Physicist Talks Movie Nukes

In something that is such a good idea for an article series that I wish we thought of it, Inverse has been speaking to experts about science in movies. In their series of videos, they bring in experts from various fields of science to discuss how accurately things are portrayed in movies. This week, they went nuclear!

Nuclear weapons physicist Greg Spriggs, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, spoke at length about the portrayal of nuclear explosions in movies ranging from Broken Arrow to American Assassin, and even Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Of course, he talked about Oppenheimer, but he also spoke about another Christopher Nolan movie – The Dark Knight Rises.


In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman uses his Batwing to fly a ticking nuke away from the city before it can detonate. For years since the release of the movie, geeks have debated the realism of this sequence, leaving aside a billionaire vigilante dressed as a bat flying an experimental helicopter away from an American city that has been completely cut off from the world and allowed to fall into anarchy. Actually, strike that, we have all seen San Francisco lately.

The debates always center on the bomb’s eventual detonation over the sea, and the lack of impact on Gotham. Spriggs confirmed there would be no danger to Gotham City residents. He says that with the detonation occurring a great distance away and over the ocean there would be “very little” fallout. In fact, the only weakness he can call out with the sequence is:

“The people that were standing on the bridge kind of felt a breeze. That happened a lot too soon – it would’ve taken a finite length of time for that shock wave to make it out there.”

In terms of scoring, he gave the sequence 7/10. This is the same score he gave Oppenheimer. The lowest ranked was Broken Arrow which received a 1/10. Still, who doesn’t love Broken Arrow?


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