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The Controversy of a Potential Hafnium Bomb 499

deglr6328 writes "Physics Today has a report detailing the surprisingly heated controversy surrounding the usually sober science of nuclear isomers (the Washington Post has run a less scientifically rigorous version). Since the 70's it has been known that the specific "m2" isomer of Hafnium-178 has an extraordinarily long half life of 31 years (nuclear isomers usually have half-lives on orders of pico or nanoseconds) and on decaying, emits high energy gamma rays at ~2.5 Mev. The prospect of energy storage and rapid release in Hf-178 for the puropse of creating large energy stores, bombs and even exotic gamma ray lasers did not escape the interest of Reagan era Star Wars researchers and was seriously studied for a time during SDI's heyday, but was eventually abandoned after being considered unfeasible. Then, in 1999, Carl Collins at the Univ. of Texas Center for Quantum Electronics reported inducing energy release from Hf-178 by bombarding a sample with X-rays (from a dental machine no less). Immediately, comments about the article were submitted, pointing out inconsistencies with basic nuclear theory and the controversy has only grown since then, with claims and counter-claims of flawed experimental design, incompetence and irrational theories in feuds reminiscent of the cold fusion debacle of the late 80's. It's seeming more unlikely as the arguments drag on, but if a Hafnium bomb could be built, it is thought that a golf ball sized chunk could produce the energy equivalent of 10 tons of conventional explosives."
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The Controversy of a Potential Hafnium Bomb

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  • by mfh ( 56 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:35AM (#9093356) Homepage Journal
    > a golf ball sized chunk could produce the energy equivalent of 10 tons of conventional explosives

    What if journalists and scientists agree to only discuss the *positive* uses of scientific invention? That way, some uneducated terrorists from The Great Wherever won't get new ideas using Google keyword searches like "explosives", "bombs", "nukes". You know the phrase, When in Rome; I think it could apply to science! If we just conceal the potentials for violence, we may avoid these practices somewhat. But much of the scientific community has a love affair with death, it seems. Why? The death-dealing potential of any scientific invention is proportionately equivalent to the fundraising influence of said project; yet science should be a noble pursuit, IMHO, not a monetary one. Sadly, the two (money and science) are inseparable with the high cost of equipment, facilities and so forth, compounded by the need for science by the powerful, as a method of retaining power and building power. One day, it's going to be a lot simpler.
  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:39AM (#9093385)
    If the terrorists have the resources and contacts available to get materials make a nuclear weapon, chances are that they aren't going to be getting ideas from the newspaper.
  • by Caractacus Potts ( 74726 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:41AM (#9093392)
    Haven't you heard? Information wants to be free.
  • by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:41AM (#9093394) Homepage Journal
    While I think that Voyager is quite below par for the entire Star Trek series, the skin tight spandex outfits that Kate Mulgrew wears draws me back.

    But anyway, the crew had just found out about a so-called "Omega particle". The particle contained as much energy in one molecule of it as a neutron star had in its entirety.

    Eventually they found a race of aliens who had been able to replicate the particle as well as contain it somewhat. Somewhat, because by the time Voyager got there the particle had escaped and blown up the laboratory.

    Since this particle could be used for ultimate evil by anyone who had the predilection to use it in such a way, Starfleet HQ had deemed it illegal and set up regulations that required the immediate destruction of the particle if encountered.

    The problem is that the energy from even a single molecule of the stuff could provide enough energy to sustain the life of a planet for hundreds of thousands of years.

    So I look at this debate over the efficacy of the Hafnium bomb and wonder to myself why it is that humans have this innate need to develop weapons that possess this much power. Why do we see the drawbacks to new technology faster than the benefits? If the Hafnium technology could provide us with such a cheap power source that lasted generations, it makes sense to pursue a course of action that allowed us to take advantage of it.

