Would a powerful non-nuclear explosion look the same as an equivalent nuclear explosion?
The British used 450 tons of explosive in a series of mines under the German lines. If they had packed in 20,000 tons, the equivalent of the first atomic test, would the result have looked like the blast at Trinity?
The major differences between a nuclear and non-nuclear explosion are that the nuclear explosion creates ionising radiation and fallout and effectively emanates from a point source as compared to a non-nuclear one.
I think that if the two explosions had the same energy they would look different because of the larger space occupied by the conventional explosive. I am not sure of the details of appearance but I think the cloud would be broader and fatter.
Even a smaller amount of explosives when blown up will look exactly like nuclear explosion. The question just in size of the "mushroom", I think.... But i never saw anything like that to compare
I heard a report that when the Americans used a Fuel Air Explosive over a bunker complex during the Gulf War of 1990, some British ground troops actually thought it was a small nuclear device due to the mushroom cloud that appeared overhead. I don't remember where I heard that though, unfortunately!
It depends what you mean by "look like". The forces in a nuclear explosion, especially one caused by a modern, advanced device are physically bizarre, and so are nothing like a conventional detonation, no matter what the kiloton yield. These devices cause a fission-fusion-fission reaction (or worse) and have strange effects on the point where matter and energy meet.
Do they look similar to the naked eye? Possibly, but that's where their similarity ends.
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