Reviewer Three: Response to LeBeouf et. al. (2008) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Research Summary: In previous works, the authors established and characterized a novel model system, COL. H. WALTON “INDIANA” JONES, PH.D. (hereafter, “Indiana,” “Indy,” “Dr. Jones” &c.), which functions as commentary on a more innocent time in popular culture, Hollywood’s so-called “Golden Age.” His adventures remind us of an overly romanticized world still deeply connected to its social roots, ruled by simplistic moral factions of “good” and “evil” and untainted by the scars of American post-war militarism. Dr. Jones is himself a sort of retro pre-superhero: alternately a tweedy professor everyman and a leather-clad rogue adventurer. Yet, each of his personae fight to maintain our connection to the past, in so doing often unearthing primeval magics that bind humankind (if not Christianity in particular) to the spiritual realm.
In the current work, the authors abandon all of this context and characterization, instead presenting a story in which Indy has to rescue some lucite trinkets before they’re devoured by cavernous holes in the plot.
Review: This reviewer finds the present work to be utterly unpublishable, for reasons enumerated below. Strictly speaking, however, most of the film would hold together nicely, were it not for two flawed points:
- The sequence in which a human being survives a close-range atomic detonation by enclosing himself in a lead-lined refrigerator, and
- Every other scene in the movie.
Now, a work of adventure fantasy is expected, perhaps required, to incorporate elements beyond the commonly plausible. In the act of “Fridge Nuking,” however, the authors have overstepped the comfortable realm of suspension of disbelief, a storytelling tenet second perhaps only to the need for a protagonist. True, while many–such as the soldiers in this clip–have witnessed a nearby nuclear blast and survived to tell (or rather, to be debriefed of) the tale, all were either encased below the blast site in reinforced bunkers, or were stationed far enough from the ground zero that the bomb’s shock wave had been reduced to a moderate gust by the time it reached them. Riding a nuke’s shock wave to safety is, simply put, a laughably absurd concept. To prove this to the authors, this reviewer shall illustrate the myriad lethal effects that a nearby atomic blast would have on a person, even when enclosed in the very finest of kitchen appliances.
Preliminary Assumptions and Calculations.
It will be difficult to calculate the magnitude of forces, temperatures, ionizing flux, etc… without knowing (1) the power of the bomb detonated and (2) its distance from the ‘fridge-clad Dr. Jones. Addressing issue (1): given the year and location–1957 and the Nevada desert, respectively–and the surreally macabre pseduo-city from which Dr. Jones makes his unconventional escape, we can assume that the atomic test was a part of the U.S. Military’s Operation Plumbbob. Since this particular test is a “tower drop,” one of eight performed that year, the weapon’s power must lie somewhere between 10 and 44 kilotons (i.e. equivalent to instantaneously detonating between 20,000,000 and 88,000,000 pounds of TNT [thanks for correcting our type-o, Jon.-Ed]).
Addressing point (2) is a bit trickier, but through back-calculations and the available data, we might be able to make some inferences. Dr. Jones and his ice box appear to co-migrate with the expanding edge of the bomb’s shock wave, which delivers its concussive force in a single burst. Let us therefore model the ‘fridge as undergoing rapid, uniform acceleration to a constant final velocity (before returning to the ground, cavorting with gophers and ~2 more hours of inexplicable drivel). Given this assertion, we’ll calculate the force that would be required to accelerate Dr. Jones and his ice box to their final apparent speed, and from that infer the distance he’d have to be relative to a 10–44 kt detonation to receive such a force.
Let us assume that the refrigerator has approximately the dimensions listed here, and hence weighs approximately 71 kg. Indy’s clocking it at (We’re just guessing here) 99 kg, for a combined mass of 170 kg. Of course, initially they’re at rest, but what is the maximal velocity they achieve?
As is standard scientific practice, let us approximate Dr. Jones’ Soviet captors’ vehicle as a 1950 Studebaker Commander, with a length of ~2.3 meters. Traveling in his makeshift TARDIS, Indy overtakes the Studebaker (by our watch) in ~0.9 seconds. Assuming the Soviets are attempting to escape the advancing plume at their vehicle’s maximum speed (~80 mph, or ~35.76 m/s), we estimate Indy’s horizontal velocity to have a total magnitude of approximately (2.3 m/0.9 s + 35.76 m/s) = 38.32 m/s. Note that he’s also been accelerated vertically, but as the magnitude of his displacement is difficult to gauge we’ll not incorporate it into our initial calculations; all forces etc… calculated can therefore be considered as lower estimates.
Ignoring the effects of drag and wind resistance (which are tricky under standard conditions, but nigh-impossible within the mixture of soot, aerosolized concrete and atomically-catalyzed oxidizing nitrogenous smog through which he’s travelling), we calculate that Dr. Frigidaire has undergone a net change in momentum (mass*Δvelocity) with a minimal magnitude of (170 kg)*(38.32 m/s) = 6514.4 kg•m/s. Physicists term this quantity the “Impulse,” roughly thought of as the force imparted to a body multiplied by the time spent imparting it: I = F•Δt. Therefore, if we knew how long it took to accelerate the ‘fridge, we could calculate the force imparted to it.
Now, the bombs deployed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki prouced blast winds approaching 620 mph (= 277 m/s) as far as one mile from their detonation centers. A comparably powered blast would overtake Dr. Jones’ refrigerator (depth = 0.7 m) in 0.7 (m)/277 (m/s) = 2.5 millisconds. This means that the force exerted on him–the impulse divided by the time–would be a whopping 6514.4 (kg•m/s)/0.0025 (s) = 2,605,760 Newtons. To put this in perspective, on Earth’s surface Pete Fenzel weighs ~801 N. SO, having this much force put on you would be like having 3253.13 Pete Fenzels simultaneously sitting on you [Or, as Wrather calls it, “The Perfect Weekend.” – Ed.].
Were the bomb’s blast winds to hit the rear of the refrigerator with a force perfectly normal to the ‘fridge’s back plane, they’d be delivering a 2.605 MegaNewton force onto an area of 1.46 x 0.6 meters = 0.876 m². Hence, the pressure exerted on the ‘fridge at the point of impact would be (2,605,760 N/0.876 m²) = 2,974,611.87 Pascals (= 430 psi, almost certainly a drastic understatement). Consulting this table, derived from Dolan’s Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons, Part 1, we can estimate that Indy must have been initially placed far less that 0.6 km (~660 yards) from the detonation of a 10–44 kT atomic weapon.
This is a deeply problematic result, since a nuclear explosion delivers not only a tremendous concussive force but also intense heat and radiation. Which is to say, in order for an archeologist-stuffed Frigidaire to be accelerated by an atomic blast to the speeds observed in this sequence, it would need to be placed so close to the bomb as to be surely obliterated by the blast’s other myriad effects. Of course, for the authors’ benefit the full extent of these effects might require some elaboration…