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Watch: Scientists Figure Out How Long Humans Could Really Survive in Fallout

FIONA MACDONALD
12 NOV 2015

If you've managed to tear yourself away from playing Fallout 4 for long enough to click on this article, then kudos to you, you're doing better than most. The game has officially cannibalised most people's lives the past week, but we thought we'd take a little time to investigate some of the science behind Fallout, with this video from the American Chemical Society's Reactions series.

 

Plotline aside, the basic premise of the game is that there's been a nuclear apocalypse and the only humans who've survived are the ones who retreated to fallout shelters, known as vaults. But from a scientific point of view, how would humans be able to survive living in one of these vaults?

As the video explains, surviving the nuclear apocalypse itself wouldn't actually be too challenging. The biggest factors you need to consider in order to protect yourself from ionising radiation is time, distance, and shelter. So you want to be exposed to all those alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays for the least amount of time as possible, you want to be as far away as you can from the nuclear blast, and you want to have the most shielding possible.

The good news is you can find all those things in a fallout shelter! There are some stats in the game on vault 13, and they describe it as being underground and covered by 61 metres (200 feet) of earth with a 3.5-metre-thick (12-foot-thick) steel door, which would definitely be enough to protect you from nuclear fallout.

But once inside that vault, what do you do for the subsequent decades? What do you do for food and energy? Due to limited storage, fossil fuels are out, and so is solar power, as it's probably not safe to set up panels on the surface with all the deathclaws around (side note: we'd like to see how a deathclaw would really respond to someone telling them to shoo).

But there are alternatives. Vault 8 runs on nuclear energy, and vault 13 uses geothermal, which are both very feasible options. Survivors could also use fuel cells to provide power, the video suggests.

When it comes to food, things are little trickier, but there are definitely options for growing plants – and they don't require soil. Watch the video above to find out more. Trust us, it's worth taking a break from playing.