Link #67: Cockroaches Can Survive Nuclear Explosions!

Link #67: Cockroaches Can Survive Nuclear Explosions!

 

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Link #67: Cockroaches Can Survive Nuclear Explosions!

Giant cockroach
Giant cockroach by Thomas Quine (quinet) cc2.0

The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helen, as we described in our earlier article, was equal to about 500 atom bombs or 500 Hiroshimas. This means that the intensity and magnitude of that eruption was strong enough to be comparable to a nuclear explosion created by 500 atom bombs.

However, nuclear explosions are slightly more dangerous because of the radiation that they create. Virtually no organism can survive a nuclear explosion except of course, the cockroach, or can it? You know how everyone seems to think that cockroaches can survive nuclear blasts? Well, it’s actually true, to a certain extent.

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How Can Cockroaches Survive a Nuclear Explosion?

NUCLEAR BOMB
WEAPONS, TESTS, NUCLEAR BOMBS, HYDROGEN BOMB (1950s). Credit: Unknown USAF photographer. (Smithsonian Institution). By public.resource.org cc2.0

There are two elements to a nuclear explosion. The first is the heat and physical force that such a blast will create. If cockroaches are where the nuclear bomb hits, i.e., the centre of the blast, then there is no way that they can survive the heat.

At the exact point of explosion, a nuclear bomb can push temperatures up to 10 million degrees Celsius. About 50 metres away, the temperature is lower at 10,000 degrees Celsius, but it is still enough to fry a cockroach instantaneously. What this means is that a cockroach can’t survive if it is where the blast occurred.

On the other hand, one of the biggest dangers of a nuclear blast is the resultant radiation. While a nuclear blast is devastating where it strikes, it can have an effect over a huge area solely on the back of the radiation it creates. This is where cockroaches perform better.

Cockroaches have a natural resistance to radiation. While this resistance is not fool proof, it is still substantial enough for the cockroach species to survive a nuclear holocaust.

Typically, most cockroaches can survive radiation up to 1,000 rads and a good many can deal with up to 10,000 rads. However, if the radiation is as high as 100,000 rads then cockroaches find it hard to survive.

To learn more about Cockroaches, visit:
15 Creepy Amazing Cockroach Facts !


Why Are Cockroaches Resistant to Radiation?

Cochroach Ecdysis, Moulting
A german cockroach who recently undergone ecdysis (Ecdysis is the moulting of the cuticle in many invertebrates). By Psychonaught PD image

You are most probably wondering how cockroaches have this natural resistance to radiation while other organisms don’t. In order to understand this, you need to understand why radiation is so deadly to living beings. Radiation affects organisms at a cellular level, i.e., it prevents the cells from going about their normal business.

However, cells are most vulnerable to radiation while they are in the process of dividing, multiplying or splitting up. Humans almost always have cells that are dividing, which is why we are so vulnerable to radiation.

This isn’t true in the case of cockroaches, though. Cockroaches’ cells only divide once every week. When cockroaches’ cells are dividing, they are said to be ‘moulting’. While moulting, cockroaches are vulnerable to radiation but since moulting only takes place about once a week, they can usually ride out radiation related problems.


How Did People Find Out About Cockroaches Surviving a Nuclear Holocaust?

Atomic_bombing_of_Japan
Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right). Nagasaki – the picture was taken by Charles Levy from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack. Hiroshima – Personel aboard Necessary Evil. Derivative work: Binksternet cc3.0

When the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they killed every living organism in the region. However, when the sites were surveyed later, it was discovered that everything was ruined, but in those ruins cockroaches were freely scuttling about. This is how the theory that cockroaches can survive nuclear blasts first originated.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockroach
http://insects.about.com/od/roachesandmantids/f/cockroaches-nuclear-bomb.htm
http://mentalfloss.com/article/49752/could-cockroaches-really-survive-nuclear-war
http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/mythbusters-database/cockroaches-survive-nuclear-explosion/

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