I don't know where else to ask this, but I have seem similar questions on this part of Stack Exchange. Basically, this is a serious curiosity. In other words: I want to know what would happen to everything that was once living after a cobalt bomb was detonated somewhere? I mean serious in the sense that I'm not interested in "building a world" for some kind of fiction. I'm just really curious.

Cobalt Bomb on Wikipedia

A Possible Russian Nuclear Cobalt Bomb

Because of the intense radiation I have a few assumptions, but I know very little about them. Basically, assuming something survives the blast without being vaporized, but dies eventually (eventually being within the next day or so) what would happen to it after it has died? Would the body decompose? The concept of a cobalt bomb is to produce short but extremely intense radiation, so much so that almost nothing would survive it. My assumption regarding this scenario is: the body would literally be preserved by the radiation. I don't know if the organisms which ordinarily decompose once living things could survive themselves. I don't know if the microbes which do the same would survive either.

I guess my real question is: would the radiation produced by a cobalt bomb preserve everything which has died?

  • $\begingroup$ how do you preserve something while it is undergoing (radioactive) decays? I don't understand your question could you clarify a bit just for me because I accidentally shrunk my brain with Pym particles while trying to create degenerate matter :) $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 3:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user6760 I think his idea is that the decomposers (bacteria, for example) might not survive the blast, and thus there wouldn't be as much to make bodies decay. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868: oh I see now I understand thanks anyway food for thought even without the process of radioactive decay or microbes as long as there is tiny bit of heat everything will eventually decompose/break down even inside a vacuum chamber filled to the brim with salt. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Surprising that you linked the Wikipedia article on cobalt bombs since you misunderstand how they would work. The work not by being intensely radioactive, but rather being radioactive enough to kill, but also long lived enough to make it very unlikely that people could remain in fallout shelters long enough to avoid the radiation. Common fission products are much more radioactive, but due to rapid decay can be avoid by sheltering for a relatively short time, e.g., a few months. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ Oh that makes sense, thanks guys! I just assumed the radiation was so intense literally nothing would survive. Regarding the answer I got, it seems like he read the same thing on the web that I did while I researched this. I found something about radiation and microbes, and it pointed out that microbes are much too small to be affected by most radiation. I wasn't 100% on that and wanted more input, which is why I turned here. $\endgroup$
    – MegaWitt
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


Smaller living things are less susceptible to radiation (this is primarily of use for neutron radiation, not the gamma radiation from a Cobalt-60 decay chain). I'd imagine that the gut bacteria in people would survive, and then be the decomposing agent that rots you away.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you have a reference for that? Us macroorganisms have the advantage of skin to protect us from UV, while most microbes will succumb quickly. Granted, the gut bacteria have nice comfy meat shields, but without it aren't they quite vulnerable? Or is the action of radioactive elements on cells very different from ultraviolet light? $\endgroup$
    – user243
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 19:20

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