The US government has about 10,000 films of the 221 atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1962, covering the destructive power from all sorts of angles and distances, Business Insider reports. But until recently those films were literally rotting away in top-secret storage. Gregg Spriggs, a weapons physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, tells Paleofuture the films were "on the brink" of being "useless." Not anymore. Spriggs has scanned 4,200 of the films to digital and gotten 750 of them declassified. And this week he posted 65 of the films—an "initial set"—to YouTube.
"I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them," Spriggs says. He isn't just preserving the nuclear test footage for historical purposes but to learn as much as possible from it scientifically, the Verge reports. Atmospheric nuclear testing has been banned since 1963, and these old films represent some of the best data available for scientists in the present. Spriggs' laboratory has found about 6,500 of the test films. He says it will take two years to digitize the rest of them and many more years after that to get them declassified. (Kodak accidentally discovered the government testing.)