Unobtanium
November 19, 2015 10:35 AM   Subscribe

The Doomsday Scam. For decades, aspiring bomb makers — including ISIS — have desperately tried to get their hands on a lethal substance called red mercury. posted by zarq (47 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
great, now I'm probably on a list somewhere for clicking those.
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yyyep. That's exactly what they want you to think.
posted by Etrigan at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2015


also the plot, more or less, of RED 2.
posted by k5.user at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2015


Red mercury also gets mentioned in this completely true piece of not-at-all made up stuff by MeFi's own Charlie Stross.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:46 AM on November 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


Surely by the time they make a Star Trek about "red matter", nobody hears "red mercury" and assumes it's real?
posted by pulposus at 10:49 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why buy red mercury when you can buy real nuclear parts instead?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:52 AM on November 19, 2015


Why buy red mercury when you can buy real nuclear parts instead?

Are they red nuclear parts, though? The red's important.
posted by curious nu at 10:59 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Identifying such cheats was easy, the smugglers said, because real red mercury is attracted to gold but repelled by garlic."

This whole article is comedy gold.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:01 AM on November 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Are they red nuclear parts, though? The red's important

Yeah.... he took the red one.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:04 AM on November 19, 2015


The red's important.

The red ones go faster!
posted by fifthrider at 11:11 AM on November 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


Surely by the time they make a Star Trek about "red matter", nobody hears "red mercury" and assumes it's real?

Well, it's not like every red-element-thing is fictional.
posted by Jpfed at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I go with code name for lithium-6 deuteride.
posted by Bringer Tom at 11:13 AM on November 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


People who believe on a substance that is attracted to gold and repelled by garlic are the same people buying nuclear weapon parts. That's scary.

Lack of faith in science seems to be a theme among those wrecking the world.
posted by theora55 at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


C. J. Chivers is consistently worth your while.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


The greatest trick Red Mercury ever pulled was convincing the world that it didn't exist.
posted by Bob Regular at 11:34 AM on November 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


I go with code name for lithium-6 deuteride.

C'mon man. Everyone knows that you fuel your explosive space modulator with illudium Q-36. That's what gives it the ka-boom. The earth shattering ka-boom.
posted by three blind mice at 12:11 PM on November 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


I clicked on the NYT article. Am I doomed or is it just a scam?
posted by infini at 12:34 PM on November 19, 2015


Obviously, the authorities want you to think it's a scam, to deter you from obtaining it. This is all disinfo.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 12:39 PM on November 19, 2015


Maybe it's FOGBANK.
posted by doop at 12:41 PM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can't decide what makes me happier: that real terrorists are wasting real terror money on this, or that I myself have been duped into thinking that real terrorists are wasting real terror money on it, or that I'm even asking this question in the first place. I feel like I'm living in a P K Dick novel.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:49 PM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Totally the funniest scam I've ever heard of... but, I do know a guy that might have a connection to a small supply of pinkish lavender thorium, rather different properties and dangerous in a very different way. Do not expose to your straight friends.
posted by sammyo at 12:50 PM on November 19, 2015


But green mercury enhances sexual prowess. That's the stuff. It's funny how an urban legend about mysterious, terrible weapons was somehow transmuted into yet another way to get better boners.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:03 PM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you read the article and replace "Red Murcury" with "Freddie Mercury it makes more sense.

He's
Dynamite with a laser beam
Like an atom bomb about to oh oh oh oh oh explode
In your head. Like the CIA. Or the FBI

And he did warn us that The earth will shake in two will break. And death all around will be your dowry.

As to the sexual enhancement brought on by Freddie Mercury, I ...um...well. I have a few Queen concert videos.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:10 PM on November 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


Feh. It's got nothing on quadium.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:16 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nah, just a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts.

What kind of atomic scientist drives a DeLorean? It's a dead giveaway.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:29 PM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


My mom bought a red Mercury in 1982. Decent mileage but it burned oil like crazy.
posted by Ratio at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


Mercuric oxide (Mercury(II) oxide) is a reddish powder but it's only good for making mercury (and releasing oxygen). No earth-shattering kaboom, sorry.
posted by tommasz at 2:02 PM on November 19, 2015


Their myths will keep them powerless.

On top of the brutality, one of the ways Saddam Hussein maintained power in his country was a widespread belief that he was literally a wizard.

"It's all true about the magic stone," says car dealer Mokhaled Mohammed, sitting in a cafe on Baghdad's upmarket Arasat Street. "First of all, he put it on a chicken and tried to shoot it. Then he put it on a cow, and the bullets went around it."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:17 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Red Mercury = Highly kaboomable.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is probably my favorite myth. It has such an alchemical ring to it.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:49 PM on November 19, 2015


Yeah, why not just call it orichalcum and admit we live in the Shadowrun universe?
posted by um at 3:42 PM on November 19, 2015


These rumors have been circulating for years, once driving prices for old sewing machines as high as $50,000 in Saudi Arabia, according to a 2009 Reuters report. Often the most-sought-after machines were the Singer brand — which, considering that Singer was an American manufacturer, did not quite align with the Soviet fable.

