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Shirley Jackson, Francine Prose
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs
Naomi Klein
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The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor - Ken Silverstein "This article is being reprinted here as an example of what NOT to do with radioactive materials. Pleasedo NOT attempt to recreate any part of these experiments for the following reasons: You will mostlikely poison yourself and/or others. Nobody really needs an unsafe homemade reactor (especially onemade of duct tape and foil)"This is the warning posted on the website Dangerous Laboratories, a firm who "specializes in do-it-yourself scientific, industrial, and alternative energy projects". It goes on to recount the story of David Hahn, the subject of a book by Ken Silverstein called "The Radioactive Boy Scout", nicknamed for attempting to build a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother's backyard shed.Inspired by The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, David sought his merit badge in atomic energy by collecting samples of each element on the periodic table. His fascination with science and experiments began at an early age, as the book begins with David's first memory conducting an experiment.Trying to get "a magical reaction" mixing numerous ingredients in a metal bowl while his father was working and "his unmindful mother listening to music in the living room", Silverstein sets up the background of David's life. Neglected by his parents, David's scientific fascination gave way to obsession, and thus led to his homemade nuclear reactor. His project eventually led to the United States Environmental Protection Agency taking apart the shed and burying the radioactive contents in Utah.In chapters two through six, Silverstein explains the history of the atomic craze, the periodic table, and the breeder reactor. Exact occurences in laboratories as well as intricities of isotopes, protons, neutrons, and the like can make a reader's eyes glaze over. These were all vital to the story, however, as Silverstein was always sure to remind the reader that the glossy-eyed optimism of scientists in the early developments of radium (along with the supporters of nuclear energy) mirrored those of David's unrelenting optimism.When Silverstein first interviewed David for an article in Harper's Magazine, David admitted that his experiments were a way to explore his fascinations and were also an escape from a tulmultous family life. "I was very emotional as a kid...and those experiments gave me a way to get away from that. They gave me some respect."(1)As David began building his reactor, he found assistance from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, writing to them and posing as an adult scientist. His obsession became so powerful that in a memorable section of the book, David openly pleads with God to let him finish his project. It's such a harrowing passage that the reader is both appalled and sympathetic.Silverstein does a remarkable job in showcasing David's psychology and analyzes his odd upbringing from his parents and stepparents, and successfully portrays David as both an immensely brilliant scientist and a zealous, isolated young man. As Tim Rauschenberger noted in his review of the book for the Christian Science Monitor, "The personal tragedy here sounds as disturbing as the potential public disaster." (2) The Radioactive Boy Scout is a fascinating and unforgettable read.(1) - Ken Silverstein, "The Radioactive Boy Scout" November 1998. Harper's Magazine ( 7/print.jhtml)(2) - Tim Rauschenberger, "The Nuclear Merit Badge" March 16, 2004. The Christian Science Monitor ( reading:Dangerous Laboratories ("David Hahn" - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (