Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: The Radioactive Boyscout by Ken Silverstein

The Radioactive Boyscout 
Ken Silverstein

David Hahn, a boy scout, wanted to earn his science merit badge. He could have done an experiment with bicarbonate of soda, like most other kids. But he didn't. He built a nuclear reactor in his shed instead.David Hahn's gospel was The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. While his friends were learning to play baseball or dreaming of owning their first car, David was in the middle of an increasingly hazardous trail of chemical experiments. Moving on from routine explosions that forced his work from his bedroom to the garden shed, David quickly determined to build a nuclear reactor. For this he had to make a neutron gun, dupe officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to provide him with information and imitate a professor of nuclear physics in order to obtain purified radioactive elements, all of which he did.David, sporting a gas mask for protection, took to the potting shed with his ever more unstable and dangerous load. His diligence and ultimate success triggered the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan: a team of men in moon suits who deconstructed the shed and loaded it and all its contents into steel drums emblazoned with radioactive warning signs. This is a true story. Through it, man's innocent obsession and fatal engagement with nuclear reactivity is told with surreal wonder.
Fourth Estate

Rosy's Scawlings on The Radioactive Boyscout
This book reads like pure fantasy but is apparently reality. Meet the former boy scout experimenting with radioactive material in the back potting shed.

David Hahn
Not only was this book well written, with nary a misplaced letter to annoy me, but there was heaps of interesting and scary information on radioactive material and just how easily he found enough quantities for his experiments. I honestly forgot several times that it was based on real life events simply because he did so much of what you'd just think "Nah, no-one would do that. It's too dangerous". Not to mention that I couldn't believe how long he managed to keep it all a secret. It was a wild read that made me ponder whether my own childhood was just as idiotic or plain dull and too safe by comparison. I came out thinking, safer than this was good no matter what else.
After reading this, please don't be tempted by old fire alarms, clocks, TVs or anything else... This book almost needs a warning label and there's not a gruesome death in sight to justify it.

This book is recommended because of the above and because I read this back when it was first released and the story still sticks out as one of the most startling stories I've ever read. If that isn't a good enough recommendation, I don't know what is.

I'd suggest this book to: Men and women alike. Never a child unless they were the cautious and sensible type. For teenagers, if they are the destructive or too inquisitive sort I might hold out until sense begins to sink in after they've faced the consequences of their destructiveness and inquisitiveness.

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