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Some Scary Stuff From The 80S


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This below article appeared in the April 1979 issue of The Journal of Irreproducible Results, a "science humor" magazine. It tells you how to build your own atomic bomb, and it's based on sound science, even if it's not exactly applicable in the real world.

Annihilation Enterprises'
Construction Project: Atomic Bomb


Worldwide controversy has been generated recently by several United States government websites removing, or restricting access to, material regarding technical aspects of nuclear weapons; specifically, how to make an atomic bomb. The reason usually given by the Administration is that National Security would be compromised if such information were generally available. But, since it is commonly known that all of the information is publicly available in most major metropolitan libraries, obviously the Administration's officially stated position is covering up a more important factor; namely, that such atomic devices would prove too difficult for the average citizen to construct. The United States government cannot afford to insult the vast majorities by insinuating that they do not have the intelligence of a cabbage, and thus the "official" press releases claim National Security as a blanket restriction.

The rumors that have unfortunately occurred as a result of widespread misinformation can (and must) be cleared up now, for the construction project this month is the construction of a nuclear device, which will hopefully clear up any misconceptions you might have about such a project. We will see how easy it is to make a device of your very own in ten easy steps, to have and hold as you see fit, without annoying interference from the government or the courts.

The project will cost between $5,000 and $30,000 dollars, depending on how fancy you want the final product to be. Since last week's column, "Let's Make a Time Machine", was received so well in the new step-by-step format, this month's column will follow the same format.


1. First, obtain about 25 pounds (~10 kg) of Plutonium239 at your local supplier (see NOTES 1 & 2). A nuclear power plant is not recommended, as you'll have to extract and separate it from spent fuel rods, and it's a messy job. Besides, large quantities of missing Plutonium tends to make plant engineers unhappy. We suggest that you contact one of the former Soviet Republics, or perhaps the Junior Achievement in your neighborhood.


Fig. 1The sheet metal and the completed enclosure. A small rolling toolbox was chosen for the design, because of the ease of transport. Note the various stickers, which add believability to the disguise.

2. Fashion together a metal enclosure to house the device (Fig. 1). Most common varieties of sheet metal can be bent to disguise this enclosure as, for example; a briefcase, a lunch pail, or a Buick. Do not use tinfoil or gum wrappers.

3. Arrange the Plutonium into two hemispheral shapes (Fig. 2), separated by about 4 cm. Use rubber cement to hold the Plutonium dust together.


Fig. 2 A Plutonium sphere for illustration purposes. Yours will look slightly different.

4. Now get about 100 pounds (44 kg) of trinitrotoluene (TNT). Gelignite is much better, but messier to work with. Your helpful hardware man or local Bomb Depot store will be happy to provide you with this item.

5. Pack the explosives around the hemisphere arrangement constructed in step 4. If you cannot find Gelignite, feel free to use TNT packed in with Playdoh or any modeling clay. Colored clay is acceptable, but there is no need to get fancy at this point.

6. Wrap this entire structure very tightly with duct tape (Fig. 3). Use a whole roll. This shall be the neutron reflector and inertial containment.

7. Insert the assembly from step 6 into the enclosure made in step 2. Use a strong glue such as "Crazy Glue" to bind the hemisphere arrangement against the enclosure to prevent accidental detonation which might result from vibration or mishandling.

8. To fabricate a detonator for the device, obtain a radio controlled (RC) servo mechanism, as found in RC model airplanes and cars. With a modicum of effort, a remote plunger can be made that will strike a detonator cap to effect a small explosion. These detonation caps can be found in the electrical supply section of your local supermarket. We recommend the "Blast-O-Mactic" brand because they are no deposit-no return.

9. Now hide the completed device from the neighbors and children. The garage is not recommended because of high humidity and the extreme range of temperatures experienced there. Nuclear materials corrode easily, and devices have been known to spontaneously detonate in these unstable conditions. The hall closet or under the sofa will be perfectly suitable.

10. Now you are the proud owner of a working nuclear device! It is a great ice-breaker at parties; is nice to cozy around on a cold night; and in a pinch, can be used for National Defense.


Fig. 3 Wrapping the explosive assembly with inertial confinement material, which also acts as a neutron reflector.

Oversimplified, the device basically works when the detonated TNT compresses the Plutonium into a critical mass (smaller sphere). The critical mass then produces a nuclear chain reaction similar to the domino chain reaction (discussed in this column, "Dominos on the March", February). The chain reaction happens really, really fast, which promptly produces a big explosion. And there you have it, a 10 kiloton party favor!