    Shame on the warmongers who would use it to kill other humans.
  • by xyloplax ( 607967 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:46AM (#9093440)
    After 9/11 I thought to myself "Hmm, now we know they don't have nukes"
  • by borgdows ( 599861 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:00AM (#9093526)
    they don't even NEED nukes! ;)
  • Re:Bah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ruie ( 30480 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:05AM (#9093558) Homepage
    Do not get carried away by the fact that weapons are used to inflict violence. If anything this fact is a commentary on the current human nature which can turn even fun things (like football) into violence.

    The fact is that even without armies or wars weapons would still be made.

    The reason is that a weapon makes a good intermediate scientific goal - deliver and release large amount of energy to a small remote location.

    People who experienced the delight of making something go "Boom" (however small) on command will understand what I am talking about. (Explosives not required - compressed air will do just fine..)

  • by SamSim ( 630795 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:08AM (#9093561) Homepage Journal

    Trust me, if a nuclear hand grenade was a) possible and b) practical, it would already exist.

  • Re:Atomic Weight (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cryect ( 603197 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:22AM (#9093641)
    Actually the Hafnium they are discussing is a nuclear isomer. Basically its gotten energy stored from neutrons that have hit it while being used in control rods in a nuclear reactor. The problem with the nuclear isomer is that it doesn't like to give up that energy thats been stored at any rate thats useful. The idea Collins is trying to say is that we can blast it with XRay's and look the amount of neutrons being released is increased slightly over the background radiation.
  • Re:Bah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SSJVegeto2001 ( 630176 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:25AM (#9093656)
    This Isomer of Hafnium has to be created; it does not exist in nature. This could never be a source of energy. Also, the amount of x-ray energy needed to trigger the reaction (if it is possible) is still over 5 times the energy you get out of the Hafnium reaction. The chain reaction necessary for use as an explosive is also unlikely; we're talking fast photons here instead of slow neutrons, photons that would be too fast to sustain a reaction. Overall it seems like Hafnium is a dud.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:38AM (#9093740)
    What if journalists and scientists agree to only discuss the *positive* uses of scientific invention?

    Holy fuck. It's obvious. We'll get both of them to sit down and have a gentleman's agreement over tea!

    Jesus! We've been going at this all wrong! Maybe we can get the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down and agree to only say nice things about each other, too! Surely if Sharon and Arafat can sit down in the same room and not blow each other's heads off, they all can agree to get along! We'll surely turn things around there yet!

    Would you like a cookie, too?

    As for you...

    This makes sense until you have that "eureka" epiphany moment when you realise that the quiet geeky white men in their labs who squander billions of public funds to come up new and exotic ways to kill people in the name of patriotism are the 'uneducated terrorists'. None of this shit would exist if they didn't make such a focused effort to invent it.

    I call bullshit. The science and engineering of weapons development isn't something that's reserved for discovery by your gov't bankrolled, morally corrupt, mad scientists. If "they" don't do it, someone else will.

    Wouldn't the world be a different place if the Soviet Union had dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, rather than the US....

    What, too old school for you? Well, you might have heard about the, you know, planes that were crashed into the WTC. Some pretty fucking basic weapons development there!

    That you hold the feet of the discoverers of principles to the same fire as the fucktards that decided to play cruise missile with passenger planes is what's retarded. Christ. The myopia astounds me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:44AM (#9093771)
    a small group of what were basically graduate students

    Um, yeah, graduate students named Teller, Fermi, and Feynman.

    were able to build a city-buster bomb in the middle of a desert with access to only 1940's-era technology, and not really that much of it.

    The Manhattan Project pushed the technical state of the art harder than it had ever been pushed before. You, sir, are on sherm.
  • by hak1du ( 761835 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:49AM (#9093799) Journal
    So there is NO WAY you will get a energy-yielding atomic reaction with hafnium and gamma/xrays.

    While I have no opinion on whether the effect is real or not, your argument against it is bogus. They aren't claiing an "atomic reaction", they are claiming a state change of the nucleus. It's clear that that exists. The only question is whether it can be induced artificially. If it can, you have a great energy source and the potential to make a bomb. If not, you still have energy release, but it's too slow to be useful.
  • by tigersha ( 151319 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:50AM (#9093806) Homepage
    The difficulty of building a nuclear bomb lies in making it small. It is true what you say about grad studdents building one in a desert in the 1940's, BUT

    a) most of the effort (by faaar most of it) went into enriching Uranium and making Plutonium. The effort expended to do that involved the largest industrial project in the world at the time. I once heard that a large part of the silver in the Fort Knox was melted to make electromagnetic coils for the enrichment process.

