“Nuke it from orbit”

The concept of nuking it from orbit has been following me around recently, like a dark shadow. It’s a phrase I’ve loved for however long I’ve been aware of it – I think it’s a bit of a meme (with its roots in the film Aliens) used frequently on the Web when “kill it with fire” just won’t cut it.

“Kill it with fire? Nah, nuke it from orbit.”

Such graphic, violent language always makes me smile – it tickles the same part of my monkey brain that delights in seeing people slip over on hard, wet surfaces on You’ve Been Framed!, for example.

It was used the other day by The Mancunian columnist Lloyd Henning as he dissected the irritating recent explosion in ‘university memes’. Quite rightly, Henning said the same, unfunny jokes were being repeated over and over,

…until the meme is not only beating a humourless dead horse – it’s nuking it from orbit.


Indeed. I also came across the phrase in another blog article the other day which, alas, escapes me.

On a related note, Gizmodo UK also recently featured something I think I’d heard of before – the BBC’s script, which was to be used in the 1970s if the worst happened, and the UK was nuked.

“This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service,” the recording would begin. “This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.”

Chilling. For some cozy bedtime reading, the full BBC PDF can be found here.

And as if those sort of vague, distant threats weren’t frightening enough, I was dozily browsing the BBC News site earlier this week, when I found a story which opened with this little doozy:

“The government must take more seriously the threat of a nuclear weapon being exploded in space by a rogue state”


Jesus. Alright, then.

The chairman of the Defence Select Committee calmly stated that such an attack was “quite likely.” Strewth.

If all this talk of, like, actually nuking it from orbit is getting a bit much for you, then you might, like me, enjoy this gallery of high-res images of nuclear tests from the 1960s and 1970s, collated and displayed in Alan Taylor’s wonderful In Focus feature on The Atlantic.

Image: U.S. Department of Defense


Eerily beautiful. Sleep tight.