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Subject: Swede admits home-made atom experiment was 'crazy'

Written By: Philip Eno on 08/06/11 at 12:15 pm

A Swedish man who tried to set up a nuclear reactor in his kitchen at home has admitted his plan was "crazy".

Richard Handl said he had just been "curious" and wanted to see if he would be able to split an atom.

Police were called to his flat in Angelholm in southern Sweden after he got in touch with Sweden's radiation authority to check if what he was doing was legal.

Mr Handl said he would stick to reading books about physics from now on.

Mr Handl, who is 31 and unemployed, told the BBC World Service he had bought the radioactive materials on the internet and from Germany.

He had been working on the experiment for around six months and posted regular updates on his blog.

He was questioned by police, who confiscated his nuclear materials as well as his computer.

"I had it under control, it was not so dangerous," he told the BBC.

But he added: "It was pretty stupid."

It is unclear what will happen next in the police inquiry. Mr Handl said he expected a fine.

Subject: Re: Swede admits home-made atom experiment was 'crazy'

Written By: Foo Bar on 08/06/11 at 8:41 pm

About 15 years ago, somebody tried this at home, and it went poorly.

In 1999, as a joke about the Hahn case, some geeks at the University of Chicago put "A working breeder reactor built in a shed" as an item on their scavenger hunt, and some fourth-year students from Mathews House built one that was small enough - generating only a few thousand atoms' worth of naughty-stuff - to be completely safe, while being just big enough to prove that it worked.

Hahn did it wrong, the UChicago scav hunt guys did it right, and we have insufficient data to judge what Handl was doing.  The point here is not merely "don't try this at home" (don't try this at home), but that it's been done before.  If you must dabble in the arcane arts, build something safe like a Farnsworth Fusor.

Pop Culture Reference:  The Farnsworth Fusor is another invention of Philo T. Farnsworth.  You may have used one of his other inventions - the television.  Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth of Futurama was named after Philo Farnsworth, and any relation between "Philo" and "Philip J. Fry" is a spoiler.  All's well that ends well.

Subject: Re: Swede admits home-made atom experiment was 'crazy'

Written By: MaxwellSmart on 08/08/11 at 12:21 am

He wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), claiming to be a physics instructor at Chippewa Valley High School. The agency's director of isotope production and distribution, Donald Erb, offered him tips on isolating and obtaining radioactive elements, and explained the characteristics of some isotopes, which, when bombarded with neutrons, can sustain a chain reaction.


I'm sure that in 1985 plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.

--Dr. Emmett Brown

Subject: Re: Swede admits home-made atom experiment was 'crazy'

Written By: Foo Bar on 08/08/11 at 8:40 pm

--Dr. Emmett Brown

Yeah.  I found the guy's blog today, and while it's not hard to find, I'm not going to give him the web traffic.

Nothing really wrong with the idea behind his experiment.  Too many extraordinarily wrong things with his attempts at basic lab practice.  Anyone dumb enough to do the things he did on that stovetop shouldn't be fantasizing about experimenting with chemistry, let alone physics.  I'm glad he was stopped before he did himself or his neighbors any harm.  The arrest, a minor fine, and a very stern "don't even think about doing that again" is a fitting punishment.

Subject: Re: Swede admits home-made atom experiment was 'crazy'

Written By: MaxwellSmart on 08/08/11 at 8:59 pm

Did you hear about the Irishman who was trying to split an atom...with a hammer!

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