Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kitchen

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Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kitchen

Postby J the Ninja » Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:42 am UTC

Apparently, he was curious if he could get it to work. When he asked the Swedish radiation authorities about if this was legal or not, they arrested him and took away his nuclear materials:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14406766

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

4 August 2011 Last updated at 11:28 ET Mr Handl posted photos of his home experiment on the internet
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.


You can read his blog here: http://richardsreactor.blogspot.com/

It's rather interesting to read how he got ahold of all his materials, and the occasional incident he had in the process. He never did get to the point of an actual nuclear reaction.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby engr » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:01 am UTC

J the Ninja wrote:When he asked the Swedish radiation authorities about if this was legal or not, they arrested him

Duh. Either ask questions like these before doing stuff or don't ask at all.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby poxic » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:06 am UTC

That is several kinds of awesome, and also several kinds of stupid. The two are frequently associated.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby engr » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:09 am UTC

poxic wrote:That is several kinds of awesome, and also several kinds of stupid. The two are frequently associated.


"My husband is an engineer, and you know how they are - really booksmart but have no common sense whatsoever" (c)one random lady I met.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby poxic » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:11 am UTC

Heh. My father is an engineer. It's funny how whenever I meet new people, and we find out that we are both daughters of engineers, we have that "aha" moment of recognition. It has something to do with being raised by folks who are relentlessly logical without necessarily being reasonable, I think. :wink:
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:24 am UTC

poxic wrote:Heh. My father is an engineer. It's funny how whenever I meet new people, and we find out that we are both daughters of engineers, we have that "aha" moment of recognition. It has something to do with being raised by folks who are relentlessly logical without necessarily being reasonable, I think. :wink:

My brother is an engineer. They really should just be cordoned off for the good of humanity.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Minerva » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:29 am UTC

At best he has a small amount of mixed radium, americium and aluminium (or beryllium) containing materials, suitable as a very small neutron source.

But this guy is sloppy, messy and incompetent, certainly a hell of a lot less competent than "radioactive boy scout" David Hahn was.

If was to combine a bit of beryllium or aluminium with radium and/or americium, then he would be able to demonstrate that neutrons are produced, via the (alpha, n) reaction. I guess that counts as "splitting an atom", and I suppose he should have been happy with that, depending on what he actually wanted to do. But I strongly doubt he really knew what he was doing at all.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Plasma Man » Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:24 pm UTC

I second that. I have a feeling that a more appropriate headline would be "dumbass gives himself radiation dose".
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby AvatarIII » Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:28 pm UTC

Plasma Man wrote:I second that. I have a feeling that a more appropriate headline would be "dumbass gives himself radiation dose".


He's a 21st century Curie! Although they at least had an excuse for not knowing any better because no one knew of the dangers of radiation at the time. This guy, yeah, he's a dumbass :lol:

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Decker » Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:46 pm UTC

engr wrote:
J the Ninja wrote:When he asked the Swedish radiation authorities about if this was legal or not, they arrested him

Duh. Either ask questions like these before doing stuff or don't ask at all.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Zamfir » Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:56 pm UTC

Do we have an indication that he did something really stupid? Collecting and playing around with small amounts of radioactive material is not the healthiest of hobbies, but neither is rock climbing, or motorcycling, or juggling with fire, or sunbathing. Or drinking diluted ethanol.

It is possible to receive seriously unhealthy doses without noticing in the short term, but is there any indication that this guy was at risk of that? As long as he's careful not to ingest stuff, he could be pretty fine. (Which is why I'd say the authorities are also justified in taking away his stuff, since sloppy disposal might well lead to a real risk for others)

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Soralin » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:27 pm UTC

Yeah, I don't know about Sweden, but it's legal in the US to own and use small quantities of radioactive materials, even without being licensed. I'm not sure what the exact limitations on quantities or usage are though. You can get radioactive materials in hobbyist quantities at United Nuclear, along with various other lab stuff: http://www.unitednuclear.com/

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby addams » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:17 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
poxic wrote:Heh. My father is an engineer. It's funny how whenever I meet new people, and we find out that we are both daughters of engineers, we have that "aha" moment of recognition. It has something to do with being raised by folks who are relentlessly logical without necessarily being reasonable, I think. :wink:

My brother is an engineer. They really should just be cordoned off for the good of humanity.


Funny. You people are funny. Relentlessly Logical. Oh; Yes. I have known people like that. Sometimes we meet in the mirror. I put a lot of effort into being reasonable. Occam's Razor is a good fall back position. It does not help much, when, others are into complexity.

Back to the Swedish guy. Don't we have to give him some credit for doing something. He was showing gumption. He was exhibiting initiative.

Maybe, he will get a good job out of this little mishap. The man may be unemployed, but, he is not lazy. The photo showed a sloppy lab set up. I have seen more than one sloppy lab. Sloppy is not always the kiss of death. I don't care for it. But, he could learn to be more tidy.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu Aug 11, 2011 8:16 am UTC

Tidiness seems important when dealing with fission.

Still, this guy is cool. Foolish, but cool.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby curtis95112 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:02 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:Tidiness seems important when dealing with fission.

Still, this guy is cool. Foolish, but cool.


He's cool only because he still lives and is (I assume) fertile. Else he would have a Darwin to hang on his wall.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:04 pm UTC

Hey, I can think of two people who died doing cool but foolish things with radioactive materials and the only prize they got came from the estate of Alfred Nobel.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Zamfir » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:12 pm UTC

Not to mention a guy who did cool but foolish things with explosives, and got to leave that estate as result.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby johnny_7713 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:21 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Not to mention a guy who did cool but foolish things with explosives, and got to leave that estate as result.


How does making explosives less likely to explode when you don't want them to qualify as foolish? Or were you referring to the 'expecting people not to use your explosives to kill other people' thing?

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Zamfir » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:45 pm UTC

His brother even died in their experiments.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby addams » Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:54 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:His brother even died in their experiments.


What?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Nobel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludvig_Nobel

Really? Nah. The brother was at a Film Fest. Al had a stroke. Right?

Back to the Swedish guy. Did he have a clue? The best a person can get in a kitchen is an elastic collision. Right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reaction
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elastic_collision

What was he thinking? The poor baby. How human of him. "If, they can do it, then, I can do it." Humans. Pfft. Poor us.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Soralin » Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:43 pm UTC

addams wrote:Back to the Swedish guy. Did he have a clue? The best a person can get in a kitchen is an elastic collision. Right?

Nah, fission isn't that hard. Anything that produces neutrons will likely do some transmuting of elements, put that next to some element that's fissile (even just a chunk of natural uranium rock would do, since it would have some fissile elements in it), and you can get some fission out of it, but probably not a lot of it. You only have to do things with enrichment and such if you want a self-sustaining reaction, like you'd use for a power plant or such.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby addams » Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:12 am UTC

Soralin wrote:
addams wrote:Back to the Swedish guy. Did he have a clue? The best a person can get in a kitchen is an elastic collision. Right?

Nah, fission isn't that hard. Anything that produces neutrons will likely do some transmuting of elements, put that next to some element that's fissile (even just a chunk of natural uranium rock would do, since it would have some fissile elements in it), and you can get some fission out of it, but probably not a lot of it. You only have to do things with enrichment and such if you want a self-sustaining reaction, like you'd use for a power plant or such.


O.K.; O.K. What you wrote make sense. But; In a kitchen? How was he measuring? How does a normal, run of the mill, Swede measure how much of each element is in What state?

Heat! He could have used a thermometer.?. What kind of a thermometer would work for that? Oh, Good Grief. Who wants to do nuclear chemistry? Why?

What a guy. I wonder. I, just, wonder; If, he asked nice and promised to keep his hands behind his back; Would the reasonable people of his land allow him to see how the Big Boys do it?

He might have to take a class or two, if, he is still interested, after, he sees a real lab. Huh?

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/201 ... lists.html

Eww. How fun would that be? None. Where are the labs? No one gets to go into real labs? Where are the labs?
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Sorry, to bother you with another long post. It seems that only people that read in that language are able to read about the Nuclear Labs in Sweden.

I sure hope that they let the Kitchen Physicist talk to other Physicists. It must be lonely for him. He seems to want to know stuff. He did not seem to be attempting unknown Science. We was well within the scope of the 'known'.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby nitePhyyre » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:59 am UTC

addams wrote:
Zamfir wrote:His brother even died in their experiments.


What?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Nobel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludvig_Nobel

Really? Nah. The brother was at a Film Fest. Al had a stroke. Right?

Emil Oskar Nobel, the younger brother.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Soralin » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:14 am UTC

addams wrote:O.K.; O.K. What you wrote make sense. But; In a kitchen? How was he measuring? How does a normal, run of the mill, Swede measure how much of each element is in What state?

Heat! He could have used a thermometer.?. What kind of a thermometer would work for that? Oh, Good Grief. Who wants to do nuclear chemistry? Why?

