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Splitting atoms at home
August 5, 2011 4:14 AM   Subscribe

Can you split atoms in your kitchen? "My project is to build a working nuclear reactor. Not to gain electricity, just for fun and to see if it's possible to split atoms at home..." [scroll down to the bottom for the beginning of the experiment].

Sadly, Richard was arrested. And later released.
posted by Sijeka (104 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
this can't end well
posted by LogicalDash at 4:16 AM on August 5, 2011


Of course it's possible to split atoms at home.

It's the bit where you control the reaction and keep it from getting away from you that makes nuclear such a technologically complex thing.
posted by hippybear at 4:39 AM on August 5, 2011


Seems the question is more like "May you split atoms in your kitchen?"
posted by knile at 4:39 AM on August 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


...where you control the reaction and keep it from getting away from you

If only that were possible, eh?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:47 AM on August 5, 2011


Don't you need enriched unranium for a nuclear reactor?
Isn't that stuff highly regulated and super dangerous?
posted by Flood at 4:49 AM on August 5, 2011


Not really. David Hahn did it with americium. The stuff in smoke detectors.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:50 AM on August 5, 2011


Bet he gets this year's Ig Nobel Prize in Physics
posted by zippy at 4:52 AM on August 5, 2011


I realize there are potential health risks from doing this sort of thing, and that if you're sufficiently irresponsible, it can badly affect others too, but like the (deleted) unpasteurized milk thread yesterday, it deeply bothers me if there is not some way that people can do these things in a recreational pursuit if they want to. Yeah, there should be standards you have to meet when doing things that are potentially hazardous - an obligation of social responsibility - if you want to do your own thing, but our social tolerances these days seem to more like there is a list of things you're allowed to do (which everyone does), and any black sheep who wants to try anything not on the whitelist gets shut down, often by quasi-legal means, with stretched conveniently over-broad interpretations of laws that don't really apply.

It sounds like the milk people needed to be shut down, and action was legitimate, but I think they're also being targeted, illegitimately, because certain people just don't want them doing their milk thing.

Same with this guy. I'd like to live in a society where the police check it out, and if it looks like he's taking adequate precautions (which, judging from his blog, he ISN'T!) and knows what he's doing, he gets a caution speech but they let him continue.

The problem of course, is assholes. Any society that offers people that kind of reasonable freedom, in exchange for personal responsibility when exercizing that freedom, is going to have asshole take advantage of it, not be responsible about it, make a big mess, take the money and run, and ruin it for the rest of us.
I hate those assholes.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:02 AM on August 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


How cool. I wanna do this too in my kitchen. I've always wanted to try the stove method but I'm a little afraid of screwing things up. How long do you leave the atoms in there? What do you do when they've gone a bit too sour and not thick enough? Do you strain them with a cloth?






(sorryyy... it just happens I spent hours looking up tips on how to make your own greek yoghurt and then as I closed those tabs I open THIS one! Well, have to say, thumbs up for the "0-mile/make your own" movement if it's gotten this far while I was still busy reading about making yoghurt in your kitchen. I'm impressed.)
posted by bitteschoen at 5:02 AM on August 5, 2011


Metafilter: The problem of course, is assholes.
posted by elpapacito at 5:03 AM on August 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


I realize there are potential health risks from doing this sort of thing, and that if you're sufficiently irresponsible, it can badly affect others too, but like the (deleted) unpasteurized milk thread yesterday, it deeply bothers me if there is not some way that people can do these things in a recreational pursuit if they want to. Yeah, there should be standards you have to meet when doing things that are potentially hazardous - an obligation of social responsibility - if you want to do your own thing, but our social tolerances these days seem to more like there is a list of things you're allowed to do (which everyone does), and any black sheep who wants to try anything not on the whitelist gets shut down, often by quasi-legal means, with stretched conveniently over-broad interpretations of laws that don't really apply.

You're a bit late with this sentiment. We've already had the "let's play with fissile materials" stage of our society. It's now moved into the "this is very, very very very very difficult to do safely" stage, which is a damn good thing.
posted by odinsdream at 5:11 AM on August 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also - call me a hand-wringer, and perhaps I don't know enough about it, but that ampoule of beryllium looks really scary; it's not a solid chunk, it's a large quantity of powder! How did he plan to even open that without contaminating the area? Underwater? What's he going to do with the water?
If he's allergic to it (and there is no way for him to know), he might have already killed himself and just not know it yet, perhaps even if he was wearing gloves and a respirator at the time. Dude, if you want to play with beryllium in your kitchen, please don't get powder. :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 5:13 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]



Metafilter: The problem of course, is assholes.


And as we found out in another thread, every asshole is unique.
posted by spicynuts at 5:16 AM on August 5, 2011


it deeply bothers me if there is not some way that people can do these things in a recreational pursuit if they want to

OK, it's perhaps a sign of how crazy the world has become, but I've trouble believing this is a serious comment and not a satire of modern-day libertarianism. Building a bloody nuclear reactor as a "recreational pursuit"?!

There are good reasons why some things (like, huh, nuclear engineering) are very heavily regulated, namely the heavy risks that they impose on everybody else. When accidents happen, with awful consequences (see Fukushima), even on such heavily monitored circumstances, it is pretty obvious that YOU SHOULD NOT BUILD NUCLEAR REACTORS IN BACKYARD SHEDS. Period.
posted by Skeptic at 5:17 AM on August 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


You're a bit late with this sentiment. We've already had the "let's play with fissile materials" stage of our society. It's now moved into the "this is very, very very very very difficult to do safely" stage, which is a damn good thing.

That may be true, but my feeling is more that we moved from a stage of blissful ignorance about the risks directly to a stage of freaked-out panic when we learned that there were, in fact, some risks. I would like a response measured to the risks, rather than an (over?)reaction to the shocking discovery that risk exists. I don't know that the current evaluation of the risk is any more accurate than in the early days (but it is obviously a lot safer, because it intentionally chooses to err on the side of caution.)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:19 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to live in a society where the police check it out, and if it looks like he's taking adequate precautions (which, judging from his blog, he ISN'T!) and knows what he's doing, he gets a caution speech but they let him continue.

