Stills from "How A Nuclear War Will Start - Minute by Minute"
Stills from "How A Nuclear War Will Start - Minute by Minute" (courtesy Matt Caplan and Kurzgesagt)

August 25, 2023

A new Kurzgesagt video "How A Nuclear War Will Start - Minute by Minute" inspired by work at SGS on nuclear launch decision making has been released online. The eight-minute video is adapted from the VR experience The Nuclear Biscuit developed by SGS visiting researchers Sharon Weiner from American University and Moritz Kütt from IFSH, Hamburg. In its first day, the video garnered over two million views on YouTube. 

The video explores how the decision to launch nuclear weapons might unfold in the span of a few minutes – comparable to the time available for the U.S. President to be briefed and make a decision during a crisis. It highlights the dangers of numerous current policies including launch on warning and presidential sole authority. It is produced by Kurzgesagt, a Munich-based design studio and YouTube channel that creates educational animated videos for popular audiences.

The script was researched and written by Matt Caplan, an Assistant Professor of physics at Illinois State University and regular collaborator with Kurzgesagt. Caplan’s work on this film was supported by the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction, an SGS initiative launched in 2020 to reduce the threats from nuclear weapons by educating and mobilizing the physical sciences communities in the United States and internationally. Caplan was a 2021 Coalition Next-Generation Fellow. This Fellowship supports the participation of graduate students, postdocs, and early-career physicists and engineers in advancing nuclear weapons threat reduction. The script was reviewed by Stewart Prager of SGS, professor emeritus of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University and co-founder and chair of the Steering Committee of the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction.