Every time I get baked and try to relax and watch South Park, my mind always wanders to nuclear war. I should probably stop smoking.)

  4. Oh! Great question, and I’m glad you asked. I’d definitely do my best to survive. Then, I could track down everyone left hiding in an undergound bunker, you know the ones responsible for the epic fail, and kill them in a most prolonged, painful, horribly wretched way. You have to have goals! Har!

  5. Holy Crap! VeinArmor commented on your AI Carr2d2? I think I would die.

    Even better, I think veinarmor, aka, kick-ass author Greg Crites, might know a thing or two about fighting against the odds, at least if his fiction is any indication. (For those of you who haven’t yet listened, start with Crusade, available at podiobooks.com. It RAWKS!)

    (Can I just say Holy Crap again? Holy Crap!)

    As for me, I’d prefer to survive, but I’d be under no illusion that we’d ever get back to the pre-blast “normal.”

    Also, if it got weird but sexy like Planet Terror, I’d be cool with that too.

  6. Back in the innocent punk-rock days of my youth, I thought that I’d rather die, too. But then again, back then I wasn’t particularly interested in surviving past 30—or so I’d told myself. My, how things have changed!

    Not that I would get much of a choice; living in the Northern Hemisphere practically guarantees my de-function if humanity does turn out to be that utterly insane.

  7. Interesting, on one hand you have acceptance in your own extinction, while on the other hand you have the curiosity of what will happen next.

    I would want to stick it out for as long as I could, just to see zombie Kirk Cameron left behind in the apocalypse. :p

  8. @Pinkbunny: You sure about that? No antibiotics, no epidurals for childbirth pain, no doctors or modern medicine of any kind?

    Any nuclear-survivable installation is going to be zapped repeatedly either by direct nuclear hit(s), near-miss(es) or smart weapons.

    I’m assuming this question means a total exchange of nukes until the weapons and targeting systems themselves are destroyed or the command structures to launch them are entirely eliminated. That kind of megatonnage isn’t going to leave zombies or anything else except (maybe) cockroaches.

    Even if it does leave a few people briefly alive, the radiation levels, probable use of bio & chemical weapons, and the collapse of civilization afterwards will pretty much ensure that veinarmor’s trek to find those responsible will be extremely brief. He may have more luck using a Geiger counter to find them. I’m pretty sure the “undisclosed locations” are more hidden from us than our enemies. As a matter of fact, one of Cheney’s happens to be in my neck of the woods in West Virginia. If I know that, don’t you think some unpleasant people with big, noisy toys know that, too?

    I don’t believe for a minute that no one has chemical and biological weapons ready to use in an all-out war, and I include the US in that statement. I also believe that there are already WMDs (nuclear or kinetic warheads*) in orbit – The likely “owners” are the the US, Russian Federation, China and India. I think that, if it does come, an all-out war will be the Apocalypse for most multicellular life on Earth.

    *Aka “Rods from God.” Who needs a nuke when you can drop a 1,000 pound, shaped rod of solid tungsten on a target from orbit? No residual radiation, either.

  9. I would try to survive and repopulate the world with Pinkbunny. The real killer is going to be the fallout. After that kills the forests in Canada and Siberia they will dry like tinder in the summer and burn from coast to coast.

    I would want to be on the coast. Sea life will fair better than life on land because water is opaque to ionizing radiation.

  10. Survive. If TV has taught me anything, then BBC1’s new show “Survivours” (about the 0.01% of people who survive a bio-weapon accident) has taught me what to do in such a situation.

    So survive it is. Besides, being alive is usually better than being dead.

  11. No internet. No Air Conditioning. Limited supply of Mountain Dew, no ice.

    I think I would rather die in the blast than to spend the rest of my life longing for the past luxuries of life.

  12. I just finished Fallout 3, too! Although, in real life it isn’t very likely that anything recognizable would be left in Washington D.C. if the city got hit by even a small “nook-ya-lur” bomb. As for survival, in my case, I can see myself eventually losing my glasses. And if that happened I would totally end up crying, just like the end of that one Twilight Zone episode. So I choose death, or a perfectly timed vacation to New Zealand…

  13. Having extensively studied nuclear war and it’s ghastly after-effects, I decided that if I had enough warning I would tear off my clothes, climb up on my roof, paint a big red target on my ass and bend over so that the spotter satellites could clearly see me.
    In other words, after an all out nuke war, you would Not want to try and survive. It would be more brutal than you can possibly imagine.
    On the other hand, if I were lucky enough to be placed in a Dr Strangelove situation, my reaction might be completely different. Especially if Rebecca was assigned to the same cave as me. :o)

  14. As we know from the Porcupine Tree song “A Smart Kid”, aliens will come to earth after the nuclear war and bring the survivor(s) aboard their spaceship. So I would want to survive to meet the aliens, and Steven Wilson, who will probably also survive and be rescued by the aliens.

