NUKEMAP at 5 years

5 years ago today we introduced the NUKEMAP. It feels virtually like yesterday — exactly how fast with flown! I sporadically get college students, not really brand-new ones, who let me know which they used it in high school to do reports. Which makes me personally feel… well, like I’ve added one thing, along with feeling old. To ensure’s so good. I’ve been behind on posting for some time now, and am at the rear of on several things at the moment (plenty of irons inside fire, plus the debilitating power of a news cycle that seems to alter by the moment), but I wanted to hold something towards NUKEMAP.

NUKEMAP and NUKEMAP3D web page views, exported from Bing Analytics and washed up somewhat, with a few associated with the "known" moments of virality suggested. Note how a "baseline" had steadily increased with time.

NUKEMAP and NUKEMAP3D web page views, exported from Bing Analytics and cleaned up a little, with some regarding the “known” moments of virality suggested. Note how the “baseline” had steadily increased with time.

Some statistics: NUKEMAP happens to be the host of over 99 million virtual detonations, according to its internal logs. Every detonation, excluding people where individuals have opted-out of logging, is logged. As I’ve said before, I don’t record enough information because of it become non-anonymizing, but it is interesting to see things like in which individuals nuke, and what they do aided by the device. According to Google Analytics, there has been (as of this checking) over 25 million pageviews, over 20 million of the unique pageviews (e.g., maybe not people finding its way back and deploying it numerous times in one session). The usage of your website predictably flares up in certain moments of “virality” (the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima, over 500,000 people used it over two days), whilst still being have razor-sharp moments of hefty traffic every few months. More intriguing and crucial that you me is the fact that website’s “slow times” are now actually not sluggish. With regards to began, a “slow time” was a couple of thousand individuals deploying it. Today, it’s a lot more like 15,000-20,000 individuals using it. And, generally, folks are actually utilizing it: the average time on web page is 5 minutes, that I think is pretty healthy for the internet visualization employed by tens and thousands of individuals everyday. That means folks are doing more than just clicking and glancing — they’re in fact trying things out.

NUKEMAP3D is, for the minute, moribund. Google unceremoniously discontinued help the Google Earth internet Plugin (the rule on the end is simply kaput), no sufficient substitute has yet emerged. There are a few methods of crudely making a 3D earth on line, but none that support buildings and skylines how Google Earth did, and that is the whole point of NUKEMAP3D. But i’m developing a short-term substitute which can be nearly willing to move out: it’s going to enable you to export any NUKEMAP settings up to a KMZ file which you are able to open in the Google Earths standalone system, and it will support mushroom clouds among other interesting features.

“Alas, poor NUKEMAP3D! I knew him, Horatio…” do not worry, NUKEMAP3D isn’t really dead, just awaiting better circumstances…

Some reflections: we still stay amazed that NUKEMAP has been as popular since it had been. The notion of drawing concentric circles more than a map isn’t new one, and mine had not been even the very first internet one. Heck, it had beenn’t perhaps the very first web one for me personally — in 2005 or so I produced terrible crude version making use of MapQuest (remember them?) and PHP, plus it wouldn’t are sustainable to utilize (it literally utilized PHP to draw circles over fixed images from MapQuest, so that it had been extremely server-intensive by the criteria for the time). But I did try to create a version that was simpler to make use of than the other ones that were on the market, and offered more intuitive, useful information. And when I upgraded NUKEMAP in summer time of 2013, i must say i did think it had been adding brand new opportunities: even more versatile detonation choices, casualty quotes, a fallout model.

I nevertheless give talks about NUKEMAP all the time, whether or not to large teams (I became on a panel with Noam Chomsky a few years ago, referring to NUKEMAP), or even to individual reporters (used to do another interview about it just yesterday), or even to little sets of pupils (I Skyped right into a high school class 2-3 weeks ago to talk about it, and how it was made, and exactly how these pupils cannot think about it as something beyond their capabilities to build, something I don’t mind doing if I can make enough time because of it). We instruct a course regularly (“Visualizing community,” a kind of anarchistic information visualization/science and technology studies program) where We reveal students developing NUKEMAP-like applications for any other kinds of social phenomena. We nevertheless make updates and plans for updates to it: there are numerous projects within the works, including “refreshing” the interface slightly (cannot worry, it won’t end up searching painfully “stylish”; the blog could probably make use of refresh, too), translating it into other languages (which requires more back-end coding than you might expect), and adding new substantive features (i’ve almost place the final details on a nuclear burning model and better help for numerous detonations).

for me personally, the "holy grail" would be something which would let you see something like the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency made in 1973: a "personalized" view of exactly what different damage appeared to be, from the road level. The technology with this isn't quite here yet, but it's perhaps not that far away, either.

For me, the “holy grail” is something which would let you see something like the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency built in 1973: a “personalized” view of what different damage appeared to be, from the street level. The technology because of this isn’t quite right here yet, but it is perhaps not that far, either.

