September 22, 2002
4:46 AM   Subscribe

The High Energy Weapons Archive and lance missile, both fairly dense sites.
Don't miss the interview with Sam Cohen where he mentions the existence of Red Mercury.
posted by hama7 (20 comments total)
Weapons bring destruction. Take innocent lives :(
posted by jayantk at 5:15 AM on September 22, 2002

Yes, they have the power to wipe out the human that such a bad thing?
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:40 AM on September 22, 2002

It's gotta be HERF or nothin'.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:50 AM on September 22, 2002

well, spacecadet, if that includes me then yes, i do think it a bad thing.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:21 AM on September 22, 2002

Red Mercury, eh? Well that's cheered me up.
posted by Joeforking at 6:29 AM on September 22, 2002

It' s just one damn thing after another.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:59 AM on September 22, 2002

Red Mercury used to be a big issue here in South Africa as people thought some SA weapons dealers had a hand in producing/acquiring/doing something with it. However it's been kinda forgotten as no one could ever seem to find a sample of the stuff or produce a model of a bomb that used it or explain why it worked. Does it exist? All the reports I saw on TV lead to the conclusion that it was nothing more than a terrorists wet dream.
posted by PenDevil at 8:02 AM on September 22, 2002

Russia planned the WTC attack?

Putey-poo would never do such a thing.
posted by Mick at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2002

Well, amongst all the other stories on that site of shape-shifting UFO's, Nessie carcasses, and Pyramid conspiracies, the Red Mercury story is only the beginning! ;)
posted by reality at 9:24 AM on September 22, 2002

here's what i found on red mercury.
posted by christian at 1:34 PM on September 22, 2002

What really spooks me at this point is that Dubya (and his uberlord Big Dick Cheney) might have seen Deterrence. It's not as horrid a movie as everyone says (as you would expect, most critics completely missed the point), I just don't want it to be used as foreign policy.

You dropped a bomb on me! Baby! You dropped a bomb on me!

(For everyone that says it couldn't happen, I must point out that we had a D-level movie actor running the U.S. for eight years at the height of the Cold War.)
posted by mark13 at 2:32 PM on September 22, 2002

Deterrence looks like a good film. The premise is similair to the situation Truman was in when he droped the bomb. Not being in a snow storm (although metaphorically WWII) but being non-presidential material, brought to office under unusual conditions and not very popular.
posted by stbalbach at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2002

Be afraid.

Nature magazine has published several papers on Red Mercury - although it's never called that. Red Mercury is a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) - hyper dense matter that is created by super-cooling a vapor (like mercury oxide) to near absolute zero. It's more dense than plutonium by several orders of magnitude and isn't radioactive. And worst of all, mercury vapor is used to make street lamps - anyone can buy it.
posted by Zombie at 10:47 PM on September 22, 2002

and it will kill your kids in their sleep, and it deletes all the data on your harddrive just by being near it.

come on, people. it's a hoax. we've seen them before. let's move along now.
posted by christian at 3:17 AM on September 23, 2002

come on, people. it's a hoax.

I don't think it's a hoax, and neither does an expert in the field, and niether does Zombie above, who knows much more about the dynamics and details than I do.

I think that a softball-sized explosive that can do as much damage as a conventional nuclear warhead, and can be made with available materials, is something to be extremely concerned about.

I'd hate to see proof that this thing exists, but honestly it's not exactly the Loch Ness Monster.

Ask Sam Cohen.
posted by hama7 at 3:55 AM on September 23, 2002

The claimed amount of Red Mercury needed (probably kilograms of the stuff), is much much (by orders of magnitude?) greater than the amount of matter that can be kept at close to absolute zero at a time (as Zombie claims it needs to be). The size of the equipment needed just to keep it at at this temp would be HUGE probably far bigger than the biggest nuclear bombs ever made. Softball sized? Hardly.

