Can A Metal Bowling Ball Survive Inside a Nuclear Explosion?

Click any button for sharing!

Can something be made which would survive being so close to a nuclear detonation that it gets engulfed by the million degree fireball? The US actually tested steel and aluminium spheres in experiments involving nuclear weapons. These test articles were named for the physicist who performed the experiment – Lew Allen’s Balls – and we can affirmatively say that Dr Lew Allen literally had balls of steel that were tough enough to survive the inferno inside of a nuclear blast.

The actual scientific results are available for those who want more details and fewer jokes about spheres.

  1. Taterz

    i like that he almost said the ball was found dead.

  2. Jason

    in some ways i wish we still had nuke tests just to test random stuff

  3. Umbrus

    I *desperately* want to see this in modern, ultra-high speed video.

    Except for the part where it requires, y’know, detonating a nuclear weapon. I’d much rather we avoid that.

  4. 0 0

    Destroyer of fireballs! Lol 🔥

  5. Trevor Lancaster

    Awesome! Would love to see more videos like this please 😃

  6. edu88

    If you keep doing those videos, your name will end up in a list.
    Please, continue.

  7. Walter

    Great show ! The bomb footages are awesome !

  8. Hiltibrant

    “Outdoor nuclear test” – now show me the madlad that does an indoor nuclear test :D

  9. Stas Kalbas

    Haha, this was a good one!!!

  10. niqhtt

    4:43 looks like a metroid

  11. DeWayne Blue

    Yeeeahhh, let’s go full-Mythbusters with some nuclear bomb fun!!


    Fascinating. Thank you!

  13. Chris Rigoni Tattooer

    Thank You 🙏✌️

  14. Bikerchris

    Very interesting Scott, well done you 👍

  15. Yves Côté

    Always as informative. Thank you for your great work.

  16. Bo ter Ham

    This video was beautiful, thnx for collecting this footage and clear explanation

  17. Antonio Maglione

    I didn’t know about this experiment.
    Thank you for all the info and your dedication.
    Regards from UK…

  18. Bjear

    Congratulations on 1 million subscribers! I know I’m a little late but I love your videos ❤️

  19. Absaalookemensch

    He also discover the Lew Allen belt.
    The belt strong enough to hold-up his steel balls.

  20. Paul Herriot

    So many questions answered. Love this channel.

  21. Michael Foye

    I’m surprised that you missed the opportunity to make a”nuclear strike” bowling joke. Usually you are keen on weaponized puns, and droll jokes.

  22. Martin Name

    I am here just to test my hypothesis about yes/no questions as titles of videos – the answer is usually (almost always) “No”
    after skimming through the paper the hypothesis seems to hold up :)

  23. Jonathan Stiles

    I would like to hear the definition of “survive” used by the person who asked this question.

  24. E2qNX8btraQ3zRD6J7fc

    These are the Scott Manley videos that I love most of all! More pkease.

  25. MrHack4never

    My guess before watching: the surface of the ball would be too deformed to be used as a bowling ball after the heatwave, and it would be too radioactive to use

  26. TheGuyWhoSkisWithPoi

    I’m looking forward to seeing the point of this question…

  27. King Peter

    Apparently, due to the amount of nuclear testing done in atmosphere it is now imposible to calculate accuratly the amount of natural carbon 14 in the atmosphere

  28. Donny Helvey

    Holy cow!! That was such a great informative video!!!!

  29. QuantumSpin

    With the recent updates on Starliner, would you please do a video on the results of the investigation with appropriate impact of the results? Thank you.

  30. Josh Schaeffer

    As a great man once said, “the only difference between messing around and science is writing it down!” -Mythbusters

  31. korneri

    That footage <3

  32. Shalucard

    Oh.. I thought you had access to a nuclear explosion and was going to throw the bowling ball in…

  33. Alden Doble

    Should’ve called the video “who would win? A nuclear blast, or one shiny boi” 😂

  34. Walter Johnson

    Scott Manley
    During a TV interview in 1957, Oppenheimer said that after the TRINITY detonation, he was REMINDED of that Hindu quotation that has been attributed to him. What he actually SAID was, “Well, the Gadget works.” NOTE: The Gadget was the nickname given by the scientists to the “physics package” of the TRINITY device.

  35. RayDT

    Given how important ablation is in igniting the secondary of a two-stage weapon, basic studies like this probably helped direct the design of later missile warheads.

  36. JMFC

    Lew Allen’s biography should be called “Balls of Fire; Balls of Steel”.

  37. Mark Deavult

    Next video: they also found that an ablative coating of grease greatly reduced erosion, and this discovery was fundamental for the concept of Project Orion and its pusher plate …

  38. sukubann

    it would be interesting to see outcome of a similar test performed in outer space (Moon orbit and further)
    i am convinced that one day this will happen, no matter what treaties are signed
    same for nuclear mining operations on space objects (moons or bigger asteroids) – experiences from Earth’s mining tests will come handy

  39. Cant think of name Yeah

    I want one of those steal balls in my living room!

