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I am reading the news about North Korea planning to test a nuclear device underground, and while fascinating, I have no idea what this phrase actually means.

Could somebody explain, in absolute layman's terms, how an underground nuclear test actually works, what the dangers are, and how North Korea will use the results?

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closed as off topic by Waffle's Crazy Peanut, dmckee Jan 31 '13 at 17:35

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Hmm... I think this better suites Skeptics.SE. Maybe what other users think of it..??? – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Jan 31 '13 at 17:04
ok, just interested in the science behind what they are trying to achieve, thought somebody may be able to explain it in a way that a physics noob like myself might understand – JMK Jan 31 '13 at 17:06
@JMK I suggest a rewording to get this reopened - something along the lines of "how will detonating a bomb underground tell us anything about what it does when detonated above ground?" – Chris White Jan 31 '13 at 17:39
Yes. I think this could be reconstructed as a question about an experiment. – dmckee Jan 31 '13 at 19:23
  1. Build bomb.

  2. Put bomb underground - in a drilled hole for modern weapons type warheads. or in an mine for large N Korea type devices.

  3. Retire to a safe distance

  4. Press big red button and put fingers in ears.

If you are actively trying to design warheads you fill the hole with lots of sensors to measure energy, radiation, pressure etc and use this data to refine your computer models. If you are just trying to show you are a nuclear power - then you just let everyone know you are going to do it.

4* Note - because the bang travels at the speed of sound, if you are a prudent distance from the device you have plenty of time to put your fingers in your ears AFTER pressing the button.

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While I think this isn't a Physics question, your answer is awesome. BTW, looks like someone has reverted their gravatar (stick man) to default scheme :P – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Jan 31 '13 at 17:08
Thanks for the answer, also did you know that you are a year younger here than on SO? :) – JMK Jan 31 '13 at 17:16
@JMK - interesting, they must do rounding differently, or physics is correcting for relativity – Martin Beckett Jan 31 '13 at 17:21
You forgot 5. Praise Kim Jong Un – ThiefMaster Jan 31 '13 at 17:45

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