Do weak explosives add up to stronger ones?


I hear about the strength of bombs being described in terms of TNT so I was wondering if it’s actually equivalent. Excluding any side effects like poisoning or radiation, if you detonate a bomb, then simultaneously detonate two bombs with half the strength, would they be the same?

In: 12

I would say in practice, no. But in theory, yes.

As I see it, the key factors are simultaneity of detonation and the velocity of detonation.

If the two smaller bombs were detonated precisely simultaneously, and if the velocity of detonation of each of the smaller bombs was equal to that of the single larger bomb, then the resulting explosions should be more or less identical in terms of force. But for these same reasons it would be difficult to achieve in practice.

Yes, that’s why weight equivalent of TNT is used as a measurement. What we are actually describing is the amount of energy released in the explosion. This is a function of the chemistry of the explosive used (or the physics of the nuclear explosion). Instead of equivalent weight of TNT, we could just as easily describe explosions in units of energy just as joules.

No, they would not be the same. The two bombs with half the strength would produce a significantly weaker explosion than the single bomb by itself. When a bomb is detonated, the energy released by the bomb is determined by the amount of explosive material inside it. When two bombs with half the strength are detonated, the total amount of energy released is less than the energy released by the single bomb by itself.

Me and my friends used to remove the gunpowder from fireworks and make bigger booms with film canisters. TNT is just gunpowder packed up right so it blows up all at once. The difference is about fuel and how fast it reacts once ignited. Some fuel like in nukes reacts in an instant, whereas TNT would be a tad slower. So yes you can do the same, but be very careful as its unpredictable how big the boom will be and which direction stuff will fly.

Dresden Germany –
Incendiary bombs killed 25,000 people (officially) and turned the city to a column of flame.

The goal (in Vonnegut and Dyson’s view) was to see if traditional bombs could level a city… 3900 tons of high explosives were dropped from planes!

Answer: It leveled the city pretty good.