Going Nuclear – The Science Of Nuclear Weapons – Part 1 – Just a Theory

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Going Nuclear is a multi part series where I go into detail on how nuclear weapons work, looking deep at the science and explaining how some curious discoveries in the early 20th century lead to the most powerful weapons ever used in war, and how those were tuned and evolved into the smaller, more powerful modern weapons.

Part 1 covers the early experimental discoveries and how they provided the theoretical underpinnings to show that Atomic chain reactions would work and how that might lead to a new form of energy.

Music is ‘Tranquility Base’ by Kevin Macleod / Incompetech.com

  1. dtidd35

    I can’t tell you how excited I am for you to do a series on nuclear weapons! They really are extraordinary in every sense of the word.

  2. Squiggummer Figgammus

    Where is pt.6 mah dude

  3. Mark Bergseid

    As interesting as these things are, and I share Scott’s fascination, they are profoundly immoral, and we shouldn’t forget that

  4. mrackerm

    Scott, interesting video. Your technical training is evident, but your comment that nuclear weapons do not have to be treated delicately and that they are actually very difficult to set off is not entirely correct and requires qualification. Modern US nuclear weapons are designed to be extremely safe – you can read many official US Government publications talking about their safety features. The US DOE is very proud of their safety work and are always looking to improve it. Older US weapons were not quite as safe. While they are difficult to set off correctly to achieve the full yield as designed, some of the weapons could produce a greatly reduced, but still significant nuclear yield in an accident scenario. What do the weapons in other nuclear countries look like? Great question. While I assume there are those who know, one would assume that countries like the UK and France have excellent safety systems engineered into their weapons. Russia and China are fully capable of engineering extremely safe weapons but their philosophies on safety might be different from ours. Good question for someone else to consider. Emerging nuclear weapon countries might (again, I am sure someone knows, but I do not) have designs that are similar to early US, Russian and Chinese designs and hence, not entirely safe in an accident. An excellent paper on the topic was published by Jason M. Weaver, entitled “One in a Million, Given the Accident: Assuring Nuclear Weapon Safety”. This was published by on the OSTI.gov website. There is a lot of information, misinformation and incorrect information floating around on the internet. The only information you should trust (at least for US systems and capabilities) for fine details would come from one of the .gov sites in the US.


    it is funny how some people think they are as easy as nitro-glycerin to explode.  a dirty bomb is easy, a nuclear explosion is hard.  great video

  6. Florian Steindl

    Who here doesn”t know Alfred Einstein, world-famous conceiver of the veneral and spacial theory of reactivity!

  7. Nhan cao

    I love this. Just had an exam on nuclear physics.

  8. Fartonaut


  9. Ted Thompson

    Looking forward to more. Sidebar: the auto close captions sure have fun with your awesome accent!

  10. Kerbonaut #1664

    … An AP theory. Thanks for watching.

  11. Vince Osborn

    I love these history type videos, though I struggle to understand things i can relate to some (isotopes 238 refined to 235 in Factorio for example!)

  12. mrbodo69

    Love the video, but can you turn down the background ambient drone? It’s hard to hear you over it.

  13. 1 23

    Hello Scott, have you seen the 1984 movie threads. Do you know a movie that better portrays the effects of a nuclear war?

  14. J B

    Have you been actually reading a script, doctor? :>

  15. Jeffrey Bue

    I really like how you can make a vid on a technical topic that’s easily understood – another great one Scott

  16. Jordan McKinney

    I love when atoms go fishin’.

  17. LeiFlux07

    Remember its just a theory.
    A Science Theory! Thanks for watching.

  18. David Messer

    The discovery of fission was a Bohring discovery.

  19. nagualdesign

    (6:21) _Alfred_ Einstein?! :-/

  20. Ludic Interface

    @Scott Manley Have you seen the documentary Trinity and Beyond and Nukes in Space? If not I’d check them out!

  21. Bob Smith

    Arh! Dude, check your recording volume.

  22. Random User

    Very informative; but the music is a distraction.

  23. Al Rats

    So Otto Frisch, more than anybody else, was responsible for the commencement of the nuclear age.

  24. Steve Boston

    No music whilst you are talking please

  25. Gonçalo Aguiar

    Can you make a series in ksp using principa?