I don't know, he could buy or make a radiation detector, Geiger counter, scintillation detector, etc. Fissioning elements should produce an increase in quantity of radiation, as would the byproducts produced. This page: http://carlwillis.wordpress.com/2008/02 ... chemistry/ has a description of a (somewhat)homemade scintillation counter, that works well enough to pick out which rocks are rich in uranium ore. As well as describing how to purify it into uranium oxides with household stuff, and somewhat into a metal, with somewhat household stuff.

Or if you really want a simple and cheap radiation detector: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pewTySxfTQk

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:20 am UTC

I either want to live in a neighborhood without people like this, or live in a neighborhood with lots of people like this.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Gellert1984 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:00 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:I either want to live in a neighborhood without people like this, or live in a neighborhood with lots of people like this.


You realize of course that observationally both are happening in your neigourhood simultaneously?
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:24 pm UTC

That's not true at all!

On an unrelated topic, we've had a rather peculiar feral cat colony set up in our town, where we couldn't tell whether or not they were alive...

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Microscopic cog » Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:27 pm UTC

Soralin wrote:
addams wrote:O.K.; O.K. What you wrote make sense. But; In a kitchen? How was he measuring? How does a normal, run of the mill, Swede measure how much of each element is in What state?

Heat! He could have used a thermometer.?. What kind of a thermometer would work for that? Oh, Good Grief. Who wants to do nuclear chemistry? Why?

I don't know, he could buy or make a radiation detector, Geiger counter, scintillation detector, etc. Fissioning elements should produce an increase in quantity of radiation, as would the byproducts produced. This page: http://carlwillis.wordpress.com/2008/02 ... chemistry/ has a description of a (somewhat)homemade scintillation counter, that works well enough to pick out which rocks are rich in uranium ore. As well as describing how to purify it into uranium oxides with household stuff, and somewhat into a metal, with somewhat household stuff.

Or if you really want a simple and cheap radiation detector: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pewTySxfTQk


Haven't read everything but he had a Geiger counter, but it didn't work too well but all the companies were being full with orders from Japan so he couldn't get one of a better quality. He did borrow a 12.000€ one from a hospital though. ( Not sure if he just did that someday or did it for his project, blog post is not that clear. )
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Minerva » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:43 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:Hey, I can think of two people who died doing cool but foolish things with radioactive materials


Just out of curiosity, who are these two people you had in mind?
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Mittagessen » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:23 pm UTC

Minerva wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:Hey, I can think of two people who died doing cool but foolish things with radioactive materials


Just out of curiosity, who are these two people you had in mind?


He probably meant Marie and Pierre Curie. Although I believe getting run over by a horse carriage doesn't count as death by radiation exposure.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Iulus Cofield » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:18 pm UTC

Mr. Curie was run over by a radioactive carriage with an octagonal body that sucked blood.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby TheDancingFox » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:43 am UTC

curtis95112 wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:Tidiness seems important when dealing with fission.

Still, this guy is cool. Foolish, but cool.


He's cool only because he still lives and is (I assume) fertile. Else he would have a Darwin to hang on his wall.


He may yet, these things take time.

No idea how far he managed to get, but from the looks of things if he did get anywhere he'd be getting some pretty nice doses of wonderful alpha-particle-y death. Or one of those other deathy particles. I don't remember all the details anymore.

Also, Iulus, what kind of horse pulls a radioactive bloodsucking octagonal carriage?

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:01 pm UTC

An atomic horse. Powered by doomsday devices.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby WaterToFire » Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:02 pm UTC

TheDancingFox wrote:
curtis95112 wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:Tidiness seems important when dealing with fission.

Still, this guy is cool. Foolish, but cool.


He's cool only because he still lives and is (I assume) fertile. Else he would have a Darwin to hang on his wall.


He may yet, these things take time.

No idea how far he managed to get, but from the looks of things if he did get anywhere he'd be getting some pretty nice doses of wonderful alpha-particle-y death. Or one of those other deathy particles. I don't remember all the details anymore.

Also, Iulus, what kind of horse pulls a radioactive bloodsucking octagonal carriage?

Well, Alpha-particles can't penetrate the skin. They're only an issue if you ingest the element that's producing them. Beta- and Gamma- radiation are worse, though.

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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby yurell » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:11 pm UTC

Still count towards the (ridiculously tiny) annual radiation exposure limit.
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Re: Swedish guy attempts to build fission reactor in his kit

Postby addams » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:46 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:I either want to live in a neighborhood without people like this, or live in a neighborhood with lots of people like this.


I would take the lots of people like this option. What a lot of fun.

That would be a neighborhood with a lot of gossuip. Maybe some impromptu signs.

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Opps. They both go to the same place. So, funny.
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