And I am not a physicist but I thought that Bose Einstein Condensate matter has the property that the clump of matter acts as in unison as if it were just one atom of the substance, so the density of the matter would not change at all. Also BECs have to be trapped with lasers (again only small quantities of the stuff can be made at a time due to this) and only in laboratories with specialised equipment. From this article, only specific bosons of atoms (the most popular being helium, sodium, rubidium, and hydrogen) are used and not all material works. It also mentions the biggest application of BEC will be superfluids and using it to slow photons down.All articles I looked at on BEC do not mention any kind of nuclear or explosive property.

Red Mercury will remain pretty much a fantasy until any (and so far there has been none) evidence surfaces about it's existence.
posted by PenDevil at 5:01 AM on September 23, 2002

agreed, PenDevil. My roomate, who happens to actually be a physicist, actually laughed at me when I brought Red Mercury up.

And, Sam Cohen, if you do a bit of research, isn't exactly the most non-conspiracy-theory guy alive.

He's credited with "inventing the neutron bomb", but every atomic bomb is, at it's core, a neutron bomb. So he didn't exactly invent it, he just left some extra pieces off and called it a day.

There's *never* been *any* proof of Red Mercury. And all the theories behind how it works have been debunked by smart people who have way more time than me to come up with equations why.

So in conclusion: I'm not concerned about Red Mercury. No more than I'm concerned about waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a note that says "call 911, we have your kidneys".
posted by christian at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2002

BEC's are condensed by laser cooling, but metallic oxide BECs can be kept cold by magnetic containment. Theoretically, you can condense mercury vapor in a BEC Liebig-like condenser and collect the condensate in a "magnetic thermos".

Look, I can't make a BEC condenser column, but it doesn't mean that Evil Inc. doesn't have a Nature subscription and the ability to mill a ceramic magnet the size of barrel.

I'm not worried about a suitcase bomb. I'm worried about a CONNEX sized bomb.
posted by Zombie at 9:32 PM on September 23, 2002

One other thing - Pendevil didn't quite get it right. BECs behave like a single atom but are made up of, yes, orders of magnitude more mercury atoms per cubic centimter than the vapor. That's the danger. BECs are hyper dense matter. Hundreds of thousands times more dense than plutonium or uranium.

Red Mercury is probably a hoax, but BECs are real.
posted by Zombie at 9:45 PM on September 23, 2002

I do not dispute that BEC's exist, but I just have never ever seen them described as being super any nuclear properties.

They always seem to be described as made up of gasses (usually the elements I've mentioned above). In fact I'm not sure whether molecules or compunds (such as Mercury Oxide) can be condensed. All the literature I've read has formed BEC out of bosons of a single element type. If you have any links to BEC formed out of molecules or compounds I'd like to check it out.

This article article(PDF Format) by Wolfgang Kettrle (one of the people who first managed to create a BEC) does not mention it having any kind of explosive property. Indeed the only two areas of use (and where research is heading) he mentions are superfluids (mentioned above) and as "atom lasers".

To make a nuclear bomb you have to pump a lot of energy into the system. For instance an implosion fission device needs plutonium to be compressed under high pressure and temperature, and a hydrogen bomb uses a fission device as a trigger to generate intense temperatures where fusion will occur. These all lie right on the opposite ends of the temperature scale of the nano-Kelvin temperatures needed for a BEC to occur.

Also I might be wrong here but I understood that density does not determine whether a material is suitable for a nuclear device but rather the rate at which it fissions (ie it's radioactivity). Although dense elements (like Plutonium, Uranium) tend to be more radioactive natuarally they are not always so. Hence we had to wait until we were able to produce radioactive isotopes of Uranium and Plutonium to produce nuclear devices and not just use the much more common (but only slightly less dense) Lead (which is extremely stable in spite of it's density).

While I have absolutely no doubt BEC exist I just don't believe they have any kind of nuclear property that can be exploited for use as some kind of bomb. If you have any literature showing any type of nuclear bomb type properties please post it so I can check it out.
posted by PenDevil at 2:34 AM on September 24, 2002

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