Virtual reality digital clock


A collaboration between SGS visiting researchers Sharon K. Weiner (American University, School of International Service) and Moritz Kütt (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg), The Nuclear Biscuit uses a Virtual Reality (VR) experience to better understand decision-making during a nuclear crisis. Using VR to immerse participants in a crisis scenario, the project analyses which retaliatory options people consider valid, plus the information, advice, and other variables that are likely to prove important as people seek to make decisions in situations of high stress and uncertainty.

From September to December 2021, Sharon Weiner and Moritz Kütt used experiments and controlled observations to collect data about how decision makers are likely to behave in a nuclear crisis. Participants were recruited among Princeton University students and Washington DC-based policy professionals. The results are expected in 2024.

The VR experience was demonstrated in February 2020 at the Munich Security Conference, where it helped officials experience the pressure and uncertainty inherent in any nuclear crisis. This was reported in The New York Times, which noted: “Volunteers donned virtual reality headsets and were put through the head-spinning flow of data that comes in as a president faces a 15-minute window to decide whether to launch ground-based missiles before they are destroyed.”

Amb. Ivo Daalder, former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO observed “This simulation shows how truly terrifying it would be if a president had to decide on launching US nuclear weapons in the few minutes after receiving warnings of an incoming strike — and why we need to do everything we can to prevent such a situation from ever occurring.”

Ambassador Richard Burt, who served as President George H. W. Bush’s chief negotiator in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks with the former Soviet Union, said “You walk into that simulation and come out a changed person.”

In December 2021 and January 2022, The Nuclear Biscuit was shown to policy makers, non-governmental organizations, congressional staff, and members of Congress, including demonstrations in the Rayburn House Office Building. The Washington Post reported “This month on Capitol Hill, congressional staffers can don a VR headset and take part in the start of an atomic holocaust” and explained the history of nuclear false alarms

In 2022, The Nuclear Biscuit was featured at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in a special session: Tick, Tick, Boom? Presidential Decision-making in a Nuclear Attack.

Members of the media, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Telegraph, and CNBC, have reported on their experience at managing a nuclear crisis in The Nuclear Biscuit.

In 2023, an eight-minute animated video How A Nuclear War Will Start - Minute by Minute based on The Nuclear Biscuit and produced by Kurzgesagt, a Munich-based design studio and YouTube channel, had over 6.5 million views within six months after it was released.


The project and VR experience are designed by Sharon and Moritz in cooperation with Global Zero and the Program on Science and Global Security (SGS) at Princeton University.

The Nuclear Biscuit is made possible thanks to the generous support of Global Zero as well as additional support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, the School of International Service at American University, and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. 

VR programming, troubleshooting, and inspiration were provided by Holosphere VR.  




Homemade Biscuits
Billie Jean Burnett, Troup, Texas [courtesy of Nancy Burnett]


Sharon K. Weiner: or

Moritz Kütt: or