1. Plutonium (PU), atomic number 94, is a radioactive metallic element formed by the decay of Neptunium and is similar in chemical structure to Uranium, Saturnium, Jupiternium, and Marsium. Not to be confused with Unobtanium or Balonium.

2. Please remember that Plutonium, especially pure, refined Plutonium, is somewhat dangerous. The shavings and dust have a nasty habit of igniting spontaneously, and are practically impossible to extinguish with materials found around the house.


Some Plutonium dust ignites spontaneously in a lab accident.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling the material, and don't allow your children or pets to play in it or eat it. Any leftover Plutonium dust is excellent as an insect repellant. You may wish to keep the substance in a lead box if you can find one in your local junk yard, but an old coffee can will do nicely.


In next month's column, we will learn how to clone your neighbor's wife in six easy steps. This project promises to be an exciting weekend full of fun and profit. Common kitchen utensils will be all you need. See you next month!


1. Let's Make Test Tube Babies! May

2. Let's Make a Solar System! June

3. Let's Make an Economic Recession! July

4. Let's Make an Anti-Gravity Machine! August

5. Let's Make Contact with an Alien Race! September

The above paper was adapted from The Journal of Irreproducible Results Volume 25/ Number 4. P.O. Box 234 Chicago Heights, Illinois 60411

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Radioactive Boy lives! Student who sparked panic in 1996 after he built a nuclear reactor in his shed survived and now wants to invent a 100-year light bulb... out of 'safe' irradiated paint


  • As ‘The Radioactive Boy Scout’ he built a nuclear reactor in his potting shed two decades ago and shut down a neighborhood of 40,000 in 1996
  • Says the $60,000 clear up and burying his 'glowing shed' in the desert was just ‘a total overreaction'
  • Arrested in 2007 for stealing 27 smoke detectors to use for radioactive parts
  • Still researching today, he vows his experiments are ‘all on paper’
  • Dreams of creating a lightbulb that glows for 100 years using radioactive paint
  • He tells MailOnline: 'I think I’ve caused a little chaos but I haven’t left a scratch yet’



PUBLISHED: 20:15 GMT, 13 November 2013 UPDATED: 16:33 GMT, 14 November 2013


David Hahn lays his research papers out on the dusty coffee table in his Michigan home; documents about the speed of light, genetic code, anti-gravity research and time travel.

He says, ‘My experiments are all on paper these days, but I still like to keep abreast of what’s going on today.’

He speaks with the air of a retired academic. But David is not an academic, not exactly. And he is not, worryingly for some, retired. 

Two decades ago David was propelled into the public eye as ‘The Radioactive Boy Scout’. Part boy genius, part dangerous misfit, at 17, he built a nuclear reactor in his mother’s potting shed.

Today, in an interview with MailOnline, David admits: ‘Look, there may have been a few safety issues.’ 

‘But,’ he insists: ‘the whole $60,000 Superfund clear up was a total over-reaction. I was just building a model nuclear reactor and I never saw the shed glowing.’

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Nuclear: David Hahn rose to notoriety in 1996 when neighbors reported his 'glowing potting shed' where he had been trying to build a nuclear reactor. He was also arrested in 2007, right, for stealing 27 smoke detectors. People at the time assumed the lesions on his face were from exposure to radiation






To this day, David believes the $60,000 cost of cleaning up his experiment was an 'over-reaction' and said the shed never glowed. He had been trying to earn his Boy Scout Atomic Energy merit badge

This is David Hahn in a nutshell. 

Eighteen years ago, in a bid for a Boy Scout merit badge, David took to his mother’s potting shed and built a breeder reactor. It became so irradiated a neighbor claimed to have seen it glow.

On June 26 1996 David’s boyish experiment shut down a neighborhood of 40,000 residents. 

The process had been set in motion in November of the previous year when David was arrested following reports that youths were stealing tires in Clinton Township, Michigan. 

His car was searched and a toolbox of radioactive materials found. Alarmed state radiological experts went onto search the potting shed that he confessed to using as his laboratory. 

They found 1,000 times the amount of normal background radiation, sealed it up and called in the Environmental Protection Agency.

On that June morning in 1996 moon-suit wearing EPA agents dismantled the potting-shed, sealed it up with David’s other materials, shipped then to Utah and buried them in the desert. 