    I am a Hedge

  15. I’m not sure I understand exactly what question is being asked. I haven’t seen the Fallout games being played and don’t know about the scenarios they have. On the other hand, I spent several years on front line nuclear capable vessels in the U.S. Navy, and grew up in the ’70’s.

    So I have three answers:

    1. Is the question is “Would you prefer surviving, rather than dying, in a 23rd century Fallout 3 nuke war situation?”. My answer is that the question is invalid because there is no such thing as zombies and nobody is psychic enough to say what the technology would be at that time.

    2. If the question is “Would you prefer surviving, rather than dying, in a balls to the walls nuke exchange during the height of the cold war?”. My answer is no. The U.S.S.R. MIRV ICBM’s had more warheads with higher kiloton and megaton ranges than the U.S. did in the ’70’s. Delivering several thousand ICBM warheads of 200ktn minimum would make the U.S. seriously toxic for decades, at least. That was one of the the plans on both sides. It isn’t just the pure fusion process. It also involves the byproducts resulting from the interaction with buildings, soil, industrial plants, human bodies that produce unstable elements. The idea was to make a place like Pripyat (Chernobyl) look normal. Debatable, but SAC had the resources to stay underground long enough. That’s why the U.S. wanted S.A.L.T. B-52’s and the Soviet equivalent were for “mop-up”, not first strike.

    3. If the question is “Would you prefer surviving, rather than dying, in a balls to the walls nuke war today?”. My answer is yes. There are more countries with nuke capabilities today, but the major players have dismantled much of the stockpile (most likely less than they say). More of the nuke arsenals would be used in regional conflicts outside of North America, simply because they don’t have the systems or means to deliver them effectively.

  16. @carr2d2: I bought the game on the same day it came out. But then I’ve always been a fan of the Fallout series. If you’re the kind of player that takes their time to explore your surroundings and enjoy yourself then you should have many hours of entertainment in store for you. Just watch out for those deathclaws! On top of that, starting in January, Bethesda will be offering new downloadable content, eventually including a trip to the futuristic hellscape of Pittsburgh.

    At level 20 my character was a laser weapons and explosives expert, with a maxed out Science skill :) I love being able to control my character’s strengths and weaknesses with that kind of precision.

  17. @Knurl:
    In Fallout’s version of history, a nuclear war erupts between the USA and China in 2077. Leading up to that was a resource war over the few remaining raw materials. After pushing the Chinese out of Alaska, the Americans take the war to China, with predictable (nuclear) results. On top of that, Fallout’s version of our future looks like how people in the 1950’s might have imagined the future would look, if that makes any sense. So, there were nuclear powered cars, Robots straight out of Lost in Space, no punk rock or heavy metal music… etc.

    Anyway, my point is that Fallout 3 should not be taken as a realistic view of life after a nuclear war… they definitely took many liberties to ensure an entertaining game. Real life after a worldwide nuclear war would not be something I would want to simulate.

  18. Ah, so that’s what fallout is all about. I must register my deep skepticism about the plausibility of such scenario. It is doubtful that modern nation-states will be around that long, and USA, at least, has very little chance of making it to 2077 intact. Of course, modern nuclear weapons are likely to be considered the height of quaintness by then, too…

  19. @Imrryr: Thanks much for letting me know. Games like that really just scare me, mostly because people are into them.

    The training we had in the Navy to survive chemical, biological, and radiological attacks involve situations that no sane person would want to confront. There were other issues that made me decide to leave.

    Still, at the time, I really would’ve preferred to get popped on a nuke aircraft carrier than enduring the aftermath of the exchange.

  20. Hmmm, I remember the real cold war and oddly the Pool boy was involved in helping run a nuke submarine known as a “Boomer” (guess why!)