I used to work next door to a sewing machine shop, they had an old Singer on display with an outrageous price tag (not quite $50,000). So I asked, why does this one cost so much? They explained that Singer had a factory in Tsarist Russia, and platinum was cheaper than chromium at the time, so that sewing machine had about a couple pounds of platinum in it.
posted by peeedro at 3:50 PM on November 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's hard to think of the silvery liquid being red but the most common ore of mercury is cinnabar (mercuric sulfide). The red pigment vermilion is a purified form of mercuric sulfide and has been known for thousands of years.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:53 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's actually octarine mercury that you need to be worried about, but that unless you're the eighth son of an eighth son you can't really tell the difference.
posted by ckape at 3:54 PM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Coincidence?
posted by Mchelly at 4:27 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's FOGBANK.

And somewhere a guy in a suit with mirrored sunglasses and a grim face speaks into a cell phone, "It's spelled doop. Delta, Oscar..."
posted by ctmf at 5:08 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


See: Holy Grail.

"He chose ... poorly."
posted by Twang at 5:58 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Their myths will keep them powerless.

um so look maybe you haven't read the news this week but I have some spectacularly bad news
posted by mhoye at 6:50 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is an actual secret Hydrogen bomb making ingredient called "FOGBANK" that is essential to the US hydrogen bomb design. There was a mini-scandal in 2007-2009 when it was discovered that we had temporarily lost the ability to make it and as a result the scheduled refurbishment necessary to maintain our stockpile was put on hold.
posted by humanfont at 6:56 PM on November 19, 2015


I think it's more that if you stick to science and the other lot doesn't, you will prevail. That's a long-term strategy and won't prevent short-term setbacks, but basically it's played out well so far.

You do have to stick with the science, mind.
posted by Devonian at 6:57 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


In WW2 enriched Uranium was "copper" and plutonium was "tube alloy." After the war when they started to make fusion-boosted bombs and later Teller-Ulam H-bombs, the key material was a chemical made of two isotpically enriched elements. It's lithium-6 deuteride. The lithium-6 fissions into two tritiums which can then undergo D-T fusion with the deuteriums releasing far more energy than was necessary to fission the LI-6. This was the mechanism that drove Castle Bravo; the first experimental hydrogen bomb, Mike, required cryogenic dewars for its liquid hydrogen fuel and was much less practical for weaponization. Although they were making preparations to try for that when Castle Bravo made them unnecessary.

Red Mercury is lithium-6 deuteride.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:24 PM on November 19, 2015


The details are highly classified... but anti-mercury (mercury made of anti-matter)might be red

or I might have just made that up
posted by MikeWarot at 7:35 PM on November 19, 2015


um so look maybe you haven't read the news this week but I have some spectacularly bad news

You thought that was a show of strength?

If so, I have some spectacularly bad news for you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:33 AM on November 20, 2015


If you aren't very scientifically literate your could read about dimethyl mercury and easily believe other compounds were equally dangerous. I think it is interesting that the Snowden files showed the intelligence community poo-pooing red mercury, I guess because it is a genuine suburban myth, rather than some piece of security apparatus disinformation.
posted by bystander at 5:10 AM on November 21, 2015


Red Mercury is code for the use of Special Biological Assets (SBA) by the SIS offshoot Edom. Russia developed the UV Laser on the 1K17 "Szhatie" system specifically to stop our SBA after the 1977 mole hunt that went disastrously wrong. The ZSU-23-4 based "Sangvin" doesn't even pretend to hide the reason it was created...

/Dracula Unredacted hat on
posted by longbaugh at 5:25 AM on November 21, 2015


I wonder if the Singer thing doesn't have something to do with the Red Eye design that some classic Singers have, see here. Having this design does indeed up the cost of a vintage machine-- but we're talking an increase c. 100$ or so.
posted by nat at 4:45 PM on November 21, 2015


The Red Mercury Myth, a podcast from Arms Control Wonk Jeffery Lewis and Michael Moore (not that one) on the Campaign Against Red Mercury
In the Landmines in Africa blog I have written on several occasions about people killed and injured in the attempt to extract red mercury from landmines and other explosive devices. However, red mercury DOES NOT EXIST and many innocent bystanders have suffered grievous injuries as a result of this hoax. This blog and campaign seeks to clear up the myths about red mercury and develop awareness materials specific to those would pursue red mercury.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:34 AM on December 4, 2015


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