GQ had the pretty brilliant idea to interview Stephen King — author of The Stand, a book in which a virus wipes out most of humanity — about swine flu and all things apocalypse. It’s a good read, but I wonder if King knows what he’s talking about when he predicts that a nuclear weapon will explode in a city sometime relatively soon:
It’s been almost 65 years since anybody’s blown up a nuclear weapon in a city in the world. Everybody knows that’s going to happen. You’re going to wake up one morning to find out somebody exploded a dirty nuke in Baghdad or Islamabad. Or the North Koreans actually did launch some kind of a shit-kicking little missile and managed to blow up part of Tokyo. In terms of death toll, it probably won’t be any worse than what happened at Chernobyl. But the trauma. I mean, look at the situation we’re in — people fly a jet plane low over New York City, and the city goes all Martian Chronicles.
According to the IAEA, the WHO, and the UN, the meltdown at Chernobyl has so far resulted in fewer than 50 deaths — with perhaps 4,000 more to die from radiation-caused cancer at some point in the future (though that’s far from certain). That’s a tragedy, and it’s not a number to be minimized, but I suspect it’s a far cry short of the death toll we’d see if a nuclear weapon was used against a densely populated urban area.