Yeah! Just send Joe Beat Cop over to the house and make sure all the nuclear reactions are safe! After all, every cop has a degree in nuclear physics, right? Einsteins in blue, we call 'em! No prob-lay-mo! Relax!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:19 AM on August 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm a bit surprised at the outrage here. While these are fusion reactors, it is possible and legal and not too uncommon for hobbyists to build Farnsworth–Hirsch reactors in their garage.
posted by C^3 at 5:24 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, it's perhaps a sign of how crazy the world has become, but I've trouble believing this is a serious comment and not a satire of modern-day libertarianism. Building a bloody nuclear reactor as a "recreational pursuit"?!

It's a serious comment. The distinction you may be missing is that "nuclear reactor" in this context is a broad term. Like "powerplant". You're thinking at an industrial level, but "powerplant" to a hobbyist can also mean "I knocked a penny off the top of the fridge, and it happened to pass near a fridge-magnet as it fell". It's a very broad term when you get down to it. Nuclear reactor normally means a big serious thing that does something, and that would be scary in a kitchen, yeah, but that's not what this is about. At a hobbyiest level, that's not even remotely close to what the guy wants to do. He wants to prompt a reaction that doesn't really do much, and he wants a meter to show that happened. He needs a meter, because the reaction does so little that he has no way of knowing if it even happened, without one.
The problem (well, one of many) is that he has to go all Marie Curie to get his ingredients. The reaction he wants to do with them is almost an anti-climax. That's probably part of the problem too - the end goal is so anti-climatic that he'll be tempted to not stop there, but let the reaction breed, and end up with more potency than he knows what to do with.

My general experience has been that people who are curious enough about this kind of outlier tech to want to do them, and smart enough to be able to try, are generally - usually - also smart enough to think it through and not make a complete hash of things. Obviously, there is no shortage of counter examples, but for every moron who makes the news, there are hundreds who succeed and learn and move on, without the wider world being any the wiser. Ok, I'm not sure if this anecdata applies to nuclear reactions, but it applies to other borderline / dangerious projects I've seen people get into.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:37 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


it deeply bothers me if there is not some way that people can do these things in a recreational pursuit if they want to.

You can do a lot of these things (building a nuclear reactor is not among them) if you take proper precautions.

You know what I don't see anywhere on his blog? Designs for the reactor he was working on, simulation outputs, build photos of the control system. Even if he had any idea what he was doing, I still wouldn't support his right to do it in an apartment complex, but that would be better than just goofing around.

Look at the following:

No, it not so dangerous. But I tried to cook Americium, Radium and Beryllium in 96% sulphuric-acid, to easier get them blended. But the whole thing exploded upp in the air...

Oh, that's great, aerosolised beryllium. Look at the picture, does that look like the workplace of someone qualified to mix up his own fuel rods? I'm all for home experimentation, but for fuck's sake people, read a little about what it is you're trying to work on before you get started.
posted by atrazine at 5:38 AM on August 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


The real lesson here is that Mad Science is within all our grasps.
posted by mhoye at 5:43 AM on August 5, 2011


every cop has a degree in nuclear physics, right?

Every police station has a guy with a degree in "is this guy delusional? Is he stable? What's this guy's background?", and a guy with a degree in "Hey, let's call the university, talk to someone who knows about this stuff."

In this particular case, I think things have gone ok. I'm more thinking about a hypothetical case where the guy in question hasn't displayed six reasons before breakfast as to why he, personally, should not be doing this.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:45 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what I don't see anywhere on his blog? Designs for the reactor he was working on, simulation outputs, build photos of the control system.

My impression (which may be wrong) is that this is a misunderstanding of his goal - that a more accurate description would be that he wants to prompt and confirm that a fission event took place. Not build a devise that can sustain and moderate a chain-reaction.

The "reactor" would be a flat surface, such as a bench or table, on which to put things. The control system would be "I pick up this jar and move it over here when I'm done".
posted by -harlequin- at 5:55 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now where's that chisel?
posted by kenaldo at 6:01 AM on August 5, 2011


-harlequin-, I get your point, but the problem is not "assholes". The problem is that even reasonable, trained, well-meaning people can make errors of judgment. It is up to society to draw the line separating what you can do without putting yourself and others too much at risk, and what you can't. That line is called "regulation", and if you disregard it, you are in trouble. As simple as that.

If someone wants to make a teeny, tiny fission event, there are places for that. They are called "nuclear labs", and include the safety equipment needed in principle to cope with all the various mishaps that may happen in such pursuits. Even so, accidents do happen in labs, nuclear or otherwise, even to highly trained, highly cautious people. The problem aren't Health & Safety laws, but the laws of nature, which can be notably treacherous.

This is not a simple case of "chemistry sets are too boring these days". Fissile materials, even in small quantities, are hazardous. Dealing with them requires two things:
a) containment;
b) supervision.

Having a cop drop by from time to time isn't going to provide either.

On the other hand, I see how somebody having "archvillain" in his e-mail address may be slightly bummed about not being allowed to make nuclear experiments in his backshed...
posted by Skeptic at 6:11 AM on August 5, 2011


...but our social tolerances these days seem to more like there is a list of things you're allowed to do (which everyone does), and any black sheep who wants to try anything not on the whitelist gets shut down...

"Seems" being the operative word. YouTube is filled with videos of "black sheep" trying insane things, very few of which get shut down.
posted by DU at 6:14 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


but "powerplant" to a hobbyist can also mean "I knocked a penny off the top of the fridge, and it happened to pass near a fridge-magnet as it fell". It's a very broad term when you get down to it.

This seems like a supremely disingenuous analogy.

And from what I've seen and read, cops are generally terrible at telling when someone is delusional vs when someone is safe: their default is nearly always going to be "delusional, therefore dangerous," in part because they perceive the risk as being so high if they judge someone sane when in fact he is crazy.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on August 5, 2011


Also - call me a hand-wringer, and perhaps I don't know enough about it, but that ampoule of beryllium looks really scary; it's not a solid chunk, it's a large quantity of powder!

Yes. It's clearly the most dangerous thing shown -- by far. The second most dangerous thing -- and the thing that's probably caused him the largest long term dose problems, is the obviously full ashtray. The third was the hot sulphuric acid. Hmm. I seem to recall writing somewhere "spraying the idiot with hot acid" on MeFi before.

