Say what? Science: Nuclear weapons

Exploring the language of science

January 26, 2012

No doubt, you’re familiar with the term “nuclear weapon” (or, perhaps, “nucular weapon“). You know that a nuclear bomb detonation is enormous, and it’s usually followed by a mushroom cloud. You know nuclear bombs played a big part in the way World War II turned out and that they were the theme of the Cold War. You also know that there are enough lying around planet Earth to make you a bit paranoid.

Okay, good start. But what trait puts the word “nuclear” in a nuclear bomb? Why is a nuclear bomb in particular so powerful? Why do they produce a mushroom cloud? And why does a nuclear bomb explode while a nuclear plant, ideally, does not explode?

In this episode of Say What? Science, I have the nuclear physicist Mark Sakitt on-hand to answer these good questions.


Did you enjoy learning from Mark Sakitt as much as I did? You can listen to the long version of my interview with him on the Doppler Effect, a science and technology radio show on WNYU.

Are you a fan? Get this podcast and all other Scienceline podcasts on iTunes.

About the Author

Kelly Slivka

Kelly Slivka finished up her B.A. in English and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, after which she traded amber waves of grain for actual waves of water. The past three years, she’s been stalking endangered whales on the East Coast for various conservation and research institutions, a profession that has given her plenty of fodder for fascinating science writing, but no feasible outlet. Now, through NYU’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program she’s moved on to stalking all things new and cool in science and sharing it with, well, everyone! You can learn more about Kelly on her website,, and follow her on Twitter @k_sliv.


1 Comment

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