    Of course, that effort has been expended and the world is now full of Plutonium and they could buy some. Interetingly, btw, one country nobody moans about who certainly has more than enough Plutonium on hand to build lots of nuclear devices is Japan. They certainly have the expertise too.

    b) The two bombs were pretty large. Ok, you could park one on a container ship and float it into New York Harbour or detonate it in San Franciso Bay or in the Thames estuary but nobody is going to carry one of those 1940's devices around just like that.

    Anyways, the difficulty does not lie in building the device, the difficulty lies in making an actualy deployable weapon.

  • by dcsmith ( 137996 ) * on Saturday May 08, 2004 @12:08PM (#9093899) Homepage
    That way, some uneducated terrorists from The Great Wherever won't get new ideas using Google keyword searches like "explosives", "bombs", "nukes".

    Security through obscurity?

  • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @12:32PM (#9094057) Journal
    Remember: a small group of what were basically graduate students were able to build a city-buster bomb in the middle of a desert with access to only 1940's-era technology, and not really that much of it.

    Funny, 'cause I've heard it took about 90 PhD level physicists [childrenof...roject.org], many of which were Nobel Prize recipiants.

    Maybe you're confusing the real Manhattan Project with the movie "The Manhattan Project" [imdb.com]?

    Go check out the satellite pictures of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan pre-November, 2001, and notice how similar they look, from a distance, to Los Alamos circa late 1944.

    Go check out the satellite pictures of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan pre-November, 2001, and notice how similar they look to a generic group of buildings [globalsecurity.org]!

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @01:32PM (#9094337) Homepage Journal
    What is this crap about terrorists with a hafnium bomb? Unless you're referring to the nuclear terror used by states like the USA, Russia, China, France, Pakistan, North Korea and India to intimidate the competition and their own people, you don't understand terrorism. Low budget groups like Islamic Jihad, the IRA, or even Al Qaeda go for actual telegenic explosions, not expensive technology. They don't need to spend millions/billions on x-ray laser pumping facilities for exotic nuclear chemistry, and the secret real estate in which to hide them. They mix a truckload of fertilizer and fuel oil, then ram it into a state capitol building: cheap and easy, and really scary on TV.

    The terror threat from hafnium comes from Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary Strangelove who has reinvigorated America's nuclear threat machine. And from the defense contractors whose money addiction demands continually greater doses at the expense of global safety, marketing weapons by warmongering. How much of this death technology, funded by our fellow Americans, finds its way into the wrong hands - hands that would press the button? These days, most of it. Get your head out of the sand and work on firing Rumsfeld and his apocalyptic gang of thieving blackmailers, instead of wasting time on some imaginary "Dr. Evil".
  • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @02:04PM (#9094511) Homepage Journal
    That's a good question, and one for which I don't have a (terribly) good answer.

    I can say this.

    The fear of Soviet Missiles in Cuba was not that they could strike at US cities. Soviet strikes on our cities were fairly unlikely as those would typicaly be targets of a second strike.

    The Cuban Missiles, however, could wipe out many US bomber bases before bombers could get aloft. This, in turn, devalues the US deterant, which made a preemptive strike by the Soviets more likely.

    A bomb in DC, if it did not have much of a chance of stoping a retalitory US strike, does not pose the same threat. In short, while a lot of people die, the Soviets still have a really good reason not to set it off.

    The problem with this argument is that the Soviets clearly thought that such a weapon would prevent a US retalitory strike because it has little point otherwise. Reality is not what matters here, but perception. If the Russians thought it would prevent a retalitory strike than the US had to treat it as a destabilizing influence.

