Thursday, September 10, 2015

How I became a Mad Scientist --episode 18




“I’m not getting involved in this at all,” Frank said. “I’m going home. Call me when you’ve come to your senses.”

“Fine, go,” I said. “I don’t need a super genius to help me. I’ve got internet access.” 

My first problem was going to be collecting the materials for my project. I could buy uranium ore and a Geiger counter off the internet, but I’d also need Americium, thorium, lithium, and radium. I wouldn’t be able to afford enough for even a small reaction, and I didn’t want to break any laws.

I decided to organize a recycling campaign. I wrote up a few press releases and made some posters.

“Local scout to collect smoke detectors for recycling project,” the article in the paper read. I told them the proceeds from my project would go to support local education. Which they would – a nuclear reactor would be really educational for my teachers and classmates.

The day after my recycling campaign started, Frank showed up at my house. “Oh,” I said as I let him into the living room, “You’re finally going to help me, huh?”

“No, I’m warning you again. Didn’t you ever hear about the “Radioactive Boy Scout?”  The EPA had to come in and bulldoze his house and encase everything in lead. He contaminated a whole neighborhood. Do you want to turn Tell City into a post-nuclear wasteland?”

I shook my head, “Frank,” I said. “I think homeschooling has fried your brain. Everything will be fine. I’m only going for a small reaction. And I won’t even start it before the science fair. That way, it won’t have time to get out of hand before I end it.”

He scowled. “If you don’t give this up before the science fair, I’m telling the FBI,” he said quietly.

“You wouldn’t do that. If you go tattling, they’ll find out that you’ve been breaking your parole.”
“There are worse things than juvenile detention, George. I’m not about to let them happen to you.” 
 He stomped out of the house and slammed the door behind him.

I shrugged and when back to work. I’d borrowed some sulfuric acid from the chemistry lab, and was using it to purify my ore. The problem was that the process released all sorts of fumes, so I had to do it outside. Still, if all went well, I’d have a miniscule bit of actual uranium when I was done. I took careful notes, of course. 50% of our science fair grade was a notebook grade. I’d still fail the class if I didn’t keep good records.

You see, I really was just trying to spice up the science fair a bit and save my grade. Frank had no right to complain. After all, he’s the one who thought the proper response to a scary story was to create a monster. I was perfectly rational compared to him.

By the end of the week, I had plenty of supplies. I’d collected about 50 smoke detectors, so I had plenty of Americium for my project. I ran down to the antique store and bought a lead box. It was pretty heavy, and I figured that I could set up my reaction inside of it to keep the radiation under control. I was being totally safety conscious. Nothing was going to go wrong. 

My plan was simple. I’d start a chain reaction in the uranium, and show how it generated heat. I’d use the heat to boil water and make steam, then use the steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity. It would be safe, too, since I didn’t have enough uranium to trigger a meltdown.

I decided to do a test run of the project on the day before the science fair. I’d make a neutron gun, aim it at the uranium, and record the difference in radiation using a Geiger counter and the difference in heat with a thermometer. I’d have my own miniature nuclear power plant. Nothing could stop me now.

Next Episode.

1 comment:

Anna said...

“Radioactive Boy Scout?” >> 'Radioactive Boy Scout?' [single quotes inside regular quotes]

I shook my head. “Frank,” I said. [comma to period]

"There are worse things than juvenile .... [This paragraph doesn't seem to have the same spacing before it as the others do, but that might just be how blogger is rendering it.]

sulfuric acid from the chemistry lab, and was using >> sulfuric acid from the chemistry lab and was using