    Living on the Navy base we were told to go in our interior closet in case of attack. The wives in my area all took a vote to just pull out the lawn chairs, make cocktails, put the kids out in the sandboxes and go out in style.

    Mind you we had lovely tv shows about what the end WOULD be like. No zombies. No “Mad Maxx”. Watching your children slowly die (kids and old people go first). Having sex for a few dead rats (hey that was the BBC tv show about what happens after), and the knowledge that most of us would get cancer but no kind medical system to help us deal with it. As a mother, my fear was dying and my child somehow surviving.

    “On the Beach” was the most tame of the nuke movies and tv shows I saw as a young child. No zombies. No need to fight. Nothing to fight.

    Mind you a giant asteroid hitting the Earth.. that would be almost equally miserable! And yet, ofcourse one is not given a choice. Live or die is a matter of luck. So would I work hard to rebuild and help others? oh yes.

    But with my babymaking days behind me, I’d probably be eaten early on.

  21. Well, there a lot more to the ‘Fallout’ history than just a nuke war, but Fallout 3 brushes over most of it. The Pan-Immunity project and FEV, the real purpose of the vaults, etc.

    Surviving in one of the vaults could be just as bad (or worse) than simply being vapourised or ghoulified. Even Vault 69 would drive one insane after a short time.

  22. I’d want to survive for a couple of reasons… One is just to see what happens. Who/what survives? How? Will it be us and a few cockroaches? Yay, evolution.
    I’d also like to try out my mad kung fu skilz on some of the resulting zombies. Because we all know zombies will result from a nuclear holocaust, and of course they’d be the bad guys. Heh.
    P.S. I’m glad thanksgiving was so philosophy-inducing. ;)

  23. @carr2d2: Ok well if there are zombies and I’m alone (i.e., there’s no one who depends on me) then I’d rather die. Because frankly I don’t have the energy to do all that shit that’s in the horror movies…one “it’s just a cat” moment and I’m fucking done. But if there were people that needed me I think I’d want to stay alive, but I wouldn’t be that idiot who ruins our secret hide-out for everyone by letting the zombies follow me home or something. That’s just garbage. I’d rather sit somewhere quietly and wait it out, non of that running around screaming trying to defeat the zombies horseshit. If people wanted to survive for reals they’d stop being so ambitious.

  24. @kittynh: I don’t recall a BBC production named “On the Beach”, but there was a similar B&W movie with Gregory Peck, or Rock Hudson, and Ava Gardener, or Ann Francis? Something like that? There were others that were about townspeople killing each other? I don’t recall. I sort of remember that from when I was a little kid . The “duck and cover drill” days.

    Yes, “Boom” is what the FBM SLBM’s do to cities. Makes Hiroshima look like a minor test. I agree with the decision you and your friends made regarding preparations. I don’t know where you were, but Norfolk and San Diego would have been turned into craters. I’ll be civil and not ask about the pool boy.

    Perhaps it might sound odd today, but a few decades of experience might be as valuable as babymaking My mom comes up with ideas that floor me.

  25. Had this discussion so many times during the first cold war that my response is hardwired into me: Die in the Blast.
    Think about it folks. 200 million prompt deaths. Total destruction of US and USSR agriculture industries, water supplies, transportation systems, all other industries, etc. Radioactive debris littered everywhere. Now today’s 9,600 nukes aren’t nearly as much as the 10s of thousands aimed everywhere at the height of the cold war – but still, 10s of millions of prompt deaths (not including those dying of starvation, disease, or hey, that thingy involving speeding particles), widespread destruction of clean water supplies, transportation systems, etc, etc.

    By the way folks, the BBC production some people have mentioned was called Threads . Very good show.
    On The Beach was a hollywood thing. And a complete piece of crap. Even dumber than The Day After .

  26. One of the big catches here is that it’s a very Euro/Americo centric point of view.

    Granted the US, parts of Europe, UK, China and other ‘high population, high desirability’ targets would be fields of radioactive glass – there are significant portions of the world which have a better than none chance of surviving.

    Fallout tends to stay in the hemisphere it is released in (and by the time it migrates across has lot a fair bit of omph), you dont ‘waste’ nukes on empty areas (lets bomb the amazon forest for laughs), and some areas are so vast you cant hit everything (Siberia and Australia). The amount of nukes dropped in the southern hemisphere first place would be an order of magntiude less then what would be tossed around up north.

