October 17th, 2004


(no subject)

The Radioactive Boy Scout, by Ken Silverstein, is one hell of a story. I found the book through Quality Paperback Books, and read it practically straight through this weekend. It isn't long, it's easy to read, and it boggles the mind.

Somewhat ordinary boy David Hahn attempts to build a breeder reactor in his backyard potting shed. He was so successful that the EPA designated it a superfund site and cleaned it up and hauled it all away to a special waste site in the desert. The tale is about more than the experiment. It is mostly about David, about how he grew up, what he did, why. It tries to explain why this boy did this all on his own, why he had no mentor and no supervision and how, in spite of having two sets of parents, nobody knew what he was doing.

It remains to be seen if he makes anything of this extraordinary gift, this obsession with chemistry and nuclear physics. Oddly, although David was rarely to be seen without a book, outside the shed, he virtually ignored all other studies and can't spell, obtained mediocre grades, and doesn't seem to have the drive to study anything other than chemistry. ANd even that study is affected by his unwillingness to approach it methodically and safely.

Fascinating book. It ate my weekend.