The 1μg of 241Am, an alpha emitter, is almost completely harmless. Not by comparison, just straight up. Don't eat it, don't breath it, you're fine.

Gram for gram, the radium is the most dangerous radioisotope there. However, the trace of Radium on the clock hands, well, the only isotope that's going to be left will be 226Ra, also an Alpha emitter, but the decay product has a couple of side-effect gamma emitters. However, we're also talking about 1-2μg of the stuff, which is tiny.

Radium's ability to cause profound human affects isn't directly attached to its radioactivity. The problem is the human body treats radium like calcium, and it accumulates in bones. The way an alpha emitter hurts you is for it to be inhaled or eaten and sit in the body, and this is pretty much the worst case of that. The Radium Girls pretty much stand as just how fucked up corporations could be and how bad it can get in the face of massive exposure to the stuff.

But this small amount? Couple of micrograms -- an entire watch face typically had 1μg of radium paint applied, this is just the hands. 1g of radium provides the definition of the curie -- the amount of material that it takes to have the same radioactivity as 1g of radium is one curie. So, 2μg is (by definition) 2μCi of radioactivity, or to get it into SI, 74KBq.

So, really, we're talking about 100KBq total, which is a pretty damn small amount of alpha emitters. I'd not be cooking up such on my stove, but you almost certainly have (and if you don't, you SHOULD*) the same order of magnitude of radioactive materials in your house.

If you have a basement, you almost certainly have more -- if you're in the western mountain states, or the great lakes states, you definitely have more, and getting a radon survey in your basement, if you spend any significant amount of time there, is not a bad idea. The bitch part about radon is that it is a gas at STP, and thus, that whole "inhale" part is trivial.

But, seriously folks. Saunter away from the clock hands and the smoke detector. Run away from the powdered beryllium. The result of exposure is most often bad.


* Smoke Detectors. Other than the kitchen, you want the ionization detectors, which just work better. Fire kills, smoke kills, and smoke detectors seriously reduce the chance of them killing you!
posted by eriko at 6:34 AM on August 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope nobody thinks nuclear reactors at home are new. A young man in my high school class built one in 1964--using a $5000 grant from the AEC. It was a subcritical reactor, his containment device (machined from a hunk of steel and the thing he spent most of the $5000 on) was an object of great beauty, and he clearly had a lot better idea what he was doing than the fellow in this fpp. The reactor worked fine and he did not irradiate himself or anyone else. I'll bet none of his neighbors had any idea what was going on next door, though.

He went on to be a physics major at Georgia Tech and I'm sure has spent his career doing something triple-classified.
posted by jfuller at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, how many people have died or been injured from home fission experiments? What's that? None? Oh, okay.

How many people have died from teenagers having driving licences? From trousers? From ladders? From kitchen knives? From home firearms? From alcohol poisoning? Many? Ah, but these are all legal and socially acceptable.

I mean, yeah, "boiling up radioactive stuff on your stove and having little fires" is antisocial, just like "smoking tobacco and drinking at home" (you're likely to fall asleep and leave your cigarette burning and start a fire that burns down your neighbour's house). So Richard was wrong, and he shouldn't have been boiling radioactive stuff on his stove.

But if Richard had gotten a proper brick outhouse and a fire extinguisher and some good ventilation and done all his crazy experimentation out there, why shouldn't he play with radioactive stuff? -harlequin- is right.
posted by alasdair at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2011


It is up to society to draw the line separating what you can do without putting yourself and others too much at risk, and what you can't. That line is called "regulation", and if you disregard it, you are in trouble. As simple as that.

I guess I'm not happy with where those lines are drawn, and when I look at why they're drawn where they are - when I discover how the sausages get made - I see many things to suggest the lines are drawn where they are for exactly the wrong reasons. Home fission is not a good hill to die on for this cause, but the problem is real. I'm a huge HUGE fan of regulation, and my instinct is generally more=better, but it's got to be honest regulation done with care and consideration and impartiality. Educated regulation. Not lazy, not corrupt, not knee-jerk. And certainly not "make everything illegal, and just let the justice system use its discretion"

Every now and then, I see an example of regulation that is just wonderfully done (and sometimes I hear about it from someone grumbling about terrible it is), but more often, regulation seems lazy or corrupt. I can't respect that. Society lives or dies on regulation being done well. The economy can't survive poorly made regulation, and it can't survive having too little regulation.

Fissile materials, even in small quantities, are hazardous.
If you weren't already aware, the Americum in your smoke detectors is a fissile material. But it's a case where the risk is deemed smaller than the reward.

posted by -harlequin- at 6:42 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, how many people have died or been injured from home fission experiments? What's that? None? Oh, okay.

So, how many people have died or been injured from swallowing 50 condoms full of gunpowder and doing backflips on a trampoline? What's that? None? Oh, okay. It must be totally safe.

How many people have died from teenagers having driving licences? From trousers? From ladders? From kitchen knives? From home firearms? From alcohol poisoning? Many? Ah, but these are all legal and socially acceptable.

These all have regulations that apply to them. Yes, event the trousers. And fortunately, incredibly dangerous activities such as nuclear fission also have a barrage of regulations placed on them. And for good reason.

I can respect the whole daring-do of being really curious about the science, but there's a reason why the people that handle these materials are educated and trained. And it's not because of some tight-assed obsession with telling people what to do.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:46 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah....I support fun crazy home science experiments, but his "meltdown" photo makes me think maybe I don't want this particular fellow to play with macroscopic quantities of radioactive material.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:53 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


While these are fusion reactors, it is possible and legal and not too uncommon for hobbyists to build Farnsworth–Hirsch reactors in their garage.

Fusion reactions don't create radioactive material as a byproduct.
posted by empath at 6:56 AM on August 5, 2011


So, how many people have died or been injured from swallowing 50 condoms full of gunpowder and doing backflips on a trampoline? What's that? None? Oh, okay. It must be totally safe.

So we should regulate people own trampolines to check that they aren't swallowing condoms full of gunpowder? And regulate purchasers of condoms to check that they aren't filling them with gunpowder and jumping on trampolines? No, because this doesn't happen very often.