    Mad Max 2 &3 was vaguely plausible as it was set in the Oz outback. Once you have nuked the capital cities and military bases (also generally near the cities) there is nothing of military value left to destroy which leaves several million square kilometers relatively unscathed.

    There would definetly be a reduction in tech levels and initial die offs, but in a lot of cases it wouldnt matter. Tribesmen in the Amazon may not even notice.

  27. Definitely survive. All my life I’ve been extremely fascinated with the whole “Post Apocalyptic World” thing. In movies and books it’s been done well and very badly. The reality would be pretty awful but I’ve always wanted to know if I could cope with the challenges such a scenario would present.

    Humans need a culling. There are too many of us and our technology has far out paced our evolution and our ability to cope with it. This all started when we began farming. We need to get back to being hunter/gatherers for an few more hundred thousand years.

    Would I be able to survive? Not for too long, I’m practically blind without my glasses and need a number of medications to keep my body and brain running “normally”. But I’d like to see if I could even so.

  28. So long as my children are breathing I would want to do whatever it takes to ensure that continues so if they survive I would want to survive to protect them.

    Also, I have been waiting over twenty years to kill a real-live zombie.

    Speaking of which, seeing as how there is apparently the possibility of dying in the initial blast and continuing to “survive” as a zombie wouldn’t that make this AI a false dichotomy?

  29. Haha, survive! I have a bizarre fascination with these “Post-Apocalyptic” fantasies…so heck yes. I’d want to stick around and see what happens, maybe kill a few nuclear zombies, and have fun being a nomadic horsewoman.

    I’m sure it would actually be pretty terrible, but…still.

  30. I have some real doubts about the southern hemisphere riding out a major “no holds barred” NBC war in decent shape. Australia is a ally of the US and there are substantial areas of industrial and military might on the western coast (Perth comes to mind).

    Don’t forget Diego Garcia, which would be a glowing underwater crater in the first few minutes of a major war. (As a matter of fact, Diego Garcia has no map in Google maps. Go check. I can wait. It’s that secret. There are pictures on Google Earth, but I’m sure that they are very dated and sanitized.)

    Most of India and China is close to the equator, too. South Africa more than likely has nukes, too. Then there is the probable retaliation strikes by ICBM against the locations of “boomers” that have just launched. They could be almost anywhere except under thick pack ice.

    Remember, we aren’t just talking fallout/radiation. We also have to account for biological and chemical weapons. Transmissability is extremely high for bioweapon organisms. They are also designed to be lethal and hard to treat. A really nasty one might well be designed to allow for latent infection by rodents,so the inevitable plague of mice and rats would carry the bug to other areas.

    Chemical weapons can leave an area lifeless for either short periods or extended periods, depending on the intent. Extended period weapons would be used on military and industrial targets. Short period weapons would be used on fronts in an effort to clear out opposing troops and allow facilities to be captured intact.

    One doesn’t have to hit rural areas with nuclear weapons to kill the population or reduce it to savagery. All you have to do is hit the areas upwind very hard with very dirty warheads and let the fallout do the rest.

    I think overall that there are a lot more weapons out there than we think there are. Most countries will feel the need to cheat on arms control agreements when they consider going up against a military leviathan like the US or China. This leaves out the non-state players like terrorists, neo-Nazis, etc., who would probably figure that they have nothing to lose by adding to the carnage and settling old scores.

    What it comes down to is that a major, all out war with “all pieces played” would leave little or nothing left. Those left (if any) in bunkers, etc., would eventually die off. The biosphere would be so devastated that it would be incapable of supporting much life for thousands of years to come.

    And you know what? The saddest thing is that if that is what happens to Humanity, we’ll have deserved it.

  31. I think it all depends on whether any of my twitter followers survived. So what if I just fought an army of 50 zombies single-handedly if I can’t tell people about it?

    If there’s no one to read my tweets, there’s no reason to live.

  32. I’ll need some radiation induced super powers which should include, but not be limited to, the ability to survive and be healthy eating a diet of tree bark. I’ll go with survival in any case just because a post apocalyptic world may finally be rid of religion and superstitions with the added fun of zombies !!

    I’m reading an entertaining end of the world (as we know it) series by S.M. Stirling currently and find it amazing how much this genera of books occupies your thoughts when your going about your daily activities.

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