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Does Halo's NOVA bomb have any truth to it whatsoever?

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I just finished reading the novels for the Halo franchise a little while ago and I was very intrigued about one of the weapons that the humans have developed. They called it the NOVA bomb, and while we aren't told very much about it, it is basically a cluster of fusion warheads encased in some sort of fictional super-strong material that is able to temporarily contain the nuclear explosions, supposedly increasing its thermonuclear yield a hundredfold. Though I can't for the life of me understand how this would have any effect whatsoever on the power of the bomb. All we really know about its properties and effects comes from the following quote:

 

"This is the prototype NOVA bomb, nine fusion warheads encased in lithium triteride armor. When detonated, it compresses its fissionable material to neutron-star density, boosting the thermonuclear yield a hundredfold. I am Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb, temporarily in command of the UNSC military base Reach. To the Covenant uglies that might be listening, you have a few seconds to pray to your damned heathen gods. You all have a nice day in hell..." A heartbeat later Vice Admiral Whitcomb's ploy of slipping the UNSC prototype Nova bomb into Covenant supplies had finally paid off: a star ignited between Joyous Exultation and its moon. Every ship not protected on the dark side of the planet boiled and vaporized in an instant. The atmosphere of the planet wavered as helical spirals of luminescent particles lit both north and south poles, making curtains of blue and green ripple over the globe. As the thermonuclear pressure wave spread and butted against the thermosphere, it heated the air orange, compressed it, until it touched the ground and scorched a quarter of the world. The tiny nearby moon Malhiem cracked and shattered into a billion rocky fragments and clouds of dust. The overpressure force subsided, and three-hundred-kilometer-per-hour winds swept over Joyous Exultation, obliterating cities and whipping tidal waves over its coastlines.

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I'm assuming the idea is that by temporarily containing the initial nine nuclear explosions, all the energy of the combined explosions is released all at the same instant when they finally break free of the armor, as opposed to over the course of several seconds as is the case for normal nuclear warheads. But anyway, given the information provided about this fictional weapon, does anyone know whether there is any truth at all to this idea, ASSUMING that there was some kind of material durable enough to temporarily contain a series of nuclear explosions, which obviously there isn't, but just assume that there was. Or is it just pure nonsense?

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I just finished reading the novels for the Halo franchise a little while ago and I was very intrigued about one of the weapons that the humans have developed. They called it the NOVA bomb, and while we aren't told very much about it, it is basically a cluster of fusion warheads encased in some sort of fictional super-strong material that is able to temporarily contain the nuclear explosions, supposedly increasing its thermonuclear yield a hundredfold. Though I can't for the life of me understand how this would have any effect whatsoever on the power of the bomb. All we really know about its properties and effects comes from the following quote:

 

"This is the prototype NOVA bomb, nine fusion warheads encased in lithium triteride armor. When detonated, it compresses its fissionable material to neutron-star density, boosting the thermonuclear yield a hundredfold. I am Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb, temporarily in command of the UNSC military base Reach. To the Covenant uglies that might be listening, you have a few seconds to pray to your damned heathen gods. You all have a nice day in hell..." A heartbeat later Vice Admiral Whitcomb's ploy of slipping the UNSC prototype Nova bomb into Covenant supplies had finally paid off: a star ignited between Joyous Exultation and its moon. Every ship not protected on the dark side of the planet boiled and vaporized in an instant. The atmosphere of the planet wavered as helical spirals of luminescent particles lit both north and south poles, making curtains of blue and green ripple over the globe. As the thermonuclear pressure wave spread and butted against the thermosphere, it heated the air orange, compressed it, until it touched the ground and scorched a quarter of the world. The tiny nearby moon Malhiem cracked and shattered into a billion rocky fragments and clouds of dust. The overpressure force subsided, and three-hundred-kilometer-per-hour winds swept over Joyous Exultation, obliterating cities and whipping tidal waves over its coastlines.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I'm assuming the idea is that by temporarily containing the initial nine nuclear explosions, all the energy of the combined explosions is released all at the same instant when they finally break free of the armor, as opposed to over the course of several seconds as is the case for normal nuclear warheads. But anyway, given the information provided about this fictional weapon, does anyone know whether there is any truth at all to this idea, ASSUMING that there was some kind of material durable enough to temporarily contain a series of nuclear explosions, which obviously there isn't, but just assume that there was. Or is it just pure nonsense?

 

There's often questions about sci-fi stuff. But if you had some kind of casing, wouldn't the energy just radiate through that if the explosions happened pre-hand? Why not just detonate all of it at the same time without the casing? If you had a material that like, broke thermal dynamics and was incapable of absorbing thermal energy, then you could store all that energy inside it without losing any of it, otherwise even if it doesn't deteriorate from the over 5000 degrees of heat, energy will still transfer through it to the outside, not only that but maybe some gamma rays would escape as gamma rays are very small.

I had a separate topic at one point for using degenerate matter to store massive amounts of energy, but so far the research is inconclusive and you might need to constantly expend energy to keep matter in a degenerate state.

In short, it's improbable a bomb like that could be made. Usually sci-fi stories create an idea first, usually games don't spend a bunch of money to hire a scientist just to create futuristic bomb.

Edited by questionposter

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Questionposter.

The issue of "Why not just detonate all of it at the same time without the casing? " is easier said than done. Nukes need very good timing mechanisms already. If one were late by a few tens of nanoseconds it would get smashed before it could detonate.