[Thinks] No, you're right, I'm sorry, I've expressed myself poorly. It's not that I think that potentially-dangerous activities should not be regulated. It's just that I think that potentially-dangerous activities that are very uncommon should not be regulated, because it's just not worth our time. I'd rather our expensive state agents spend their time checking the state of care in old peoples' homes, or the kitchens of fast-food outlets, or the use of ladders on building sites. You know, things that actually cause deaths and injuries.

Not silly home experiments that have the word RADIOACTIVE somewhere in them.

He was rude to do it at home and risk a fire. But otherwise, who cares? It's not a big deal. There is no regulatory requirement. He didn't do anything that bad. He should get a brick outhouse and do his stuff there. That's about the end of it. Right?
posted by alasdair at 6:58 AM on August 5, 2011


Of course it's possible to split atoms at home.

It's the bit where you control the reaction and keep it from getting away from you that makes nuclear such a technologically complex thing.
an awesome way to get superpowers.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:59 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems like a supremely disingenuous analogy.

Why? I made it because it seems to me like an accurate parallel of the complexity.
"powerplant" isn't seen as inherently dangerous, like "nuclear reactor" is - ie the analogy isn't about the danger, if that's what's bothering you. I'm trying to illuminate what I think is a misconception that he was trying to build a nuclear reactor in anything but the most technical semantic penny-falling-past-a-magnet-is-a-powerplant sense, and that gulf between these things is truly, truly, vast.

Are you aware that naturally-occurring fission reactors have been discovered? Nuclear fission reactors are so complex that they can (and have been) created by water filtering through rocks over many years. A penny falling past a magnet genuinely seems like a similar level of complexity to me.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:00 AM on August 5, 2011


He was rude to do it at home and risk a fire.

Potentially giving your neighbors cancer is a little worse than rude, i think.
posted by empath at 7:01 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, what regulations pertain to trousers? Do they relate to their safety? Like, "people over fifty may not wear trousers"? Oh, wait, hang on, this is a US site: I mean "pants". Sorry.

A policy that says "people over fifty may not wear trousers pants" could probably save a dozen or so lives a year. That's more than regulation of home fission experiments. Which should we do, given finite resources? Why?

posted by alasdair at 7:01 AM on August 5, 2011


It's just that I think that potentially-dangerous activities that are very uncommon should not be regulated, because it's just not worth our time.

These rules exist to prevent businesses from endangering the public, many businesses handle radioactive and or toxic material (such as beryllium). I agree that it would be odd to have a "no reactors at home" law, because that's a very rare occurrence, but improper storage of radioactive material is a very common occurrence.
posted by atrazine at 7:04 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, what regulations pertain to trousers?

There are consumer safety standards that apply to the garment industry. Yes, Big Brother even has his hands in your trousers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:06 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Potentially giving your neighbors cancer is a little worse than rude, i think.

So that birthday bottle of whiskey (bowel cancer) or those celebratory cigars on the birth of their first child (lung cancer) was rude? What about the barbecue on a sunny day I held (skin cancer, alcohol poisoning, food poisoning)? Or when I drive past their house (automobile accident?)

Nope, I'm going to go with the actual risk, of burning down their house. Setting stuff alight on your stove isn't cool. He shouldn't have done that.
posted by alasdair at 7:06 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beryllium is much more toxic than whiskey or cigar smoke.
posted by atrazine at 7:10 AM on August 5, 2011


improper storage of radioactive material is a very common occurrence.

... in industry, with big piles of the stuff. Which suggests to me that we should concentrate our limited tax dollars on regulating companies in the industry, not Richard and his home experiments. Right?

There are consumer safety standards that apply to the garment industry.

The problem with pants is that the common technique is to stand on one leg while donning the garment. Old people (reduced balance, brittle bones) then fall over, and hurt themselves. A sensible safety regulation would be forbidding companies from selling pants to old people (I'd like to add that I'm Scottish, and suggest the kilt as an alternative) and forbidding old people from wearing them. You're keen on regulations that save lives. Are you with my proposed "Old People In Pants Ban"? You can save a dozen lives a year!

If not, what's your problem with Richard? It's not based on risk, because he's unlikely to hurt anyone if he stops setting fire to things in his house.

Regulation, yes! I don't want chalk in my flour. But regulation not based on actual risk of harm? NO! Waste of money and time. Richard? Get an outhouse, and knock yourself out.
posted by alasdair at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2011


So, how many people have died or been injured from home fission experiments?

There is at least the aforementioned Radioactive Boy Scout, David Charles Hahn^:
Police say that Hahn's face was covered with open sores, possibly from constant exposure to radioactive materials.
(mug shot) I don't think there's any reportage on the current state of his health or that of his neighbors...
posted by XMLicious at 7:19 AM on August 5, 2011


It's a serious comment. The distinction you may be missing is that "nuclear reactor" in this context is a broad term. Like "powerplant". You're thinking at an industrial level, but "powerplant" to a hobbyist can also mean "I knocked a penny off the top of the fridge, and it happened to pass near a fridge-magnet as it fell". It's a very broad term when you get down to it. Nuclear reactor normally means a big serious thing that does something, and that would be scary in a kitchen, yeah, but that's not what this is about. At a hobbyiest level, that's not even remotely close to what the guy wants to do. He wants to prompt a reaction that doesn't really do much, and he wants a meter to show that happened. He needs a meter, because the reaction does so little that he has no way of knowing if it even happened, without one.

This is really getting quite silly. You clearly haven't taken the time to learn about the dangers of this type of work. Very simple-to-prevent accidents occurred frequently in the early days of nuclear research, even with very small amounts of material. These accidents resulted in death or serious injury and/or serious environmental contamination.

The proper way to "play around" with this kind of thing is to enter a field of study in a proper research setting. There are plenty of research reactors to play around with. The supply of people trained in nuclear engineering is, last I heard, in dire need of renewed interest.
posted by odinsdream at 7:20 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


[reads comments in more detail] Please replace "outhouse" in my comments with "well-ventilated outhouse".
posted by alasdair at 7:23 AM on August 5, 2011


... in industry, with big piles of the stuff. Which suggests to me that we should concentrate our limited tax dollars on regulating companies in the industry, not Richard and his home experiments. Right?

