Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Atoms splitting and such

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you want to split the atom. You've determined that you've had enough of the drudgery of your day job (whatever that might be), and you want to be one of the few famous geniuses that can split the atom. Perhaps you want to make a bomb (that is the example I will use), or perhaps you want to own a nuclear power plant. Thus fulfilling your lifelong dream to emulate Monty Burns from the Simpsons. Both of these goals, in their own way, are fine goals, and they are going to take a lot of work to achieve.

But, you're a hard worker, the best in fact just let anyone ask you, and you will tell them how much more work you do than the average worker bee in your hive.  However, there are a few important steps you are going to have to take before you build your bomb, and show the world how pure your genius is.  One you are going to HAVE to get your hands on the raw material(s). You have that understanding that you want to produce a nuclear bomb, designed to release all of its energy at once, as opposed to a nuclear reactor that is designed to create a steady source of nuclear power. That is a good solid first step, it will help you understand what it is you will require.

And what you are first going to require depends on a very important question. Do you want to use the 'gun' method of setting off your device, or would you like to try the fancy way, and use the implosion method. If you choose the former then your starting material choices are a bit more flexible. You can use Uranium 233, Uranium 235, Plutonium 239, or more rarely Neptunium 237. If you decide to build the gun method then you HAVE to acquire some Uranium, for reasons that I don't really understand, but have on good authority, Plutonium can not be practically used in this method. Either way these types of raw materials aren't just laying about for some unrecognized genius like yourself just to scoop up like ice cream from your local Ben and Jerry's. No, sad to say, this shit is regulated quite strictly and that just doesn't seem fair to you.  Also, you are going to have to obtain quite a large chunk of high explosives, something like TNT for example. This might be somewhat easier to obtain, but you're going to need lots of the shit, because you are going to need to make an explosion big enough that forces your nuclear material to go 'critical'.

And critical is important because if you cannot get the density of your raw nuclear material to increase in density by a factor of between two and four, then you've wasted a lot of time, and are probably going to be in prison for a very long time. Since you've probably had to either buy, at some very high price, that Plutonium or Uranium from some Libyans, or you nicked it from your local nuclear power plant whilst no one was looking. Both of those scenarios are really quite unlikely, and therein lies the rub. The one fundamental problem with this idea brilliant idea of yours. You're not a fucking country like France, you don't have easy, or any, access to fucking Plutonium, and you're not ever in your life going to come within stealing distance of either Plutonium, Uranium, or that much TNT.  Even if, heaven forbid, you did. You're also not a nuclear scientist you are not Robert Oppenheimer, and your degree in some social science did not provide you the correct background in the field of splitting the goddamn atom.

Hopefully by now, if you have any sense whatsoever, you've come to realize that maybe, just maybe atom splitting is something you either need to leave to the professionals, or start the long, arduous trek that will lead you to becoming a professional atom splitter yourself. After all, you're a bright lad/lass and if you put your mind to it, and borrow about a million dollars in student loans to finance the gazillion years of schooling you will need, you too can, if you are lucky, smart, and good enough split your very first atom. I suspect that it must be a very wonderful feeling, like touching the face of the Mona Lisa, or some other great human accomplishment, but I wouldn't know after all I haven't yet split the atom, nor do I have any plans to try.

That shouldn't stop you from your stated goal, and if you get all those materials and all that knowledge maybe some nice country like North Korea will offer you a well paying job as the head of their rogue nuclear programs. A boy or girl can dream can't they?  Just remember it is a marathon not a sprint, like most things in life, and it probably not going to come in 6 months or even 2 years for that matter. But things worth having are worth waiting for aren't they?  Remember that old saying about putting the cart in front of the horse, or the other one about learning to crawl before you walk. Well those type of saying exist for a reason because if you lack a fundamental item, say Plutonium, or fundamental knowledge,(like you think that neutrons involve some sort of dance) then maybe, just maybe you need to go back to the basics. Those fundamentals that we all hate, but find necessary to accomplish our day to day tasks. You are not the Michael Jordan of nuclear fission (of fusion for that matter), and it might behoove you to try being a bit humble, and a bit of a team player. Of course team playing has it own pitfalls, and those can sometimes leave behind large mushroom clouds than the nuclear bomb you so desperately want to build. Sometimes it doing the small things that count, you master those, and then you can lay waste to all the cities you choose. Good luck, you are going to need it. 

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