On the other hand, they do put containers round bombs to increase the yield. They don't rely on the strength of the material- just the mass. If the case is heavy it will take some time to push the case apart. During that time the nuclear reaction can continue. The yield is improved that way.

The practical problem of finding something strong enough is another matter- but it's fiction so nobody cares.

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Questionposter.

The issue of "Why not just detonate all of it at the same time without the casing? " is easier said than done. Nukes need very good timing mechanisms already. If one were late by a few tens of nanoseconds it would get smashed before it could detonate.

 

 

I haven't studied nuclear weapons in any great detail, so if what I'm about to ask seems stupid, just keep that in mind. What difference would it make whether one bomb detonated before the others? Even if the idea of one nuke setting off other nukes in the vicinity is pure Hollywood (and I do know that much), wouldn't the fact that in the fictional weapon I described, all of the nine individual nukes that make it up are within extremely close proximity (presumably within several feet of one another, if that) of each other render that point moot? Since it was my understanding that the size, and by extension the yield, of a nuclear device is determined by the mass of Plutonium that is used. So wouldn't the Plutonium of the other 8 nukes simply contribute to the chain reaction just the same as if they had all detonated, especially considering that in this fictional NOVA bomb, the nine nukes are temporarily contained in some sort of superstrong material?

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Questionposter.

The issue of "Why not just detonate all of it at the same time without the casing? " is easier said than done. Nukes need very good timing mechanisms already. If one were late by a few tens of nanoseconds it would get smashed before it could detonate.

On the other hand, they do put containers round bombs to increase the yield. They don't rely on the strength of the material- just the mass. If the case is heavy it will take some time to push the case apart. During that time the nuclear reaction can continue. The yield is improved that way.

The practical problem of finding something strong enough is another matter- but it's fiction so nobody cares.

 

The reaction of a nuclear bomb is what breaks the casing though, and it's not some kind of imaginably strong material like in this video game, it's designed to evaporate in those high of temperatures.

Edited by questionposter

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I haven't studied nuclear weapons in any great detail, so if what I'm about to ask seems stupid, just keep that in mind. What difference would it make whether one bomb detonated before the others? Even if the idea of one nuke setting off other nukes in the vicinity is pure Hollywood (and I do know that much), wouldn't the fact that in the fictional weapon I described, all of the nine individual nukes that make it up are within extremely close proximity (presumably within several feet of one another, if that) of each other render that point moot? Since it was my understanding that the size, and by extension the yield, of a nuclear device is determined by the mass of Plutonium that is used. So wouldn't the Plutonium of the other 8 nukes simply contribute to the chain reaction just the same as if they had all detonated, especially considering that in this fictional NOVA bomb, the nine nukes are temporarily contained in some sort of superstrong material?

 

The impact of a nuke depends not so much on how much plutonium you put in, but how much of it undergoes fission and thus releases energy.

The only way it will explode is if it's all in close proximity to the other bits. Once it gets blown apart the reaction stops.

So, one nuke going off next to a bunch of others wouldn't set them off- it would just make a mess.

 

Questionposter, at 100,000,000 degrees (give or take a few zeros) you don't have to design something to evaporate: you don't have any choice in the matter.

The casing is designed to be heavy (and also to back-scatter neutrons).

If you had an enormously strong casing, it would increase the yield. In reality, you can't. In fiction you can, and nobody minds.

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If you had an enormously strong casing, it would increase the yield. In reality, you can't. In fiction you can, and nobody minds.

 

I suppose if I consider that the reaction happens over time, then that type of casing would help, but I was thinking it was more or less an instant process in which case it wouldn't really help. Theoretically, if you could store that much energy over time, the energy it would release in one instant would have a greater concentration than just using a bunch of nukes one at a time, but I always thought the fission reaction was rather quick.

Edited by questionposter

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Incidentally, does anyone know whether Lithium triteride is a real substance? I mean, obviously the strength ascribed to the metal it in the book is total bunk, as I know perfectly well that the part about the NOVA bomb temporarily containing nine thermonuclear explosions is speculative to the point of absolute lunacy. But does the chemical ion 'triteride' actually exist? I looked it up on Google and it was inconclusive.

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Incidentally, does anyone know whether Lithium triteride is a real substance? I mean, obviously the strength ascribed to the metal it in the book is total bunk, as I know perfectly well that the part about the NOVA bomb temporarily containing nine thermonuclear explosions is speculative to the point of absolute lunacy. But does the chemical ion 'triteride' actually exist? I looked it up on Google and it was inconclusive.

 

yes, it would be lithium hydride with the tritium isotope of hydrogen.

 

Incidentally, Lithium Deuteride (Lithium Hydride with the Deuterium isotope of hydrogen) is used as nuclear fusion fuel in thermonuclear bombs.

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The NOVA would not work as a result of the casing (as pointed out by previous posters). Using nuclear bombs to compress a large amount of plutonium into a bomb might work (chemical explosives are used at present). The best way to make a lethal nuclear bomb is to enclose it in a thick cobalt casing so that it creates vast amounts of lethal cobalt isotopes. This was called the "cobalt bomb" and I think it is banned by convention - it would wipe us all out.

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Considering the amount of empty space in a typical substance, and the complete lack of it in a neutron star density substance, I imagine all that extra mass and energy would be pretty eager to escape even if it weren't already in a spicy fusion reaction

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On 5/11/2012 at 6:08 PM, insane_alien said:

yes, it would be lithium hydride with the tritium isotope of hydrogen.

(better late than never)

That would be lithium tritide.

Lithium triteride is a made up stuff

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