Are you under the impression that there is a regulatory agency devoted to nothing but goofy home experiments? These regulations do indeed specify different precautions based on the amount of material, but they apply to everyone, including science labs and individuals.

[reads comments in more detail] Please replace "outhouse" in my comments with "well-ventilated outhouse".

If he had a sealed space with fume extractor and filters to prevent toxic material entering the atmosphere then this would be a very different story.
posted by atrazine at 7:26 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If not, what's your problem with Richard? It's not based on risk, because he's unlikely to hurt anyone if he stops setting fire to things in his house.

I'm sorry, are you a nuclear physicist? What are your qualifications to opine on the safety risks of at home fission reactions?

Because here is what happened to david hahn.
posted by empath at 7:27 AM on August 5, 2011


If not, what's your problem with Richard?

The fact that he's engaging in a highly dangerous activity that requires actual education and training to perform, and that could endanger the lives of others. That's my problem. As others have already mentioned, the potential for harm to others goes far beyond a simple home fire, with risks far more probable than that which might arise from some Christmas whisky.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:30 AM on August 5, 2011



But if Richard had gotten a proper brick outhouse and a fire extinguisher and some good ventilation and done all his crazy experimentation out there, why shouldn't he play with radioactive stuff? -harlequin- is right.


Maybe the future owners of his residency would be interested to know that their small child should avoid the brick outhouse lest they ingest some powdered beryllium?
posted by odinsdream at 7:30 AM on August 5, 2011


I'm not going to comment on the physics involved or his lab practices, but god damn, if you're going to be cooking radioactive shit on your stove, don't advertise it all over the internets, at least not until you're done. Jesus Christ!!
posted by c13 at 7:31 AM on August 5, 2011


It's political correctness gone mad!!

You can't even build a nuclear reactor in your own kitchen these days, because of the gays.
posted by pmcp at 7:32 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't want to be the next person to rent that apartment.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:33 AM on August 5, 2011


This is really getting quite silly. You clearly haven't taken the time to learn about the dangers of this type of work. Very simple-to-prevent accidents occurred frequently in the early days of nuclear research, even with very small amounts of material. These accidents resulted in death or serious injury and/or serious environmental contamination.

When you say "very small amounts", you're talking orders of magnitude greater amounts than what is involved here. You realise that, right?

Also, to me, this isn't about danger, it's about danger to others. I think a guy should be able to use a chainsaw, or use powertools to cut steel in his shed, even though this is lethal stuff to be handling and can kill him - or even a trained expert - in the blink of an eye if something goes wrong, and which still does routinely kill trained experts. People risk their lives for hobbies every day, and have simple to prevent accidents every day. Our response should be to do what we can to prevent accidents, not prevent hobbies.

If he wants to play with toxins instead of power tools, whatever. The concerns to be addressing are when people put others at risk. There is a large element of that in play here, but I think it's a over-reaction to suggest that anything with risk of accident should be banned.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:35 AM on August 5, 2011


This "let them do it" philosophy is just weird. There are literally dozens of restrictions on what you can do in your home, each designed to keep you and your neighborhood safe and pleasant to live in. Some are stupid and overreaching like the guy who is facing criminal charges for not feeding the birds right, but among all the laws of the land, the one that keeps my neighbor from mucking about with nuclear material is one I'll support.

You do realize that if you support this guy you also support spending tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of tax dollars on remediation due to toxic contamniation. I'd rather my money went to providing health care to the poor and less stupid.
posted by Muddler at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2011


Seems to me alasdair, that you've been reading a few too many Heinlein juveniles. "I had just finished my basement nuclear reactor for my scouting merit badge when the Chinese and aliens invaded. Next thing I knew my beautiful redheaded next door neighbor and I were rocketing to the moon...."
posted by happyroach at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2011


If he wants to play with toxins instead of power tools, whatever. The concerns to be addressing are when people put others at risk. There is a large element of that in play here, but I think it's a over-reaction to suggest that anything with risk of accident should be banned.

I'm not suggesting it be banned. I'm suggesting that there is a proper way for people in our society to do nuclear research, and it's never going to be in a residential setting.

Yes, there is a danger that legitimately safe curiosity will be squelched by the increased safety need, but this particular technology is so amazingly easy to fuck up I think that's a good trade. It's an entirely different class of hazard.
posted by odinsdream at 7:43 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't want to be the next person to rent that apartment.

I wouldn't want to be the landlord either...
posted by Skeptic at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2011


To reiterate, the very stupid things this guy did had very little to do with the "nuclear" part and a whole lot to do with the irresponsible use of toxic heavy metal powder and boiling acid in the kitchen.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:14 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm, I think part of what is sticking in my craw is that it's always a "good trade" when you get to keep your thing and someone else has to give up their thing. If evaluating on the merits and evidence, once you remove the element of "I have no interest in doing this, so I see no reason why anyone should need to do it either, and it seems threatening to me", this activity - risky to himself and others, yes, stupid, yes, still doesn't stand out as any worse than other things that are risky, stupid, and (for the mean time at least) still allowed - driving for pleasure, for example, or having unprotected sex with multiple people, or (to turn the "freedom" element upside down) not vaccinating your kids.

It's an entirely different class of hazard.

I understand that this seems self-evident to you, but I don't think the evidence really supports it. Even in this instance of a guy clearly doing everything wrong, the concern seems misguided to me - the freaking out should be over his use of powdered beryllium, not his radioactive stuff, and there are plenty of non-nuclear hobbies he could have been doing instead where he could have made the same dumbass choice to use beryllium instead of something not quite as effective but a shitload safer, and then obtained it in the same dumbass powdered form.

I really don't think it's an entirely different class of hazard. It's just a far more exotic hazard, and we just totally freak out about exotic hazards.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:15 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm, I think part of what is sticking in my craw is that it's always a "good trade" when you get to keep your thing and someone else has to give up their thing.

I'm not keeping anything or giving up anything. As a society, we have agreed-upon methods for doing exactly the kind of experimentation and research you're so worried about disappearing. We just don't do them in apartments.
posted by odinsdream at 8:18 AM on August 5, 2011


Related to the next person to rent the apartment / the landlord: in the Hahn case, the garden shed at his mother's house where he did all of his stuff became a Superfund cleanup site, sealed off for a decade.

