Nothing I’ve ever taken seriously before, but now things have changed. With the release of Fallout 4 there’s new evidence on the table, so let’s dig into it, shall we? If you manage to get on good terms with the Brotherhood of Steel and get to tour the Prydwen, you’ll come across a fun little nook in the back, where there’s a super mutant on a slab and some weird plants. There’s Mutfruit and…yes, that’s right, Nirnroot. Well, it’s not called Nirnroot in the casino game. It’s called “experimental plant.” But look at it!
It’s Nirnroot! In fact, if you head to the nearby terminal and check out the entries, you’ll notice that the project name associated with the experimental plant is called “NRT-001.” NRT. NirnRooT. Case closed.
Same world. “Uhm, what about the fact that there’s advanced technology in the Fallout universe and people are using bows and arrows in Skyrim? What about Argonians and Khajiit? You don’t see a lot of lizard and cat people in the world of Fallout. And not to mention that the world of Nirn looks nothing like our world, and nothing like our world has EVER looked like that.” Alright alright Patrick the Pedant, calm down.
Did I forget to mention that the events of the Fallout games are the prehistoric past of the events of the Elder Scrolls? Somewhere about here. Or…more. Back. Back. HERE.
I’m talking thousands, hundreds of …thousands, and maybe more years in the past. Let’s start with the basics: Fallout. Specifically, actual, radioactive Fallout. I mean, what is radiation, even? Let’s go back to school for a second. You know that everything’s made up of atoms, right?
Copper, hydrogen, carbon, uranium–all of it, atoms. And what’s an atom? It’s just a bunch of protons and neutrons clumped together with a handful of electrons bonded to it–usually shown as orbiting. The bunch of protons and neutrons in the middle is called a nucleus. Now, most elements are stable, like boring old copper and gold, which means unless someone messes with them on a subatomic level, a gold atom is likely to stay a gold atom forever. Some atoms, like Plutonium and Uranium, have an unstable nucleus, one that doesn’t have enough energy to hold itself together, so it’ll randomly eject protons and neutrons off into the void.
That’s why it’s called Nuclear Radiation, because it’s all centered around the nucleus, and the protons and neutrons radiate outward. Why is this dangerous? I mean, protons and neutrons are small. INCREDIBLY small–smaller than an atom. Well, it turns out these protons and neutrons are kind of a big deal. When they go flying off from their nucleus, they transfer energy to nearby atoms as they pass by, throwing their electrons out of whack, or sometimes even causing an atom to lose an electron entirely.
Since atoms are the stuff that makes stuff stuff, messing with how they operate in any way totally changes the things they combine into–like a potato, piece of rock, or a cell in your body. The cell in your body is particularly important, because if enough of these protons and neutrons are flying through you, say in the event of a nuclear bomb going off, or perhaps too much time spent in your refined Uranium chair, they can drastically alter the matter that makes up your entire body. This is what causes radiation poisoning, and sometimes outright death.
Occasionally radiation doesn’t kill a cell entirely, but changes the way it operates by messing with its DNA, which can lead to mutations, or cancer. It’s the reasoning behind giant scorpions, bloatflies, molerats, and Ghouls in the Fallout Universe. There’s some debate about atmospheric distribution of microdoses of Forced Evolutionary Virus that may have contributed, but the long and short of it is that radiation had a hand. And maybe, just maybe, after many, many generations, after all the poor unlucky folk died of cancer, the right combination of radiation could lead to Lizard people, Cat people, and jerks with normal skin and pointy ears. This brings us half life. No, not that Half Life.
I mean radioactive half life decay, which is the amount of time it takes for a bunch of radioactive material to decay halfway. See, when a radioactive substance like Uranium loses neutrons and protons, the atom changes into something else–something not radioactive. That’s called decay. Some Uranium has a half-life of 4.5 Billion years, which means in 4.5 billion years, HALF of the present uranium atoms will have gotten rid of their neutrons and protons, which means the radiation levels will have dropped by 50%, with 50% leftover.
In another 4.5 Billion years, half of that half will be gone, leaving 25% of the radiation that was present 9 Billion years before still in tact. So…the world of Fallout and Skryim is screwed, right? Well, not necessarily. For one, in the world of Fallout, it’s discovered that local species have begun to adapt to high levels of radiation. It’s unclear exactly how they’re doing this, either by aggressive cell regeneration and cancer-fighting immune systems, or something else, it doesn’t matter. So it’s conceivable that, after billions of years of radiation, man, mer, plant, and animal alike would have had plenty of time to let Darwin bolster their bodies to the point where radiation is a long-forgotten and distant danger.
But it’s actually really unlikely that radiation remains a danger in the Fallout universe for all that long–for one thing, the Fallout from Nuclear bombs is way, way less stable than Uranium sitting on your desk is. The tradeoff is that it’s significantly more dangerous. Most of the most dangerous radiation released immediately after a nuclear bomb goes off has a half-life of seconds to a few months–so it’s basically gone by the time any of the games really start. Some heavier, more stable particles can have a half-life of hundreds of years, but they’re in pretty small doses compared to the more immediate hazards. The average half-life for the Fallout of a nuclear weapon, since it releases its energy incredibly quickly, is about 50 years.
That means by Fallout 4, 200 years after the great war, radiation levels should have fallen to 6.25% of what they were at the time of detonation. So that’s encouraging. For a real-life worst-case example, take Chernobyl, the worst nuclear pollution disaster in history. It’s estimated that in a mere 320 years, it’ll be habitable again. In fact, there’s still people living in the exclusion zone, believe it or not.
Probably ghouls. The point is, the world is going to be livable and lush again. All it will take is time, and life isn’t going anywhere, because life finds a way. And there’s going to be plenty of time for radiation to fade, because look at this map. Nirn looks almost nothing like our world, which could be the biggest sticking point in our little theory–or at least it would be were it not for continental drift.
You know, the idea that our planet used to be one supercontinent called Pangea, and eventually all the different continents drifted apart? It’s entirely feasible that our continents shifted over hundreds and thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of years into the continents of Tamriel and Akavir. Sure, these shifts supposedly take aeons, but who knows what effect hundreds of nuclear bombs going off simultaneously has on tectonic movements.
“But what about magic.” Pff. What do you mean “what about magic?” There’s totally magic in the Fallout Universe. There’s an entire quest about appeasing a ghost in Fallout 2, and in Fallout 3 there’s the Dunwich building, that’s clearly haunted. No, there’s definitely precedent for magic in the Fallout universe. “Where’d all the technology go, then?” Well, easy.
Industry and manufacturing as we know it disappeared when the bombs dropped on October 27th, 2077. The Great War occurred at the tail end of the Resource War, a war that was being fought over depleting natural resources in the world. Oil, Uranium–all of it depleting at an alarming rate. A great deal of it was laid to waste when the bombs were dropped–uranium and plutonium split to create apocalyptic hellfire that scorched the earth into ruin.
One of the last sources of oil was torched by the Chosen One at the end of Fallout 2. The world of Fallout is a world where technology as they know it has a shelf life unless something changes, unless another source of energy is discovered–one that’s either renewable or plentiful. Which brings us back to magic. We know that the paranormal exists in the Fallout universe.
It’s entirely likely that scientists discovered the paranormal and found a way to harness it. And in a world where you can levitate things with your mind, heat your home with fire you shoot from your hands, and command the dead to do your bidding, what use is modern technology? Hell, there’s one civilization in Tamriel that was known for its technology, and they were wiped off the face of the planet with nary a trace–the world of Tamriel is a world where technology gets you killed. The Brotherhood of Steel would be proud. https://fallout.bethesda.net/en/