No, the Beirut blast was not atomic. These were

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No, the Beirut blast was not atomic. These were

Conspiracy theorists think Tuesday’s blast was nuclear. It wasn’t. This is what real nuclear blasts can do

Yolisa Mkele

If you haven’t heard by now, a truly massive explosion tore through the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut, on Tuesday. The visuals of the explosion that have spread like wildfire across social media and led many of the conspiracy-minded to suggest the explosion was not due to the improper storage of ammonium nitrate, as reports suggest, but rather that it was a controlled nuclear detonation. It wasn’t. A tweet from doctoral candidate Martin Pfeifer, studying the human history of nuclear weapons, said: “Obviously not a nuke,” and he tweeted later: “That’s a fire setting off explosives or chemicals.”

The rest of Pfeifer’s thread went on to explain how the blast in Lebanon lacked two major hallmarks of a nuclear blast, namely a blinding white flash and a surge of heat, called a thermal pulse, that would’ve melted the skin off people’s bodies and set off fires around the city.

Then there is the fact that many experts say the blast was too small to be nuclear. Very few humans have experienced a true nuclear blast, but for context, here are three detonations that show how much bigger atomic weapons are than what happened in Lebanon...

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