    I wish I could give you a better answer.
  • by jalefkowit ( 101585 ) <jason&jasonlefkowitz,com> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @02:21PM (#9094617) Homepage

    Yeah, I had the exact same thought that day. I always expected the Big Hit to come if they got their hands on a loose nuke. One of the few comforts of the days after 9/11 was that it seemed like that they had tipped their hand too early -- that now we would go after them with Extreme Prejudice and grind al Qaeda into dust before they ever got that chance.

    Of course, that was all before we decided to drop everything and go after Saddam Hussein... now we've given them a nice breather to start working on finding that loose nuke again. (sigh)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2004 @03:23PM (#9095005)
    "Interetingly, btw, one country nobody moans about who certainly has more than enough Plutonium on hand to build lots of nuclear devices is Japan."

    But, having been the only country ever to have been attacked with nuclear weapons of mass destruction, they are opposed (almost culturally) to the military use of such devices. I suspect, too, that since nuclear wapons are primarily offensive, rather than defensive (mutually assured destruction relies on being able to strike targets anywhere in the world, not defending your own soil), they may be unconstitutional.
  • by TechnoFreek ( 758758 ) <{technofreek} {at} {fastmail.fm}> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @03:57PM (#9095198) Homepage
    only discussing the positive uses wouldn't work. The first time they used it, they would see how "well" it could be used as a dirty-bomb/threat/device of mass destruction. I don't care how much you say a stick of dynamite can be used for only wonderful things such as blowing open mine shafts and such, eventually someone's gonna tie it to a person.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @05:49PM (#9095892) Journal
    sure, in 20 years hafnium will be available at the courner store.

    You have to agree that it is hard to hide information forever. Once it gets around it does not go back into the bottle very easily. The computers that used to simulate atomic weapons were wimpier than many CPU's in toys these days. The ability to simulate a weapon design gets cheaper and cheaper.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @06:02PM (#9095971)
    "So I look at this debate over the efficacy of the Hafnium bomb and wonder to myself why it is that humans have this innate need to develop weapons that possess this much power."

    To scare people enough to keep them from wanting to attack you. You're focusing too much on the "weapon" part of "terror weapon" and not enough on the "terror." More than a few people have worked on weapons like this with the intent of making them so frightening to everybody that nobody would want to see them actually "used."

    If you want to talk Star Trek, think back about that TOS episode "A Taste of Armageddon," where an interplanetary war goes on for centuries because the two sides kept things "civilized" by relying on computer simulations to decide who was supposed to die.

    Nuclear weapons have been working just as designed since the 1940's: they sit there and scare the bajeezus out of everybody.
  • Re:Sweet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KD5YPT ( 714783 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @06:39PM (#9096178) Journal
    Unfortunately, which Hafnium may become a good source of energy, it will become a weapon first because it's much easier to cause a runaway nuclear reaction (nuclear bomb, both fission and fusion) then it is to sustain a controlled reaction.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2004 @07:51PM (#9096588)
    as the saying goes,

    i dont fear the man with 10 nuclear weapons, i fear the man who only wants one.

    (close enough to the orignal)

    someone that wants to attack with a nuke, only needs one (more is better for them im sure) but one sends the message, does the damage, and would send the world in a downward spiral.
  • by JasonStiletto ( 653819 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:08PM (#9096949)
    More importantly, the question should be, which future is more livable, a future in which those who attack are assured survival or one where those who attack are assured destruction. There's a very good reason why the civilized world doesn't give in to terrorists demands. If someone comes up to you and says, "I'll shoot you if you don't give me $100 bucks", if you give him the hundred bucks, next time he needs money, he knows where to go. That is broadly applicable. Any nuclear capible nation, since basically the begining of the nuclear age has had to go by one rule. If you nuke us, we'll use everything we have against you. The reason there wasn't a nuclear war in the last 50 years was because both sides new that one small nuclear weapon used anywhere would get a 100% reponse. The equation hasn't changed, it's just got more dangerous, because there are people in power who really don't care if their nation gets turned into glass, so long as they live. Giving in to demands only makes them have new demands. Pull out of one country and pretty soon they're asking to leave whichever one is your own. War is never the answer, but war is a diplomatic tool- it's quite often, no matter how much you might want to deny it, part of the answer, or part of the path that leads to the answer. Denying that it pointless so long as the other side is willing to use it against you.
  • by tabulae rasae ( 778207 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:40PM (#9097122)
    It must be convenient to use such broad generalizations to form such strong opinions. Certainly "they," you know, the "evil-doers" are the collective opposing entity of good. "They" must hate "us" because our tanks and bombs bring freedom to their regions.