If people can reasonably be prevented from experimenting with inventing their own sewage disposal methods / septic system from scratch, (and that seems obviously the way things should be, to me) I don't have any problem with restrictions on activities like this.
posted by XMLicious at 8:22 AM on August 5, 2011


When you say "very small amounts", you're talking orders of magnitude greater amounts than what is involved here. You realise that, right?

Did you see the beryllium?
posted by LogicalDash at 8:22 AM on August 5, 2011


Seems to me alasdair, that you've been reading a few too many Heinlein juveniles.

Ah, but then the Wise Authorial Figure could turn up and get Richard out of his scrape by use of a cunning legal manoeuvre, coupled with some preaching about how Personal Responsibility and Capitalism would resolve all these issues. Then the WAF would go sleep with his own sister while Richard leads an armed rebellion - and hey, he's got the nukes!

So, we're agreed that if Richard had the right experimental cabinet with filters and ventilation (though I'd still prefer he was in an outhouse unconnected to the neighbours) he'd be cool, then? Awesome!
posted by alasdair at 8:25 AM on August 5, 2011


I wonder how many other people are doing this who weren't covered by an internet article...

Suddenly, living next-door to a meth cooker doesn't sound quite as bad.
posted by Thistledown at 8:27 AM on August 5, 2011


So, we're agreed that if Richard had the right experimental cabinet with filters and ventilation (though I'd still prefer he was in an outhouse unconnected to the neighbours) he'd be cool, then?

You mean a lab?
posted by sadmarvin at 8:28 AM on August 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


To reiterate, the very stupid things this guy did had very little to do with the "nuclear" part and a whole lot to do with the irresponsible use of toxic heavy metal powder and boiling acid in the kitchen.

Sure, but I find this defence somewhat disingenous. As it happens, there are no handy nuclear reactor kits on the market, nor are nuclear fuel elements sold in convenience stores (for quite a few other very good reasons). Moreover, most nuclear fuels also are toxic heavy metals, regardless of the radiation bit. Amateur (and not-so-amateur) nuclear engineering very much requires pretty hairy chemistry as well...
posted by Skeptic at 8:28 AM on August 5, 2011


I wonder how many other people are doing this who weren't covered by an internet article...

Suddenly, living next-door to a meth cooker doesn't sound quite as bad.


Especially if the neighbor is doing it all for his family, under the employ of the owner of a chain of fried chicken restaurants.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2011


I can't believe the conversation has derailed toward this being unreasonable government regulation. We don't let people play with really toxic stuff, which this *is* based on a mountain of evidence. Even if handled properly while in use, the appropriate disposal of these materials requires considerable resources and expertise, to which a home chemist is unlikely to have access. You don't just burn this stuff in the backyard, stick it in trash, or dump it down the drain. Reading a faq on the internet is not adequate safety training for playing with these materials.

(Disclaimer: I am a physician who has cared for patients with berylliosis and other heavy metal pulmonary toxicity, have a degree in physical chemistry, and previously did some work in atomic physics.)
posted by drpynchon at 8:39 AM on August 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


The first nuclear reactor was constructed under the bleachers at Stag Field at the University of Chicago. It was a pile of graphite and lead bricks into which were pushed some kind of fuel rods. At the time, I think the guys who did it knew even less what they were doing than Richard. It ended no better for these eminent scientists than for Richard either. I think that some of them suffered severe radiation sickness.
posted by Trout7000 at 8:48 AM on August 5, 2011


Would you guys feel the same if he was running a meth lab?
posted by empath at 8:50 AM on August 5, 2011


hide yo ions
hide yo baryons

they splittin errrybody
posted by Eideteker at 9:10 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


So you know how there are a lot of engineers on MeFi? Well, you're reading the downside of that.
posted by lattiboy at 9:10 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Would you guys feel the same if he was running a meth lab?"

There's no way to know that. Measuring it would change whether or not he ran a meth lab.

TITLE ftw
posted by Eideteker at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2011


You don't just burn this stuff in the backyard, stick it in trash, or dump it down the drain.

I do.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:20 AM on August 5, 2011


I can't believe the conversation has derailed toward this being unreasonable government regulation.

No really! it's like... a parallel universe version of "it's political correctness gone mad!"

still doesn't stand out as any worse than other things that are risky, stupid, and (for the mean time at least) still allowed - driving for pleasure, for example, or having unprotected sex with multiple people, or (to turn the "freedom" element upside down) not vaccinating your kids.


Well, this is getting fun now. The news is someone was arrested for playing with radioactive and toxic materials in his kitchen in an attempt to recreate nuclear fission. The parallel universe discussion starts off with a mention of regulations on raw milk, and now it's become a list of whatever comes to mind in the category "things that can have risks", including things that can provoke any number of controversial discussions, involving a myriad different issues beyond mere public health and safety and into the territory of individual morality and choices, all mixed in with that big theme of "individual freedom vs. government restrictions" that's been stretched beyond imagination already...

So, while we're at it, why don't we also add gun ownership, abortion, growing your own weed and cooking your own meth, and throw everything in the argument reactor, let's see what comes out, shall we? I have a feeling it'll be more like the logical equivalent of a big stinky pot of raw milk gone sour than anything coherent and useful to anything or anyone. But, no harm done, it's fun to experiment with arguments! it's also safer for your health and environment than playing with beryllium and sulphuric acid in your kitchen.

(Waiting for thesis that no, playing with beryllium and sulphuric acid in your kitchen is actually no more risky than having convoluted absurd discussions on metafilter, if done in a properly ventilated isolated kitchen that would actually need to be sort of like a lab...)
posted by bitteschoen at 9:23 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


> if done in a properly ventilated isolated kitchen that would actually need to be sort of like a lab...

isolation-kitchen.metafilter.com: many have asked for it, now it has a name.
posted by jfuller at 9:42 AM on August 5, 2011


"Police say that Hahn's face was covered with open sores, possibly from constant exposure to radioactive materials."

I'm pretty sure it turned out that he was a meth addict, didn't it? And that was what was responsible for the sores?

And if you want to see fission at home just get a discarded lump of depleted uranium from a battlefield somewhere. One in every 1.85 million decays is a spontaneous fission, releasing an average of 2.07 neutrons per fission.
posted by alby at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2011


I gotta say, though, that I really enjoyed this bit:
A meltdown on my cooker!!!