I have a very long “wish list” of items that is interesting to incorporate: EMP features, a powerful (time-sensitive) fallout model, help for the effect of surface or dampening by structures, etc. I really do possess some pupils who sporadically work for me personally, particularly within the summer time, on areas of these problems, and some of this work may fundamentally ensure it is into future variations for the NUKEMAP. I am also thinking about translating the NUKEMAP concept — this “personalizing” of nuclear tools effects — into non-web domains also. The key trouble let me reveal time: NUKEMAP is still a mostly one-man operation (imagine me inside salt mines, toiling out Javascript), and also this one-man is (to his delight) excellently busy by having a lot of things. I will be very favorably supported in this work by my university, I should say, plus the university of Arts and Letters on Stevens Institute of tech is spending the ever-increasing fees related to managing a popular website since I got right here, and motivating me personally to accomplish even more with it.

Perhaps something that I’m grateful for is the fact that I’m maybe not yet even slightly bored stiff with any of it — We still find referring to it interesting, I nevertheless believe it is a type of how exactly we might consider technology interaction to look in our present age. We highly believe, and will evangelize about to anyone who asks me to (as many are finding, most likely without realizing what they were consistently getting into), that there surely is different things about providing sort of “simulation” up to a user and saying, well, you figure out how this works, in the place of a far more didactic mode of training like lecturing. It has strong tones of “active learning,” but I’m not only talking about a technique for the class. One nice benefit of tools like NUKEMAP usually i could see (through referring links) how folks are with them. My personal favorite example, and this pops up constantly, is whenever people make use of it to argue with other people on the Internet. Some one will say, wouldn’t a nuclear bomb do X? And someone says, well, the NUKEMAP claims it will be similar to Y. And there’s this type of “calibration” of understanding, when I consider it, that begins to slim straight down exactly what these tools do and don’t do. (plus it goes both methods: a lot of people think they’re more powerful than they are, however think they’re less effective.) The NUKEMAP model, as I discuss in its FAQ, is not perfect at all: in certain circumstances it most likely overestimates the consequences (by perhaps not considering a lot of local variables), in other people it most likely underestimates them, and “real world” is more chaotic compared to a easy model that can run inside browser can account fully for, no doubt. However it helps concretize the knowledge, the order of magnitude. I believe there’s lots of value because, whenever we’re discussing one thing so taken out of everyday human being experience (thank goodness) as being a nuclear gun detonation.

And I think this is usually a model we must really do more to export to other domains: nukes are something within our society that individuals have actually trouble really understanding for an intuitive level, but there are plenty more. This is exactly what my “Visualizing community” course is all about, at its core: finding approaches to make interactive information visualizations or simulations that shed light on complex real-world issues. The technical club for doing these exact things is leaner than many people understand; if I can show undergraduates (excellent and often technically-inclined undergraduates, to make sure, but frequently ones with no coding experience) the fundamentals of this during the period of a semester, then it cannot be that hard.

the first "NUKEMAP" — Hiroshima, before and after, from the view of a nuclear bombardier.

The original “NUKEMAP” — Hiroshima, before and after, from the view of a nuclear bombardier.

My primary frustration with NUKEMAP as interaction tool is the fact that top-down, concentric-circles approach may be the view for the military planner. It is the view of nuclear targeteer, or being a buddy and collaborator put it earlier in the day this week, oahu is the view of real-estate. It’s not the view of the person on the ground, it’s not the view regarding the survivor, it’s not the view of victim. NUKEMAP3D did provide some facets of that, nevertheless the Google world plugin, because of its communicative advantages, had been clunky to use (the 3D interface wasn’t straightforward), needed a special installation, therefore was much less popular once the regular NUKEMAP. (I happened to be, but nevertheless impressed that some 3 million individuals used it over its life time.) I’m hoping that some future tasks I have in mind (no spoilers, sorry) will deal with these issues more straight and more intensely.

Anyhow, more is beingshown to people there, as ever, and it is only a matter of finding out getting it all done. More NUKEMAP, more NUKEMAP-like creations, more work. I am grateful for NUKEMAP: just what started off a literally two-day coding work (one resting, obviously, for a decade of coding experience, and also some actual code that I had written a long time ago, to be sure) has changed into one thing of a guiding idea for the profession. It definitely increased the appeal of my weblog (whose traffic is excellently high for an scholastic, despite the fact that i’m significantly remiss in upgrading it lately), and became a selling-point for the forms of hybrid technical-historical-analytical projects that I never ever knew I’d wished to spend my life working on (though i did so involve some inklings). Anyhow, a lot more is coming. When I go silent, don’t believe, “what’s occurred to him?” Instead, think, “what’s he preparing for all of us, next?” There is a great deal planned.


Citation: Alex Wellerstein, “NUKEMAP at 5 years,” Restricted information: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog, February 3, 2017, accessed April 24, 2017,