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The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor Paperback – 11 Jan 2005
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"Anyone who has ever wondered what the neighborhood geek might be brewing up in his backyard should read The Radioactive Boy Scout. This is a riveting and disturbing story about the power of the teenage mind--and the sparks that fly when a nuclear family melts down."
--David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom
"Amazing . . . unsettling . . . should come with a warning: Don't buy [this book] for any obsessive kids in the family. It might give them ideas."
-Rocky Mountain News
"An astounding story . . . [Silverstein] has a novelist's eye for meaningful detail and a historian's touch for context."
-The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Enthralling . . . [It] has the quirky pleasures of a Don DeLillo novel or an Errol Morris documentary. . . . An engaging portrait of a person whose life on America's fringe also says something about mainstream America."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune "[Silverstein] does a fabulous job of letting David [Hahn's] surrealistic story tell itself. . . . But what's truly amazing is how far Hahn actually got in the construction of his crude nuclear reactor."
-The Columbus Dispatch
From the Inside Flap
Growing up in suburban Detroit, David Hahn was fascinated by science. While he was working on his Atomic Energy badge for the Boy Scouts, David's obsessive attention turned to nuclear energy. Throwing caution to the wind, he plunged into a new project: building a model nuclear reactor in his backyard garden shed.
Posing as a physics professor, David solicited information on reactor design from the U.S. government and from industry experts. Following blueprints he found in an outdated physics textbook, David cobbled together a crude device that threw off toxic levels of radiation. His wholly unsupervised project finally sparked an environmental emergency that put his town's forty thousand suburbanites at risk. The EPA ended up burying his lab at a radioactive dumpsite in Utah. This offbeat account of ambition and, ultimately, hubris has the narrative energy of a first-rate thriller.
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Being a radiation protection professional, I was pretty shocked at his practices!
Well worth a read.
This is quite a fascinating story. The author paints a gripping and also frightening story of a young man who is willing to break any rules to acquire the tools to make his own reactor, and just how close he came to doing so. I must admit to being absolutely amazed at what that young man accomplished!
On the down side, the author does leaven his story with a good deal of editorializing. He has many, many axes to grind (he dislikes nuclear power, Disney Corporation, right-wingers, "technological truimphalism" and most of all the Boy Scouts), and he uses this book as a convenient grindstone. But, on the up side, he does use the Notes section at the end of the book to clarify that much of this story is derived from David Hahn himself, and that he is not an entirely reliable source.
So, let me just say that I found this to be a great book, a gripping read, and a sadly cautionary tale. I highly recommend this book.
In between tales of David burning, exploding, corroding and irradiating his way through his teenage years, the author provides a nice history of atomic science. He nicely parallels David's wide-eyed fascinations with those of money-hungry nuclear power advocates in various countries around the world.
In the end, things start to get out of hand for David, and the men in moon suits turn up. It's amazing how dangerous the pursuits of a boy-scout in a potting shed can be.
Definitely worth reading if you're the sort of person who has ever wondered what will happen if you just mix those two household chemicals together.
The item was delivered in plenty of time for my son's birthday, only 2 days from paying for it, to it arriving by parcel post at my door.
Thankyou very much.
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