    Keep in mind the plurality of perspective, and that families in Iraq and Afghanistan doubtfully shrug off the death of a family member by saying, "Oh well, too bad your father was collateral damage to the freedom bringers." Instead they might view a war on terrorism as being hypocritical, in that war is indeed terrible, so a war on terrorism is like using rape to combat sexual harassment.

    A life is a life is a life from my point of view, and the unjustified theft of life is immoral, period.
  • by Anonymous Bullard ( 62082 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:10PM (#9097272) Homepage
    So much anger, and not just on "their" part ("they" apparently referring here to muslims in general and not just Al-Qaeda or even Iraqis). Yet so little trying to really understand why "they" are upset. Obviously one can not try turning the tables and imagine what it would be like to be one of "them" without understanding why they're so angry and "fucked up".

    Don't keep shooting the messengers with this totalitarian "either you're with us or you're against us" war cry. Read a few books about the history (up to current times) of islamic countries, preferably those without obvious political bias, and a pattern emerges. Over the last few hundred years and in particular in the 1900s most islamic countries were occupied and humiliated by the western superpowers of the period. Since oil became the strategic commodity, Middle-East (where all the holiest sites of islam are located) has been under extreme manipulation by the US and UK in particular.

    Try imagining god-fearing Americans experiencing such occupation, control and manipulation of the United States, its culture and resources, by some islamic superpower and you might find a few Americans starting to hate their new overlords. Some might even take up arms as a last resort.

    Countries cherishing peaceful coexistance and without imperial urges tend not to be hated by anyone. Democracy does not mean one country imposing its values upon other nations with very different culture and history.

    Btw, nowhere have I advocated hate or violence, on the contrary. I simply understand the reasons for such anger and frustration which very sadly manifests itself in violent struggle. I also find it interesting and strangely appropriate that you would rename "Death" in the title into "Complete Freakin' Ignorance".

  • by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:26PM (#9097362) Homepage Journal
    Tell that to the North Koreans, the Palestinians, the old-world Soviets, the Taliban, Muslim extremists, and I could go on and on....

    Those people, and others, are exactly why the world is what it is, and why the rest of us feel that we need to be armed and dangerous. Hell, I'm armed and dangerous because I don't want to let some *American* fuckwit think he can walk into my home with impunity and take what's mine or rape my women, or threaten me with impunity.

    I understand what you are saying, but it's a seriously naive viewpoint. I just hope it doesn't bite you someday.

    The solution is not "lighten up" the solution is to be armed, dangerous and vigilant. Thou shalt not fuck with me, because I am covered in spikes and will hurt you if you try to bite me.

    As long as the world is the way it is, there will be people who think the way I do. Thinking that your fellow humans, or the world, will change simply because peace and fellowship is a good idea (it is!) is a dangerously naive viewpoint. It's nice to think that way - while I'm not religious, I pray, in my own way, for that kind of peace everyday - but I'm not fool enough to think that it'll happen in a few generations, or even in hundreds of generations. Even if it did, it might transform humankind into something that stagnates uncontrollably...

  • by FuegoFuerte ( 247200 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:46PM (#9097470)
    Of course, that was all before we decided to drop everything and go after Saddam Hussein... now we've given them a nice breather to start working on finding that loose nuke again. (sigh)

    bzzzzzzzt. WRONG! We didn't drop everything to go after Saddam... we're still in Afghanistan, it's just not the latest thing so it never gets covered by the media.
  • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:07AM (#9098375) Homepage Journal
    ""they" apparently referring here to muslims in general""

    Well, you can try to put those words in my mouth but you'll end up looking like an ass doing so. And where the heck did this "Don't keep shooting the messengers with this totalitarian "either you're with us or you're against us" war cry" crap come from? Every incident cited was a terrorist act, notably incited by an "Al-Qaeda like" group. At no time did I even imply lumping the rest of the Arabic world with these savages as you so blindly assume. If it really makes you feel better to assign a racial profile, you can lump members of the IRA to the same catagory; good wholesome white european stock. Don't miss the sarcasm now.

