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Many hypothetical doomsday devices are based on the fact that salted hydrogen bombs can create large amounts of nuclear fallout.

A doomsday device is a hypothetical construction — usually a weapon — which could destroy all life on a planet, particularly the Earth, or destroy the planet itself (bringing "doomsday", a term used for the end of planet Earth).

Doomsday devices have been present in literature and art especially in the 20th century, when advances in science and technology made world destruction (or at least the eradication of all human life) a credible scenario. Many classics in the genre of science fiction take up the theme in this respect.

After the advent of nuclear weapons, especially hydrogen bombs, these technologies have usually been the dominant components of doomsday devices. RAND strategist Herman Kahn, collaborating with risk analyst Ian Harold Brown, proposed a "Doomsday Machine" in the 1950s which would consist of a computer linked to a stockpile of hydrogen bombs, programmed to detonate them all and bathe the planet in nuclear fallout at the signal of an impending nuclear attack from another nation. Such a scheme, fictional as it was, epitomized for many the extremes of the suicidal logic behind the strategy of mutual assured destruction, and it was famously parodied in the Stanley Kubrick film from 1963, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It is also a main topic of the 1970 movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in parallel with the species extermination theme. Most such models either rely on the fact that hydrogen bombs can be made arbitrarily large assuming there are no concerns about delivering them to a target (see Teller–Ulam design) or that they can be "salted" with materials designed to create long-lasting and hazardous fallout (e.g.; a cobalt bomb).

In the actual situation, where all of humanity lives on a single planet, use of a weapon destroying that single planet would evidently be suicidal for the user. However, Science Fiction posits various scenarios where (human or non-human) creatures have more than a single planet available, and thus the use of a "planet killer" becomes a "logical" means of waging an interplanetary or interstellar war:

  • One fictional devices of this nature is the use made of it by aliens to kill off humanity, or all life on Earth, for various reasons, ranging from 'saving' the Earth from humans' destructive nature to invasion of the planet to simply them being a genocidal kind.
  • Another kind of scenario is war between competing space or galactic empires, a scale of warfare where destruction of a single planet is equivalent to the destruction of a single city in present-day wars.



The Dead Hand or "Perimetr" system built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War has been called a "doomsday machine"[1] due to its fail-deadly design and nuclear capabilities.

In fiction

  • The doomsday device is an important theme in Dr. Strangelove, a movie by Stanley Kubrick. ("When you merely wish to bury bombs, there is no limit to the size").
  • Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth of Futurama has built an extensive collection of doomsday devices. In Bender's Big Score, one of them is used to defeat the scammer aliens.
  • The Doomsday Machine featured in the Star Trek episode of the same name.
  • A Doomsday Machine is a plot device in episode "A Voice in the Wilderness" of US TV series Babylon 5.
  • Obliterators used by Honored Matres in Chapterhouse: Dune and Hunters of Dune (and later used by the New Sisterhood in Sandworms of Dune) are capable of combusting entire atmospheres of planets, and ultimately the full surface of a planet.
  • The Motherships in the V franchise were capable of being turned into such weapons.
  • In Doctor Who the Osterhagen Key (an anagram of Earth's Gone) - a last resort device which would destroy Earth by setting off a chain of nuclear warheads (it is to be used if the human race is in such pain and with no hope of survival that immediate destruction would be the better option) - is entrusted to Martha Jones by UNIT during the Dalek invasion in The Stolen Earth. There is also the reality bomb, a weapon capable of destroying all of reality, a creation of the Daleks in Journey's End.
  • The Talons from Heaven or Tactical Long Range Nuclear Sanitizer from the novel Swan Song. This concept involves firing a massive payload of nuclear weapons at the poles from space, knocking the earth off its axis, causing massive icecap melting and subsequent flooding.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium is able to deploy fleets that may use powerful weapons of mass destruction that can kill all life in a planet, burn up the whole atmosphere or even shatter worlds.
  • In Supreme Commander there is a superweapon called "Black Sun" built by the United Earth Federation, which is able to destroy any planet in the galaxy with a single shot.
  • In Spore, there is a powerful but expensive weapon in the space stage called the "Planet Buster" that allows the player to destroy entire planets.
  • In the Halo video game series the Halo rings are doomsday weapons created by the Forerunners in order to stop the parasitic Flood (designed to 'starve' the Flood by killing all sentient life in the galaxy).

See also


External links



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