  40. Jimmy James

    02:35 you’ve seen these aliens too? so glad I’m not alone

  41. TheAntichicken1

    That’s the most nuclear era idea ever: “We were worried we might run out of Tritium to make our nuclear bombs, so what if we set off some nuclear bombs to make the Tritium that we can use for even more bombs!”

  42. BBB H

    @9:45- ‘generating tritium by using nuclear bombs’…

    I’d lay good odds on a bet that Edward Teller came up with that! (Heck, if it was a cold-war concept for using nukes to do just about ANYTHING, Teller probably had a hand in it. He was supposedly horrified at the power they the Manhattan Project unleashed (and his part in it, re: the Teller-Ulam thermonuclear bomb design), as well as being enamored of the potential of nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes (project plowshare, Orion, etc)…

    He was, along with Szliard, Rutherford, Fermi, Breit, Seaborg, Oppenheimer, Grove, Bethe, et. al, one of the primary people that let the nuclear genie out of the bottle, and was, at first, so dedicated to it that he was the prime mover in getting Oppenhiemer’s security clearance revoked in the late 40s (since Oppy had become something of a (nuclear) pacifist post-war, and Teller was still into building bigger and worse bombs)…

    If anyone interested in this subject hasn’t read Richard Rhode’s epic, Pulitzer prize winning history: ‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’… You ought to! It’s one of the best, most well researched, definitive, detailed yet accessible histories of one of the most important events and technology of the last century!

    Check it out!

  43. Collin Smith

    Annnnnnnd this is why I love your channel. It’s always interesting as hell!

  44. Jonathan Lebon

    There’s something really beautiful about this one…wish it was in HD and colour.

  45. Ian Wooldridge

    The Scott Manly under statement of the year…” It was only 22 kilotons “

  46. Sark

    someone has been watching dark docs videos lately ;-)

  47. Mountain Pass

    7:58 The closest ceramic-insert ball has seen things.

  48. Russell Purdie

    effects from neutrons (from fusion) are a bit different, like to see something on that, like your vids, thanks

  49. Peeks'n'Pokes

    5:35 Had to pause and laugh there.

  50. sam rowland

    USSR – “you can’t compete with our Tsar Bomba”
    US – “hold my Atomic Claymore”

  51. DemoGorgonZola

    5:55 “There was one guy…“ >>> Yeah, Duke Nukem: “I have balls of steel!” :)

  52. Basher

    “I got some steel balls, wanna see how far they fly?”

  53. Admiral Firespammer

    The guy on the right reminds me of Tarantino

  54. BBB H

    FINALLY!! The answer to the question that has been bothering me since I was like 15 years old!

    Lol… J/k. Great vid, as usual! Thanks, SM.

  55. Magic Smoke FPV

    “I have become death, destroyer of towers” lol, I almost choked on my drink.

  56. Luigi Vercotti

    Thanks for another interesting video.
    One of the underground tests included a steel plate to cover a shaft. That plate then flew vertically perhaps reaching the space. Do you know anything more about it?

  57. Thereal111t

    Science?! My lawyer told me that writing it down was ‘evidence.’

  58. Sam Woodfin

    Amazing! Thank you for doing this and talking about what’s happening in the images. I always wondered why the wires transferred the energy of the explosion slightly faster. There’s an excellent book of photographs of these explosions called ‘100 Suns.’

  59. The Devil

    “Fabulously hot, high pressure fireball” was the name of my band in high school.

  60. Razamadaz

    Time to grab that vacuum cleaner in case of a nuclear bomb, got to make sure the house is safe.

  61. Yezpahr

    Now we know where Duke Nukem got the quote “I’ve got balls of steel” from.

    This is the Holy Grail of gamers everywhere.

  62. ggzh a Argue With Everyon

    10:07 Using nuclear bombs to create more nuclear bombs? This has to be an idea from the USA.

  63. TMA1

    JPL here, we need a steely eyed missile man.

    Los Almos: we have just the fellow …

  64. Nathan

    2:43 I had always (erroneously) associated the absurdly short exposure times from rapatronic cameras with their frame rates, so it’s kinda surprising to hear that the frame rate for capturing a nuclear fireball is as low as 2400 fps!

  65. Jim's videos

    5:38 I’ve stood there. It’s a profound experience.

  66. auto_chris420

    I’ve watched tons and tons of videos on explosives and nuclear bombs that I’ve learnt more in this one episode then all of those videos combined

  67. Henry Cole

    0:31 “In the 1950s and ’60s, many outdoor tests were performed…”

    Jeez, I should hope they weren’t testing nuclear explosives indoors!

  68. John theux

    3:48 So, what you means is that if you make an X-ray laser saber you can adjust the saber length by changing the power output?

  69. Madarius

    You have my full attention.

  70. TheDarkSide11891

    “I am become death, destroyer of towers” – I love that so much.

  71. Rarren Doe

    Petition for testing to begin again so they can be filmed with modern 8k slow-motion cameras. The US ministry of Offence would have s terribly popular youtube channel 😂

    Who’s with me. . 🤷‍♂️

  72. Generic account

    Dang, I was really hoping you were gonna try this your self

  73. David James

    Oppenheimer: I am Death destroyer of Balls!
    Allen: My hardened spheres are impervious to your nuclear fireball.

