November 6, 2017 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Remembering the Radioactive Boy Scout.

You were an inspiration in many ways to many people. Most people pass through life a ghost, just a whisper. Although at the time it wasn't recognized, you transcended above the norm, and you deserve respect for that. Some people climb Everest, you built something in your backyard most people would have thought impossible. I'm sorry to hear that your life was short. But it was inspirational.
May your exploits and efforts be remembered for a long long time.
- Frank Stein - Neighbor
Mr. Hahn passed away on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

Previously on MeFi.
posted by zarq (24 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well sure, but you should see what that neighbor has in his shed in the backyard.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:21 AM on November 6


For those curious monkeys at home, there IS a fun safe way to play with tabletop nuclear fusion given a little background in machining, vacuum management, and high voltage operations.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:24 AM on November 6


I've got to say, someone who did something that did crazy damage to his neighbours, and then his mother threw out his stuff before the cleanup people could arrive to try and hide how much radioactive material was on the site, since she was more worried about being able to sell her house then harming other people DO NOT seem like inspirations to me.
posted by Canageek at 10:25 AM on November 6 [4 favorites]


I remember reading about him dying and it just seemed a bit sad that, from what I could tell, he'd basically drank himself to death... but I guess he was a high risk kind of guy.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:34 AM on November 6


Democratizing fusion to the amateur DIY world is a bad thing yeah but this guy gets my respect nonetheless because I mean, shit maybe there is a timeline where radio shack fusion lab kits are sold and like. Ahhhh. Yeah I’m intrigued I ain’t gonna lie.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:44 AM on November 6


Personally, I blame John Lithgow.

And to a lesser extent, Cynthia Nixon, who would go on to star in Sex and the City.

And everyone else in Sex and the City
posted by Naberius at 11:10 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]


It's possible to build a breeder reactor without poisoning the neighbors.
posted by lagomorphius at 11:11 AM on November 6


Personally, I blame John Lithgow.
"They can't do anything to me, I'm underage!"
Wow, this would be a much shorter movie today, wouldn't it? Same with War Games.
"They can't do anything to me, I'm-"
"Target down."
posted by leotrotsky at 11:14 AM on November 6 [4 favorites]


His mother committed suicide in 1996, he was later diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and he died of alcohol poisoning at age 39.

.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:59 AM on November 6 [3 favorites]


His amateur ambitions became the stuff of legends. On a drive with his girlfriend, “his Geiger counter went wild as he passed Gloria’s Resale Boutique/Antique.” Hahn discovered they had an old clock with glow-in-the-dark numbers painted with a rare and discontinued radium paint — but also something more. Tucked away inside the clock was a small can full of the paint itself.
If a person really, really wanted make trouble, they could try to get Google to include sensitive radiation detectors on its street view cars in a few select cities and towns that had hosted nuclear research labs or nuclear involved industries.
posted by jamjam at 12:57 PM on November 6


I remember reading that magazine article way back when. I was reminded of his story recently when I listened to S-Town.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:04 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


Well sure, but you should see what that neighbor has in his shed in the backyard.

What's he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
He has subscriptions to those magazines
He never waves when he goes by

And he's hiding something from the rest of us
He's all to himself, I think I know why
He took down the tire-swing from the pepper tree
He has no children of his own, you see

He has no dog, he has no friends
And his lawn is dying
And what about those packages he sends?
What's he building in there?

With that hook light on the stairs
What's he building in there?
I'll tell you one thing, he's not building a playhouse for the children
What's he building in there?

Now what's that sound from underneath the door?
He's pounding nails into a hardwood floor
And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low
And I keep seeing the blue light of a TV show

He has a router and a table saw
And you won't believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There's poison underneath the sink, of course
There's also enough formaldehyde to choke a horse

What's he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
I heard he has an ex-wife in some place called Mayor's Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia

But what's he building in there?
He has no friends but he gets a lot of mail
I bet he spent a little time in jail
I heard he was up on the roof last night, signaling with a flashlight
And what's that tune he's always whistling?

What's he building in there?
What's he building in there?
We have a right to know

posted by jkaczor at 1:21 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


- Frank Stein - Neighbor

Is Frank's middle initial N?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:46 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


All hail that brilliant kid! Imagine making your garage a Superfund site.
posted by Oyéah at 2:14 PM on November 6


> his mother threw out his stuff before the cleanup people could arrive

No mention of a search, let alone a cleanup, of the town dump in any of the stories.