No, it not so dangerous. But I tried to cook Americium, Radium and Beryllium in 96% sulphuric-acid, to easier get them blended. But the whole thing exploded upp in the air...

Of cource I thrown away my pills at the left side, and I didn't drink the juice-syryp in the right.
So he's got drink, medication, and the aforementioned overflowing ashtray just sitting there, on a dirty cooker boiling radioactive metals in highly corrosive acid. I wouldn't trust this guy to mix me a margarita, let along attempt to initiate nuclear fission right next door to me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, again, if he has a some kind of appropriate filter and fumigating cabinet, then we'd be cool with him doing his chemistry set stuff? I'm happy to call this a lab, if that's cool with you. But setting things on fire in his kitchen is uncool? Excellent, I'm with you.

You know, I think we're all kind of in agreement here. Experiments at home are cool. Get appropriate safety measures, which in this case looks like some kind of cabinet and an outhouse (stuff is catching on fire, man!) But we don't think that have to be some kind of OFFICIALLY APPROVED EXPERT to play with some chemicals, so long as you're not a dick. He was kind of a dick, and he deserved a telling-off from the police, which he got. Good with everyone? Splendid.

I'm going to go genetically-engineer something now.
posted by alasdair at 10:15 AM on August 5, 2011


awesome, I would like a kitty with laser eyes.
posted by elizardbits at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2011


So, again, if he has a some kind of appropriate filter and fumigating cabinet, then we'd be cool with him doing his chemistry set stuff? I'm happy to call this a lab, if that's cool with you. But setting things on fire in his kitchen is uncool? Excellent, I'm with you.

No, that is not at all what I'm saying. He doesn't just need the equipment; he needs the education and training. As has been repeatedly said.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:18 AM on August 5, 2011


I mean, if he's got his Kent Lights, pineapple mix, and Tylenols laying about within splash-reach of radioactive material boiling in acid, having the right equipment is the least of his problems.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:19 AM on August 5, 2011


I think what almost everyone here is saying, alasdair, is that if he has the right equipment, education, and training, we're okay with this. But if he had the right equipment, education, and training, he would be a student/scientist working in a lab.
posted by sadmarvin at 10:21 AM on August 5, 2011


I'm going to go genetically-engineer something now.

Are you talking about sex?
posted by Think_Long at 10:23 AM on August 5, 2011


But we don't think that have to be some kind of OFFICIALLY APPROVED EXPERT to play with some chemicals,

Well, with these particular chemicals and substances, yes, I think one should be an approved expert.
posted by rtha at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2011


As for harming others, I certainly hope that the last people to rent my apartment didn't spatter the kitchen with beryllium and radioactive materials. Or run a meth lab.
posted by JiBB at 10:37 AM on August 5, 2011


There are risks and rewards for almost anything we do on a daily basis. Some risks are higher than others, yet can be mitigated by precautions.

It bothers me that someone as a hobbyist can't carryout what they wish to do. For example, do you know how difficult it is to try and get basic, almost pure chemicals to do chemistry experiments it the home? Seriously you have to jump through hoops to get acids and bases just to get scientific grade chemicals without adulterants. Resorting to purifying chemicals (which can be very unsafe) just to get what one should be able to have for plenty of potential experimentations, situations.
Not everyone with a strong interest in chemistry/nuclear/name-whatever-hobby to go into that profession as they may have already found a life calling.
Regulations are a good thing, I doubt most people would argue against that point (speed limits, electrical code, ect.) But perhaps there could be a different way of safely implementing a list, or hobby organization in order for those who wish to dabble in these fields in a hobby fashion to be regulated differently.
I was just thinking reading this how much easier an individual could be forming a shell company in order to carry out their hobby in order to obtain their needed materials.
posted by handbanana at 10:43 AM on August 5, 2011


The freaking out should be over his use of powdered beryllium, not his radioactive stuff...

There's a quote upthread regarding a little accident:

No, it not so dangerous. But I tried to cook Americium, Radium and Beryllium in 96% sulphuric-acid, to easier get them blended. But the whole thing exploded upp in the air...

The last place I want alpha emitters is "exploded up in the air" and potentially aerosolized where I can inhale them (not to mention potentially splattered across all the food preparation space in my kitchen.) On my gloves or even skin? Alpha particles don't even have enough energy to penetrate gloves or skin; I'll toss the gloves, wash my hands and check with an appropriately calibrated survey device or run a wipe test with a scintillation counter to make sure the stuff got off. Inside my body? That's where alpha emitters get dangerous. The guy didn't have much in the way of starting material, but short of intentionally eating it, it certainly seems like his experimental procedure pretty much maximized his chances of inhalation or ingestion, and maximized the likelihood that he contaminated his kitchen/apt. with the stuff. Note: I sometimes work with radioactive materials in lab, where we have lots of nice controls and regulations to make sure they are used safely, so I'm not just freaking out about the word "radioactive" here. Drawing on my experience, let's take a look at another worrisome statement. He has a survey meter, but he says:

But I think there is something wrong with it, because some times it wouldn't react on high radiation.


Yeah, uh, without further details, it sounds like he may have stumbled upon a known problem with Geiger-Müller probes: Max out the detector and the counter may misleadingly indicate no radiation due to probe saturation. It's not clear he understands that this may be what is happening - he wants to buy a replacement that's a little less sensitive and seems to have a narrower operating range (up to 1mSv/h, not 5mSv/h) than the one he already has.

All in all, it doesn't look like he knew what he was doing or knew how to handle even the general chemistry side of things particularly safely. Furthermore, it is not at all clear to me that he would have been able to accurately track contamination, let alone monitor the desired reaction and ascertain whether it had gone wrong (or worked too well!) - not particularly reassuring for a guy who states that his ultimate goal is to make a breeder reactor, despite the small amount of supplies he'd gathered by the time of his arrest.