  26. MrWaalkman

    My old girlfriend’s father showed me a Barns chart back in the 70’s. Makes more sense now. :)

  27. Magnus Holmgren

    I think the expression goes “can’t hit the *broad* side of a barn from the *inside*.

  28. Weedus

    I can understand the Explosive Expert of the President,who said “this can never explode…it has no fuel and no oxygen !!”

  29. Bevin Smeith

    As Scott Manley has made so many cool videos I still come across ones I haven’t seen.

  30. Acavatar

    Hey Scott, I go to a Health and Science high school in Oregon, I was wondering if I could interview you for a school project.

  31. Tim2000

    very informative and enjoyable. I look forward to watching the rest of the series :)

  32. Max Ziss

    I would really like to see one part of this series covering the Teller-Ulam design. Radiation implosion and all

  33. justin h

    12:40 found a typo! s/excluse/exclude/

  34. NeedsMoreBoosters

    Well… if you drop a near-critical mass of Plutonium, it might detonate.
    Edit: I know, I am wrong about it detonating. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible to get a fairly energetic reaction, though. Looking forward to the next video!

  35. David K

    It would be cool if you expanded on this in the future, and talked about Nuclear reactors as well.

  36. Biker Dash

    Tossing it around, I’d be more worried that it will just break and no longer work. Pissing off the Commanding General that way is not conducive to getting promoted anytime soon lol

  37. J Blob

    4:49 that dude could be Richard Hammond’s grandpa

  38. 5Rounds Rapid

    1:48 Good point. My father guarded nuclear missiles in the Cold War. They told him if war broke out, to break the warheads with C4. It would just keep them from going critical, not set them off.

  39. Stephen Blume

    Scott will you be going over nuclear power plants. And why nuclear detonation isn’t necessarily a thing with them

  40. Bad Monkey

    Mankind has known why the sun is hot for 100 years of our existence.

  41. Jake Carlson

    That twitchcon 2017 Coke bottle lol

  42. Mystickneon

    That audio background is really throwing me off…

  43. Jerry Sedlacek

    I don’t mean to jump your flow, but my favorite nuclear device is the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor, hope it’s part of your series. Probably after all this dangerous nuclear stuff.

  44. Dooker T

    How is the heritage foundation wrong in that tweet about Iran? Their concessions are indeed, easily reversed.

  45. out4space

    THanks for explaining stuff. Very interesting for non phys grads ;P

  46. Robert George

    I was about 99% sure that Scott was on some watch lists, now I’m positive of it, If I keep watching these I think I might be to………(worth it)

  47. Onychoprion27

    The US started research into something for utility/humanitarian reasons before trying to build a bomb? Man, times sure have changed.

  48. DiabloMinero

    Also we should care because Orion.

  49. 1320crusier

    mmmm canned sunshine

  50. John Jackson

    I’ve Just split the beer atom.

  51. Anamoose

    god dammit scott trying to extend your fbi watch list postion
    hijacking a plane – ksp
    how to make nukes – right now

  52. Daniel Morris

    What about all of the near miss accidents? There were a few on UK air bases

  53. Henry Boissonnault

    I’m a big fan and I have practicing hey it’s Scot manly

  54. Jigatree

    Third time going through these videos, love them. Thank you for the hard work and sharing knowledge :D

  55. RageDavis

    @3:25: 2 Helium atoms are generated by the nuclear reaction of Li-7 and an aforementioned neutron, not a proton. :)

  56. Heron von Tremonia

    5th it can decay. (the neutron)

  57. Dark Venator

    The first 2 nuclear bombs had to be assembled in flight. I know someone related to one of the first people who ever new how to assemble and detonate a nuclear weapon.

  58. Freshwater SpearFishing

    We need a series on rocket history and just history of rocket engines, ship designs, etc. I’d absolutely love that!

  59. Daylighter

    How about a video about fuel rod removal at Fukushima, decay, reusability, etc

  60. Mr. tatak

    Next vid: How to build your own nuclear weapon !

  61. Razed Epiphany

    YOOOOO Finally someone knows siphon filter!!

  62. therealdebater

    You’re not just a physicist, Scott, you’re a physics _nerd_ (which is better :-)

  63. David Dundee

    Scott Manley The new Lernig chanel. :D loved it scott looking forward to next part ^^

  64. Sol17Opacus

    “Steven, that was good. But do you think you could give it another go? Maybe say it in a less alarming way?”
    “Less alarming? I’ve just given the order to fire the nuclear weapons. I’ve just unleashed Armageddon!”