And today David just can’t see what all the fuss was about. He was only building a model reactor. He never intended it to be Chernobyl. 

At 37, the dewy skin and clear unconcerned gaze of his youth have gone. But it turns out that the man who pores over his scientific research now is not so very changed from the teenage version of himself.

Where some might have taken the events of all those years ago as sign to pack up their Bunsen burner, David’s enthusiasm for science remains undiminished. He still wants to ‘break barriers.’

His current ambition is to create a light bulb that will glow for 100 years. And he’s pretty sure it’s possible.

It was David’s father, Kenneth’s idea that his son should join the Boy Scouts back in 1994. He thought it would give him discipline and purpose. 

But where other boy scouts settled for learning survival skills - how to make a fire by rubbing sticks together, how to build an igloo or patch a bicycle tire puncture - David wanted more.

He says, ‘I guess the way I looked at it is I just wanted to invent something. I wanted to go the extra step.’






Hazard: Moon-suited EPA agents found 1,000 times the amount of normal background radiation






Help: David started claiming to be a professor working on nuclear projects with his class or simply doing his own research so they would send him the materials






Beavering away: David said: 'I had a lot of different projects on the go – I was making phosphorous paint. I produced a small amount of chlorine gas'

He was the first scout in the history of Clinton Township Troop 371 to elect to earn a merit badge in Atomic Energy. 

His early childhood ambition was to possess a sample of every element on the periodic table. The norm for David was very different from ‘the norm’ for pretty much everybody else. It still is.

He finds it difficult to make friends, he says, because he finds it difficult to find people he can speak to on his level and with his interests. These days he corresponds a lot with the owner of a nuclear store who once worked in Area 51 and a nuclear engineer from Albuquerque.

He likes to write letters – sometimes 40 a day.

Back when he was a student at Chippewa Valley High School he took part in baseball and soccer – a clutch of soccer trophies sit on a sidetable in his Utica, Michigan home. Previous


But he always thought sport was a bit of a waste of time. Science was what really caught his attention and triggered something that borders on obsession to this day.

He said: ‘First it was astronomy. I loved the planets. I always figured that one day man would go to Mars or one of the moons of Jupiter.’

When he was seven, he recalls, he became fixated on the Spiderman comics and the figure of Peter Parker, the mild mannered photographer, transformed by the bite of an irradiated spider.

With his continued fascination with the glow of radioactive elements and a newfound fixation with genetic code and mutation, in some respects there isn’t a great deal to separate the seven-year-old from the 37-year-old David.

His parents divorced when he was still very young. His father, an engineer for General Motors, remarried to Kathy Missig and David spent most of his time living with them. At weekends and holidays he stayed with his mother Patty and her boyfriend Michael Polasek.






Inspiration: When he was seven, he recalls, he became fixated on the Spiderman comics and the figure of Peter Parker, the mild mannered photographer, transformed by the bite of an irradiated spider


It was Kathy’s father who gave ten-year-old David ‘The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments.’

He remembers: ‘I just loved the color of the pages and the pictures. Just loved it.’

Looking back, his father Kenneth says today, that something in his son ‘flipped’ at that point. He set up a small laboratory in his bedroom, which was fine until he blew himself up.

He says, ‘I was working on phosphorous and wasn’t aware how delicately ignitable it was.’

In fact he had unwittingly created nitroglycerine, which exploded when he hammered at it with a screwdriver.





Obsessed: David became infatuated with a chemistry book given to him when he was ten by his stepmother's father

‘I hurt my left hand real bad,’ he remembers. ‘I had to have Morgan lenses on my eyes to wash them out.’

After that his stepmother banned further experiments in her house and so David took to his mother’s potting shed.

He says, ‘I had a lot of different projects on the go – I was making phosphorous paint. I produced a small amount of chlorine gas. I think one of the neighbors said she had seen me wearing a gas mask, that was because I was working on chloroform, isolating some of the halogens.’

He began writing to all the nuclear regulatory boards asking for tips and information but doing so as a high school student brought no response.

So he started claiming to be a Professor working on nuclear projects with his class or simply doing his own research.

‘They sent all the info I needed. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) gave me all the info I needed. All I had to do was get the materials.’

He made a list of sources of such materials: Americium-241 could be found in smoke detectors, radium 226 could be found in antique luminous clocks, uranium 238 and quantities of uranium 235 existed in black ore called pitchblende (he has a polaroid picture of glowing pitchblende stuck to his refrigerator today) and thorium 232 is in Coleman style gas lanterns.