Nor giant ants, rats, or mosquitos emerging from it. One has to wonder what became of the seriously hot stuff.
posted by hank at 3:15 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


If a person really, really wanted make trouble, they could try to get Google to include sensitive radiation detectors on its street view cars in a few select cities and towns that had hosted nuclear research labs or nuclear involved industries.

Speaking as someone who professionally wielded sensitive radiation detectors in a nuclear involved industry I would like to say the reality is way, way less interesting than the fantasy.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:41 PM on November 6


I feel like there was a lot of wasted potential in this young man's life. Very sad.
posted by LarryC at 8:47 PM on November 6


I swear the back in the 1980s there was a Bloom County like this, with Oliver Wendell Jones doing something with watch dials. I actually wrote to Berke Breathed when I couldn't find the comics in any of the Bloom County anthologies but never heard back. Anyone else know what I'm talking about?
posted by fiercekitten at 10:32 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


Found it, fiercekitten.
posted by bryon at 3:36 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


His amateur ambitions became the stuff of legends. On a drive with his girlfriend, “his Geiger counter went wild as he passed Gloria’s Resale Boutique/Antique.” Hahn discovered they had an old clock with glow-in-the-dark numbers painted with a rare and discontinued radium paint — but also something more. Tucked away inside the clock was a small can full of the paint itself.

If a person really, really wanted make trouble, they could try to get Google to include sensitive radiation detectors on its street view cars in a few select cities and towns that had hosted nuclear research labs or nuclear involved industries.


A not insignificant portion of Chicago is contaminated with the remains of gas light wick production using thorium. All the large new towers going up in Lakefront East had to have cleanups of radioactive materials before they could begin construction. There is even a park there that is off-limits because of radioactive waste that is only just being remediated now.

This is why I feel super skeeved when I see people promoting allotment style gardening in empty city lots. The soil in most cities that had industrial pasts is not at all safe. There is the potential for serious badness - lead, radioactive waste, and arsenic.
posted by srboisvert at 6:51 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


This is why I feel super skeeved when I see people promoting allotment style gardening in empty city lots. The soil in most cities that had industrial pasts is not at all safe. There is the potential for serious badness - lead, radioactive waste, and arsenic.

This reminds me of a previous job - there was a fruit orchard that backed onto the parking lot. Part of new hire training was to tell people to not eat the fruit. At all. The orchard is helping remediate a Superfund site - I think an early Intel chip fab. The person working the land gets paid to farm it and scrap the produce.
posted by caphector at 12:31 PM on November 7


Fruit seems a bizarre choice for that. It's practically an attractive nuisance in that case. Why not grass or flowers or at least some kind of produce that people rarely eat straight off the tree? Even nuts would be better.
posted by tavella at 1:00 PM on November 7


scrap the produce

Hmmm - but aren't the "toxins/heavy metals" simply transferred from the ground through to the plant/fruit? Then, when composted/"scrapped", simply returned to the ground?

I am only asking, because I remember the whole BC/Washington State controversy about heavy metals contamination through fertilizer sourced from BC, which ended-up in the dairy chain in Washington State.

IIRC - sewage from the Lower Mainland (BC) was turned into fertilizer, which was then sold to farmers in Washington State, which then ended-up polluting the dairy chain. Remember - most municipalities do not have seperate disposal systems for human sewage, versus industrial waste - it all goes down the same pipes. Industry is monitored (sort of) and typically has certain quotas that they cannot exceed without paying fines, but ultimately the waste all ends up at the same treatment plants...

Great book about it - "Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry"
posted by jkaczor at 6:26 AM on November 8


IIRC, I read a report back in the 1980s that stated that during a test of various plants for bioremediation of radioactive/heavy-metal contamination, tobacco came up as a quite efficient plant for concentrating said materials, but due to the likelihood of the plant material being accidentally or illicitly ending up in people's cigarettes it couldn't condone using it. Similar to the aforementioned fruit plants, apparently the temptation was considered to be too strong to make it an attractive candidate despite the efficiency.
posted by Blackanvil at 7:06 PM on November 11


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