  65. Yung Polocap

    Learned a lot Scott. I was turned on to your series after watching the Chernobyl video you made.

  66. billy bobbles

    Missed a great opportunity to call this series “gone fission”

  67. WazheadBoci

    Not our proudest contribution to the world to be honest.

  68. TDplay

    Title: “Just a Theory”

  69. Xaranar

    I’m not a physicist in the slightest, but nuclear physics makes me want to be. It’s just so fascinating, and it blows my mind how all this actually happens, and how so much energy can be contained within something so small.

  70. JLN 2004

    Nice model Saturn V model in the background.

  71. CapitalRoach

    The ‘Fly Safe’ at the end seems even more threatening than usual, given the subject matter.

  72. Jerry Smith

    You’ve misspelled Albert as Alfred as 6:23…

  73. Xaranar

    Also, won’t deuterium absorb neutrons as well, and become tritium?

  74. Argamis (SilverComet)

    13:00 HOLY SH*T… *”M.A.U.D.”*
    _[Starlight’s theme playing]_
    *Maudalina:* [deadpan] _”Rocks take on different properties when interacting with rays. With the right stone, you could rule it all, if you wanted to.”_
    *???:* You’re messing with me.
    *Maudalina:* [deadpan] _”Am I?”_
    _[grim music]_

  75. dfgdfg

    some chilling low background audio going on. This is off my ‘learning while drifting off’ playlist :D <3

  76. Bo

    i love science + history videos. this was excellent, thank you.

  77. Chris Peart

    🤗🤗 so excited for this series Scott 🙏🏆 thank you

  78. Chris Musix

    Went to Enrico Fermi’s office once but he wasn’t there. Sign on his door read, “Gone fission.”

  79. Dominic's Bricks

    I love the Minmatar ship behind you. Those were my favorite frigate in EVE.

  80. BlueScope819

    Fly safe with your airborne nuke

  81. Dr John Zoidberg

    But hey, thats just a theory

  82. LtCmdrMaximus

    I feel you did not Accurately portray atomic bomb accidents we have already come too close

  83. 1320crusier

    I guess this means youll be going over the rather large ‘oops’ of the Castle Bravo shot. Remember kids, Lithium 7 is not inert!

  84. Daniel Antone

    As an Engineer, this subject is crazy and fascinating to me.

  85. Raze the Raven

    3:40 The same thing is being told about fusion reactors today. Some people are sceptical that stable and controlled fusion is possible at all. What’s your take on that?

  86. msylvain59

    You really need to add 2 or 3 genuine, vintage aircraft (or even spacecraft) flight instruments on those display shelves !

  87. General Harness

    I remember hearing once that the best way to disarm a nuclear bomb is to just start ripping out wires. Hopefully I am never in a position to test this

  88. kfh13

    This is Scott Manley’s nuclear program for individuals….NSA triggered.

  89. LazerLord10

    I bet this will get demonetized.
    I’d really like to know if it does, however.

  90. Wes Tolson

    Can’t wait for more of your “how to build a nuke” series! ;)

  91. Nachdenklicher Smiley

    Yup this will be demonetized. Probably something with “Teaching how to be a terrorist”

  92. neelybd

    Hi Scott,
    You probably have access to all of the background information for this series, but if you want more,m I got my Bachelors and Masters in Nuclear Engineering from OSU (Oregon) with a focus on non-proliferation and was at Lanl. I would be more than happy to help.

  93. Jo Veteran

    “..an atomic weapon was possible… fly safe”

  94. BaronZ

    It’s truly astonishing how small the scientific community was back then or rather how close all the important scientist were.

  95. Benson

    To think they split atoms before effective deodorant was invented..

  96. KorpenFlyger

    Good to see a video like this, nuclear weapons are surrounded by such much myth that public perception of them have very little to do with their actual effects.

  97. Baxter

    6:22 did you just call Albert Einstein Alfred Einstein?

  98. Dustan Jones

    Aaaand I’m on a list.

  99. Doc Dat

    In the last episode Scott will teach us how to make a atom bomb with normal household items

  100. Paul Paulson

    Multipart video? I hope you checked your staging! 🚀💥

Comments are closed.