In many ways, I love the idea of having a home lab where I would be able to screw around with science that has nothing to do with my work. I also believe that some aspects of hobbyist chemistry are over-regulated (seriously, purchase of glassware does not make someone a terrorist or a meth-lab operator!) However, there are many things that due to danger, requirement of delicate/expensive equipment, requirement of special technical expertise (beyond stuff required by basic general chemistry), or difficulty of safe disposal are not very well-suited to a hobbyist lab. Radioactive materials fall under several of these categories, and so by and large I am OK with society deciding that experiments with radioactive materials should happen in real labs and be done by or supervised by experienced scientists. (Somewhat tangentially, I've said several times in the context of DIYbio discussions that I wish there were supervised community bio & chem labs. I can take art classes and do dangerous-yet-awesome stuff like foundry; it's too bad there isn't something similar where would-be hobbyists can learn how to work safely with chemicals and have access to facilities like fume hoods and hazardous waste disposal. But I'm sure it'll never happen, liability being too high and there being plenty of practical problems...)
posted by ubersturm at 11:17 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think what almost everyone here is saying, alasdair, is that if he has the right equipment, education, and training, we're okay with this.

And supervision!
posted by Skeptic at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2011


"I am a rocket scientist", or in this case, the former lab manager for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Region II.

This guy is fucking clueless. Even if he did get a breeder reaction started*, it would burn up his little bit of fuel too quick and the burst would be too small for a geiger counter to register it in a way that a human would recognize it as a burst**. Harvesting americium, radium and thorium from commercial sources? The quantities are way too small to handle precisely with anything but specialized lab equipment.

His biggest problem is dilution and contaminants as he must force enough of the neutron-radiating nuclides into the proximity of the moderating molecules to slow them down just enough, but not too much, to penetrate a U-238 nucleus. Note here that fission is not automatic*, so add a delta t. Impurities and solvents would only get in the way. Also, U-238 is the "hardest to hit" (for lack of a more descriptive term than the actual engineering jargon) of all uranium nuclides.

The easiest, most compact and cheapest method publicly known to achieve the necessary proximity effects is to use explosives that focus their shock waves onto a breeder capsule to compress its already highly pressurized contents.

If you want to play with this stuff, go to school, for no other reason than because it is cheaper.


* From his own blog (emphasis mine), "If a neutron is catched up in the U-238 nuclear, it transmute to U-239 with T½ = 22,3 min, which than decays into Pa-239, and the half-life of that is about 27 days. Then the Protactinium decays to the fissible isotope Plutonium-239."

** Actually, any burst would be invisible given all the gamma interference from the U-238. Imagine someone shining a theatrical spotlight in your eyes, and then someone else shining a kid's camping flashlight in your eyes as well.
posted by Ardiril at 11:21 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


BTW, I am aware that my descriptions are somewhat basic. I am not going to write a novel.
posted by Ardiril at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2011


Quonsar can split atoms in his pants. He has a fission there.
posted by Decani at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2011


"Mommy, when I grow up, I want my own superfund site."
posted by atbash at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2011


empath: Fusion reactions don't create radioactive material as a byproduct.

That's so thoroughly incorrect that I really don't think you should be opining on the safety of nuclear experimentation. Yes, there are some fusion reactions that don't leave radioactive byproducts— proton-boron fusion being the classic dream of clean fusion power— but those are more difficult; the hobbyist IEC reactors use reactions that do produce (submicroscopic amounts of) low level radioactive waste.


The nuclear part of Richard's experimentation was never going to hurt anybody, but as a bunch of other posters have said, it's the way he handled the beryllium that makes me think he shouldn't have been doing this. Like -harlequin-, I think that it should be OK for people to do dangerous experimentation at home as long as their safety precautions are adequate. (And therein lies the rub, of course; but that's a problem even for the "approved researchers". Saying that it's OK to do this iff you're "approved" just hides the problem behind an appeal to authority.)
posted by hattifattener at 12:47 PM on August 5, 2011


OK for people to do dangerous experimentation at home as long as their safety precautions are adequate.

That guy rents, no?
posted by c13 at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2011


So do a lot of official scientific laboratories, c13. I don't see what that has to do with anything (unless you're an immortal vampire doing experiments in the crypt of your ancestral home which is entailed to your family in perpetuity— but not everybody is).
posted by hattifattener at 2:23 PM on August 5, 2011


Chronic beryllium disease: "Because small amounts of airborne beryllium are so toxic, the law and good safety practices require very strict controls regarding the use of beryllium in manufacturing."

Beryllium MSDS pdf: Well, at least, it's not explosive as a solid, otherwise...

c13: My primary radiochemistry laboratory was a rented space on the 31st floor of an office building in downtown Atlanta, and my mobile laboratory was often parked a couple blocks away. I was always walking around the 5 Points area with toxic and/or radioactive substances. Elevators were particularly fun.
posted by Ardiril at 2:32 PM on August 5, 2011


Seriously? You don't see any difference between a building that is designed to house laboratories, with proper ventilation, electrical and sewer equipment, located in a designated area, and an apartment where the only thing that separates you from your neigbors is a layer of sheetrock? You don't see the difference between renting a lab space, and cooking radioactive toxic shit without asking your landlord or the asthmatic kid next door?
posted by c13 at 2:34 PM on August 5, 2011


c13: ... but what does 'rental' have to do with all that? A proper space is a proper space, regardless of who owns it.
posted by Ardiril at 2:40 PM on August 5, 2011


Come on, you're not that obtuse. A rented commercial/indusrial/scientific space is not the same as rented RESIDENTIAL area. And you can't make a PROPER radioactive lab in an apartment -- you'd have to tear down the building and built a different one. Just like you would have to if ypu wanted to grow ebola or run a Bessemer converter.
You've heard of zoning laws, no? There is a reason we have them.
posted by c13 at 2:54 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your original wording, "That guy rents, no?", made no distinguishing between commercial and residential.
posted by Ardiril at 3:20 PM on August 5, 2011


Let me try this again:

OK for people to do dangerous experimentation at home as long as their safety precautions are adequate.

This guy rents, no?

Is this better? I kind of thought that "rents" in this context would be assumed by everybody to mean a residential apartment. I also assumed that the fact that the vast majority of the "proper labs" do not actually belong to people using them is beyond needing clarification.
posted by c13 at 3:43 PM on August 5, 2011


Your original wording, "That guy rents, no?", made no distinguishing between commercial and residential.

This is why smart kids get slapped around so much.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:22 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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