English Subtitles for The SCIENCE! Behind The Vaults in Fallout 4



Subtitles / Closed Captions - English

Dear Bethesda,

HI AGAIN. It’s me, Austin. You know me. I’m the guy who writes to you more than he writes to any other game developer. I’m also handsome, sexually nebulous, introverted, and in more recent news a warm recipient of an order of protection from Pete Hines. But anyway, I’m sitting here comfortably outside my 500 foot radius writing to you today to finish up my unofficial Fallout trilogy about the feasibility of some of your coriest concepts. The Glowing Sea, the Great War and now, my favoritest of favorites: Vaults.

I love the vaults. They’re the oldest concept in the entire Fallout Franchise, introduced in the very first Fallout game. Originally, they were just, you know, holes in the ground that folk used to survive the apocalypse, but they became a bit more devious and complicated as the franchise evolved. In Fallout 2 the concept of the Vault Experiment was introduced, and was expanded upon by Bethesda in Fallout 3, and was a central plot point in Fallout 4.

So. Vaults. How feasible are they? And, look, I know some of you may be hoping that I’m going to be getting into the Vault Experiments, and in particular cryogenic freezing, but that’s a story for another day. Today, we’re going to be looking at whether or not the core concept of several dozen people living in a concrete bunker for years is even possible. Are you ready? I’m ready. Let’s do this.

First and foremost, before you can sustain people for possibly hundreds of years, the very first thing a Vault has to be capable of is stopping the immediate threat of a Nuclear bomb. Is that possible? There are two major immediate dangers from the detonation of a nuclear bomb are the fireball explosion, shock, and gamma radiation created from nuclear fission. In Fallout 3, if you walk through the Vault display in the Museum of Technology, the announcer says that the

vault doors have a 2% failure rate in the instance of a direct hit from a nuclear weapon. This… is bullshit. At the point of detonation, temperatures rise to over 10 million degrees fahrenheit, well beyond the melting point of the most durable metal known to humanity: tungsten. Not to mention the incredible pressures and radioactive forces at the point of detonation--make no mistake, if someone dropped a nuke directly on top of a vault, it would be totally, totally fucked; however, this isn’t an immediate debunk--for one thing, this information comes

from what is, effectively, in-game marketing by Vault-Tek, who are pretty well-established as being lying sacks of shit about everything, Also, as far as I know there aren’t any vaults other than 87 that we know of that are said to have survived a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, so I’m going to give this a pass, since it’s never quite clear exactly where and how hard 87 was hit. Vaults wouldn’t likely be high-value targets. Sure, they’re little holes where humans can survive and

regroup, but they’re not weapons caches, or nuclear silos--they’re just places where people live. As nuclear explosions spread out, their intensity dissipates, and a properly sealed and buried vault would likely be capable of withstanding the intense pressures surrounding a nuclear blast, and even perhaps being caught by a fireball as long as it’s an appreciable distance away.

Which brings us to the third and final immediate threat from nuclear blasts: ionizing radiation, and more specifically, gamma radiation. Now, I did a great deal of reading about gamma radiation for my video on Halo, so if you want to know why it’s so dangerous, check it out there. But in short, gamma radiation is the most penetrating, and the most harmful form of ionizing radiation released by a nuclear bomb. Unlike other forms of radiation, it is far, far more capable of penetrating matter, and therefore poses a significant risk to

our vault inhabitants. Luckily, while it’s quite efficient at penetrating solid matter, it’s won’t go through just anything. You see, as radiation penetrates matter, it dissipates, or attenuates, either by ionizing surrounding atoms it comes into contact with, or by being reflected off in another direction. The rate at which a solid attenuates gamma radiation is measured in what’s called “half value layers,” which is the thickness of the matter it takes to

cut the intensity of gamma radiation in half. For example, steel (like what a vault door is likely to be made out of) has a half value layer for gamma radiation of about half an inch, which means for every half an inch of steel gamma radiation travels through, its intensity gets halved. So if we have a vault door that’s one foot thick, and it’s hit with a fatal dose of 1000 rads, by the time the radiation gets through all 24 half value layers, only 0.000059604 rads will make it out the other side. That’s less radiation

than is in a banana. Soil has a much weaker half value layer rating, however, but is still surprisingly effective at stopping gamma radiation. A mere three feet of soil reduces incoming radiation by over 1/1000th, which means the same 1000 rads from before traveling through 3 feet of dirt will come out the other side as only 1 rad. Considering vaults tend to be buried very, very deep and are reinforced with steel and concrete, I’d say, thankfully, they’re excellent at keeping you safe from the immediate effects of the nuclear apocalypse.

