My name is Ivan Stepanov, I am a simulation engineer and the developer of The Nuclear War Simulator. I was born in the city Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan which is known for the fact that the Soviet Union was testing most of their nuclear weapons on a test site just 150 km away. Everybody in my family, including me, have experienced atmospheric or underground nuclear weapons tests. One of my family members was constructing the tunnels for underground testing for several years and another one was evacuated during one of the early atmospheric tests. I have no formal education in the area of nuclear weapons, however, I was collecting and reading resources on this topic since I was a child. I was collecting books, newspaper articles about the victims of the test site, and spending a lot of time in the library which had a whole section dedicated to the nuclear weapons test site.
I now live in Germany, I did a Ph.D. in experimental physics at the RWTH Aachen University working with lasers, semiconductors and high-frequency electronics. At the moment I am working as a simulation engineer modeling laser sensors and generating synthetic sensor data for self-driving cars’ AI and in my free time, I am working on this project.
The biggest motivation to create this software is the constant threat of a nuclear war. We still have over 13 thousand nuclear weapons on this planet and while deterrence may have reduced the probability of a conflict between major powers, this probability is not equal zero. The consequences of such a conflict would be catastrophic and represent in my opinion the single biggest threat to human civilization.
Today, life is good. Most of us live a comfortable life, supermarkets are full of food, technology is improving and making our lives better every day. Of all the threats humanity is facing today nuclear war is the only one that can destroy everything we have built and transform our reality into a nightmare in a single day.
At the same time, this system, which Daniel Ellsberg calls “The Doomsday Machine”, and the consequences of its use are mostly invisible to the public. This project aims to shine a light on this threat and to provide the information in a visual and interactive way.