[Photo] Bikini (Atoll)

Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific. This image was captured by the Landsat 8 satellite on Aug. 19, 2013 (NASA Earth Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey)

Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific. This image was captured by the Landsat 8 satellite on Aug. 19, 2013 (NASA Earth Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey)

What do a popular bathing suit style and a nuclear testing site have in common? Their name. Fun fact: “Bikini” refers to both a “very brief two-piece swimming costume” and one of the Marshall Islands, used as a U.S. nuclear weapons test site from 1946 to 1958. Why was the name of a nuclear testing site chosen to grace the scanty two-piece? It’s a bit of a mystery, but a theory floating around the internet suggests that the likeliness is a result of “an analogy of the explosive force of the bomb and the impact of the bathing suit style on men’s libidos.” We’ll leave you to decide the validity of this proposed hypothesis, though we would also beg you to note the implicit heteronormativity implicated therein.

But back to the island.

The U.S. Army’s initial test detonation packed a whopping 15-megaton wallop – a payload that was a thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. At the time, it was the most powerful explosion ever. The blast vaporized the contents of the adjacent three island and created a 2-kilometer-wide crater. Not surprisingly (especially given that natives had to be moved to other islands), there was a public outcry in response to these tests. This provoked diplomatic negotiations resulting in the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty -and gave us a catchy name for a bathing suit.

Learn more about Bikini Atoll at livescience.com.

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