However, it’s one thing to survive for ten minutes, and quite another to survive for days, years, or even decades, or HUNDREDS of years, in the case of vaults like Vault 101. You have to worry about food, water, and oxygen, and that’s just the physical needs. How do we even begin to pick this all apart? First is the next-biggest immediate problem I can think of: oxygen. Y’see, surviving

the initial blast is all well-and-good, there’s still a secondary problem to be concerned about: radioactive Fallout. This is the secondary hazard and more long-term danger, and while being buried underground is a great way to avoid this problem, if you’ve got pipes leading up into the world for ventilation and oxygen, you’re in for a world of trouble when they start to get clogged with radioactive dust. Furthermore, these would present structural weaknesses and compromise the air pressure of the vault in the event of the high PSI

pressures caused by nuclear detonations. Luckily for me, a combination of Red Scare research and modern-day disaster prepper forums have done all the research for me already! It turns out, with proper filtration, the air from the outside world would actually be completely safe, using a combination of HEPA filters, carbon, and decontamination through water, you could effectively remove all hazardous particles from incoming oxygen.

You would have to create a way to seal these holes in instance of emergency, but for the most part, apparently, once the immediate bomb has gone off, you can begin breathing the air again. But what about food? Vaults were designed to hold about 1000 people at full capacity, although presumably for game balance reasons we never see this many, and not everyone who signed up for a vault made it there when the bombs dropped. But, still, in a control vault

without nasty experiments, presumably Vault Tek would have figured out a way to feed all these people. Right? Let’s take two scenarios and look at them: a “normal” vault, and a weird one. For our normal, let’s take for a given that most harmful nuclear fallout dissipates in about 25 years, and that’s when this vault opens. Vault 2, or in this case, Vault 101, stays closed for 200 years. How much food would you need to support 1000 people for this long? For sake of easiness, we’re going to say that the birth/death

ratio is 1:1, which means for every one person who dies, one is born. Keep the math simple, although humans rarely operate this way. According to one study, the average american consumes almost 1 ton of food in a year. Holy shit. So, times that by 1000, and you get 1,000 tons of food for our vault for one year. That’s 25,000 tons for our “normal” vault which opens after 25 years. That’s not too terrible, I don’t think. Food storage is complicated and tricky, but vaults are

vast and huge. With a small indoor greenhouse for fresh vitamins, you could presumably have a large warehouse full of food capable of keeping 1000 people alive for a quarter decade. You’d have to be vigilant about rodent management, but it’d be doable. The real problems come with our 200-year vault, Vault 101. I may go into this more in-depth if I ever talk about food preservation technology, but storing 200,000 tons of food underground for 200 years is...it’s just not possible. As matter sits, it changes. It’s just the

nature of stuff, and food is especially at-risk for contamination. Not to mention the vast size of an underground warehouse you’d need to store enough food for that many people for 200 years. No, supplying food long term for a place like Vault 101 would absolutely require vast underground greenhouses, and perhaps even animals being kept for agricultural purposes. For such a long period of time, this would be the most efficient use of space. Having a limited gene pool would create problems for future generations, but likely something

you wouldn’t see after only 200 years. But 500-1000? You’d definitely start seeing some negative outcomes from inbreeding. But I digress. You could feed people for 200 years underground, but it would be difficult, and you’d have to have a very large supply of effective lamps that are able to keep plants alive and healthy. It stretches the imagination, but it’s definitely plausible. Water is, surprisingly, the easiest problem to fix. Water is easy to filter and purify

with modern technology, and it’s absolutely everywhere in the united states. There are underground aquifers, rain, and urine recycling would actually make vaults relatively hydrated throughout the years, providing their tech doesn’t break down. So, you know what? Vaults are probably one of the most plausible technologies in the Fallout universe. We spent a lot of time in the 50s and 60s researching and designing places to preserve our species when the inevitable destruction comes, and even pop culture as

old as Dr. Strangelove made mention of hiding out deep underground. I wouldn’t want to do it for a long, long time, but I’m glad to know that there’s something that holds up to even the harsh scrutiny in a modern video game. Just don’t act like I don’t know that you have chickens hiding out behind those inaccessible doors, Bethesda. Sincerely, Austin



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