The year is 1956, the “Cold War” is prevalent. Convinced that sooner or later atomic weapons will be used between the super powers scientists are attempting to find just how many Rads a human can survive exposure to and what could be done to decontaminate people exposed to radioactivity from an atomic blast. At facilities like Laurence Livermore and others test subjects range from animals to insects trying to find what levels of exposure would be fatal and what levels of contamination could be survivable.
It was found that primates such as monkeys had about the same reaction to high doses of radiation that humans suffered and had a low chance of recovery. It was determined that as little as 150 Rads to 1000 Rads over a period of 8 hours could be fatal if not debilitating to most primate species. So scientists looked for ways for those exposed to somehow recover through medical decontaminatory means.
One might recall in the Book “Atomic Soldiers” where US troops hunkered down in tranches not far from the detonation of an atomic bomb and would then be marched to the molten and glowing ground zero. This experiment was meant to observe the psychological effects of a nuclear battlefield on foot soldiers but also what the short term and long term medical effects could be. One soldier reported that with his parka pulled over his head that when the atomic bomb was detonated the X-rays emitted penetrated into the trench and he could see the bones in his hands and wrist as though he were in an X-ray room at a hospital, but to then have to march to the site of the blast still giving off heat and glowing visible bands of light must have been unnerving
Who would live and who wouldn’t
Amazingly the only species of animal tested that survived a lethal dose of radiation were beetles! While a Beagle hunting dog was kept alive after several exposures by being given several blood transfusions and taking in a lot of water. The findings were that the dog would have a normal life span despite the repeated doses of Rads that normally would have caused death. Yet, humans are so sensitive to the effects of radiation that long term complications for the “Atomic Soldiers” were cancers, birth defects from conceived offspring, blood, and organ disorders in a certain percentage of the troops.
The deadly implications
Although placing a contaminated patient between layers of lead insulation helps to absorb radiation still trapped in the body, with sufficient initial exposure to the deadly effects of gamma, beta, and X-rays causing so much tissue and immunity damage that chances of recovery are nil. There has been a long legacy of medical treatment due to reactor plant accidents and leakages that have devastated exposed workers. At Chernobyl, the valiant efforts by plant workers trying to attain damage control meant death within hours of the severe exposure levels.
So, the outcomes for humans are not good at all and even if initial exposure is survived chances of long term complications are great. As for beetles, the only survivors of a nuclear exchange that would crawl out of the rubble and carry on with life on planet earth, would it not be ironic that an insect with an exoskeleton would inherit the right to survival and a viable future from the ashes of mankind’s own self-destruction! Perhaps the beetle would have enough time to actually evolve into an intelligent and technically advanced life form? The beetle species would have about 4 billion years of the sun’s projected life expectancy left before it turned into a red giant and swallowed the inner planets of the solar system before shrinking back down into a cooling dwarf star.