    Science – LETS TEST!

  74. Carlos_A_M

    0:33 huh, I personally prefer to do mine indoors

  75. eFeXuy

    Finally, an answer to the question I never had: who would win? a metal ball or one explody boi?

  76. Gewel ✔

    Ah, yes. Exactly the question that was boggling my mind before sleep

  77. Existential Selkath

    Fool, all you need is a lead lined fridge and you can survive anything XD

    (apologies for the terrible unoriginal joke)

  78. Jim Rinkenberger

    Kid: I don’t wanna clean my room!
    Mom: If you don’t, it could burst into flames from a nuclear bomb hitting nearby.
    Kid: Guess I’ll do my part for the country, then.

  79. Dute Nait

    “Yes, this is my Bowling-Bunker. Even when eventually a Nuclear Bomb goes off inside the bowling alley, your Balls will be save and the Pin arrangement gets saved off site and in a Black-Bowling-Ball-Box. You can just play where you left it, while the rest of the world tries to rebuild Civilization.
    Soo… How many do you want?”

  80. Gabriel Dickinson

    “This guy had big balls, big steel balls”

    I see what you did there Scott

  81. Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnos

    But now I need to know if a steel ball will survive megaton yields!

  82. James Dallas

    It’s moments like this when I really miss Mythbusters

  83. J H

    3:19 *Rope trick effect,* interesting. I’ve seen the footage you’re showing and always wondered what those little “legs” were, I had a feeling it had something to do with the cables holding the tower up, but thought it seemed kinda silly.
    Thanks for sharing!

  84. Lunatic Cringe

    I’m only :30 in but I have to know where that atomic bomb footage during the intro came from. I need it like Kerbals need moar boosters!

  85. mesonparticle

    Lew Allen’s solid steel balls were declassified!

  86. TW M

    Didn’t test big brass balls? I heard those are even more impressive…

  87. PVH

    145 Ponderosa Pine Trees. Operation Upshot-Knothole; Encore Shot (27kt) A Weapons Effect Test. The trees were “planted” ~1980 m from GZ and as it was an Air-Burst, the Hypocentre. Along with other objects and Troops, this Shot, like other Operations & Shots (Tests) e.g. Priscilla, Grapple and Annie, tested the various structures and hardening/shielding materials, as well as preparing Troops for Real-life Nuclear Warfare.

    The “E” used for the name “Encore” = indicates it’s an “Effects” test.
    The trees simulated a woodland environment, as likely encountered during a conflict, and would house foxholes etc. covering troops and or general cover. The test also demonstrated the Static Overpressure, Positive Phase, Dynamic Pressure, Negative Phase (Afterwinds) and Stagnant Pressures (the Blast Front pushes the away, extinguished the initial fires, before “pulling” them towards the Hypocentre, with many breaking during this phase) Oh yeah, the measurements of the Second Thermal Pulse are also gleaned from said tests on vegetation.

    Great video! Cheers for the interesting premise! Well Earned like and Sub! I’m only adding the additional info bc, well, it needs to get some use/might prove useful and hope someone finds it as such! Or it’ll bore ppl to death! 🤓Power!

  88. John73 John

    5:27 These guys seem underdressed for standing in the middle of where a nuclear bomb has just gone off. I wonder what level of radiation they’re being exposed to.

  89. Luc Timmerman

    “I am become death, destroyer of towers”

    Tremble in fear!

  90. Samira Peri

    I’m a little teapot
    short and stout
    here is my handle
    here is my *KABOOM*

  91. Mihir Gadgil

    8:22 So, like the Leidenfrost effect, but in a nuclear explosion.

  92. NelC

    I’m disappointed that no mention was made of the tests on lead-lined refrigerators, as shown in the documentary _Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull._

  93. RTG

    Robert Openheimer: “I am become death, destroyer of worlds”
    Scott Manley “Fabulous(ly hot)”

  94. King of Dongles

    If you asked me before this video what the “Indian rope trick” is, I never would have guessed.

  95. RandomName

    1:15 I think dangerous trees are the least of your worries if they’re dangerous because of a nuclear explosion.

  96. Donald Allan

    Im curious how they can be standing at the wreckage of the tower considering it was the epicentre of the blast. Did they end up getting severe radiation poisoning?

  97. surrodox2001

    This is what happens when you have plenty of firepower to use, just use it to experiment everything you want!

  98. Kumquat Lord

    9:10 “remember kids, the only difference between science and screwing around, is writing stuff down”

  99. Cody'sLab

    AFAIK Due to Newton’s impact depth laws: in a vacuum (space) an atomic bomb can only vaporize (near) it’s own mass in material if completely surrounded. This means that even at a relatively close distance even paint won’t be removed. This is why the Orion plus propulsion can get away without destroying the pusher plate.

  100. David Kearns

    Some balls are held for charity
    And some for fancy dress
    But when their held for science, They’re the balls that I like best.

Comments are closed.