He persuaded a company to sell him hundreds of broken smoke detectors claiming he was a teacher and that they were for a class physics project. 

He bought $1,000 worth of lithium batteries, sawed them down, extracted the element, put it with thorium dioxide in a tin foil ball, cooked it over his Bunsen burner and the result was purified thorium, to 170 times the amount that needs NCR licensing.






Extreme: David used to do his experiments in his bedroom until he blew himself up and was sent to the shed






Explosive: David was 'playing' with phosphorus and unwittingly created nitroglycerine which exploded when he hit it with a screwdriver

In a nod to safety he strapped a Geiger counter to the dashboard of his Pontiac.

His girlfriend at the time, Heather Beauvette, wasn’t, he admits very interested in all this. He only really shared what he was doing with his friend Jim Miller, who was his ‘math support.’

‘I can’t do math,’ David admits. ‘It’s a real stumbling block to a career in science.’

So too is the discovery of a nuclear reactor in your potting shed.

In the aftermath of the scandal it was, David says, ‘decided that I should join the Navy.

‘I went before a judge and I guess my dad and attorney spoke to him and that’s what they decided.’

For a while he seemed to replace one obsession for another.  He decided he wanted to serve in all four armed forces.

With some irony he became an undesignated seaman on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He found the work tedious but loved that he got to see the world during his four years in service.

Next he joined the Marines and was posted to Japan. But then things began to fall apart for David. 

Today he is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with bi-polar disorder. He is on medication for both, though sometimes it is very clear he wrestles with delusions and anxieties of his mind’s creation.

It was during his years with the marines that he experiences his first schizophrenic episodes.

He says, ‘There were some very dark times before I was diagnosed.’






Dark times: David joined the Navy, then the Marines and was arrested. Finally he was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia which he is managing well

He was honorably discharged on medical grounds and experienced a very low period. He returned to Michigan – aimless, perhaps for the first time in his life.

He fell in with the wrong crowd for a while, his father says today. 

In 2007 he was arrested for stealing smoke detectors in his apartment building. No longer a boy scout, his fascination with radioactive materials carried on undiminished.

A maintenance worker reported David when he saw him removing a smoke detector from the ceiling of the complex. When police searched David’s home they found 16 other detectors.

Once again he had hoped to extract the radioactive isotope housed in the devices to conduct his experiments.

The bomb squad was called. Speaking at the time Clinton Township police captain, Richard Maierle said, 'Because of his past, we were a tad concerned. We didn't want any other radioactive sites to pop up.'

Their concerns proved unfounded as no hazardous materials were found. David was charged with larceny and though he denied the crime he was convicted and spent six months in the psychiatric unit of Macomb County Jail. 

Since then David’s life has, he says, been ‘chaotic,’ and he has suffered the personal trauma of his mother, Patty, committing suicide. But in the face of many odds, his ambition to created something truly great has never wavered. His appetite for knowledge is insatiable.

He is currently on his third degree at Macomb Community College. His first was in Applied Science, his second in Communications and Performing Arts and now he is studying Automotive Engineering.

He feels certain that the combination of his knowledge of science and energy and car engineering might marry together in some way in time.






Wanting to leave a mark: David is now on his third degree and is working on a number of projects. 'I think i've caused a little chaos but I haven't left a scratch yet', he said

Everything in David’s life is an experiment. On noticing that his cat, Kit Kat, loved catnip he decided to distill it to produce an essence.

‘I boiled it up in water then filtered it through a coffee filter and evaporated it then turned the essence into a syrup,’ he says with delight. ‘Man she loves it.’

He collects antique clocks – ones with illuminated faces, painted with radium paint. They line his bedroom and he studies their faces because he loves the way ‘energy seems to move’ in the paint.

He knows, he says, that his life is ‘sporadic and chaotic,’ but he hopes for something better and he hopes to get there through study.

His ambition is to enroll in Michigan State University and to create the light bulb that glows for 100 years.

He says, ‘I just try to learn as much as I can. I want to make a scratch in life. I think I’ve caused a little chaos but I haven’t left a scratch yet.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2506549/Uh-oh-Radioactive-Boy-Scout-built-nuclear-reactor-Detroit-shed-sparking-evacuation-40-000-wants-invent-lightbulb-lasts-100-years.html#ixzz3pbsI6Put 
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