    And guess what? Once they start targeting the civilan populace with their military actions, why they hate no longer matters because obviously the only meaningful thing you can do for them is die. If that's the case, I have no problems.

    You can attempt to load all the middle easts problems on the evil western super powers as well, but it doesn't fly. Hey, i'll be happy to admit the US has made it's share of forgeign policy mistakes in the region, but they, nor the others hardly share all the blame. As you mentioned, oil is perhapse the worlds number one most valuable commodity, But for such a massive revenue generating resource, the Middle East (with very few exceptions) is surprisingly poor. It's people are supressed. In poverty. You make it sound like everybody is just robbing them blind when they are actually making billion. You make it sound like they are helpless when they wield considerable sway on the world economy. Speaking of which, you're right, LET'S brush up on history and current events and remember the 70s oil crisis. Or how gas is pushing $2 a gallon today because of OPEC's manuvering. And that's just off the very top of my head.

    Honestly, if the Middle East is a terrorist cest pool, I have to say it's rulers share an equal, if not greater share in creating that situation. Being oppressed by the Evil Western Empire is an excuse that ceased being viable after the 1960s, especially with the wealth and opportunity they have had access to all this time.

    "Why" just doesn't rest soley in the hands of foreigners here.

  • by Libraryman ( 721151 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:26AM (#9098452)
    Others are trying to protect their culture, their religion. We are decimating their culture fast. We ask, and even force them to change in the name of things like women's rights, human rights (equality of religion), and the worst of it all corporatism. If these people don't succeed in stopping us their culture, their way of life will be a memory in 50 years or so.
    You have stated pretty clearly the motivation of the RATIONAL terrorist. Unfortunately you cannot attribute the motivations of rational people to suicide bombers. No one can preserve their way of life by blowing themselves up. A suicide bomber is not "sacrific[ing] his own life in an act of desperation against a superior force" he is simply willing/happy to die in order to murder a bus-load of children, a cafe full of civilians, or two sky-scrapers full of office workers.

    This is a very simple conflict. Their culture [murder children == go to heaven] against everyone else's [murder children == go to hell]. You, and I, and every person who is not a suicide bomber can only hope that in "50 years or so" their culture is the same sort of bad memory that Nazi Germany is today.

    Do not fall into the trap of believing that just because something is "a culture" that it is valuable.

  • Re:Red mercury? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rjh ( 40933 ) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Sunday May 09, 2004 @03:32AM (#9098663)
    the fireball of a nuke is its liberated gamma rays interacting with the atmosphere and being turned into heat
    The majority of a fission reaction's fireball comes from the Brehmsstrahlung Effect. Uranium fisses into two incredibly ionized fragments each with a +46 charge on average. Those fragments have a huge amount of kinetic energy and, due to their enormous charge, tend to stop within inches of the detonation--meaning all that energy gets liberated as heat inside a sphere about the same size as a beach ball.

    That's the fireball for you.

    The entire idea that "gamma is easily absorbed by air" is nonsense. If gamma is easily absorbed by air, then why did I have to wear a lead apron whenever I was around a gamma source? Because gamma travels through air quite readily, and ionizes holy hell out of your body tissues as it travels through you.

    For an excellent reference on the physics of nuclear weapons, check the Federation of American Scientists' website [fas.org], particularly the essay The Holocaust Bomb: A Question of Time [fas.org] .
  • by subtropolis ( 748348 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @05:09AM (#9098892)

    The barber-surgeon's guild was disbanded in the mid-18th century but barbers retained the right to perform surgeries in remote locations well into the 19th in Europe and the Americas. I don't know about the rest of the world. Google "+barber +surgeon"

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