Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nuclear Bomb Detector

Via Slashdot, I have heard today that a teenaged engineer has produced a machine that can detect the presence of nuclear bombs. The most surprising thing is that it does so with a fusion reactor. Wait, what?
Apparently this young engineer has been producing fusion reactors for the past three years (although apparently not energy efficient -- more energy is required to contain it than it produces), and they produce neutrinos. Neutrinos are very very small particles. So small, in fact, that when dropped, they can pass through the entire earth without hitting anything, slipping through the tiny space between the nucleus of an atom and the electron shells. His previous fusion reactors discarded the neutrinos as waste.
However, this young engineer also noted that radioactive atoms are unstable, and often disturbed by neutrinos. This makes them far more likely to decay and put out radiation. So he's set up a scanner that detects radiation before and after flooding the cargo container with neutrinos, and noting what type of radiation was produced. If it matches the profile of uranium or plutonium decay, then it's 99% certain that an atom bomb has been concealed in the container.
Before this discovery, the search for smuggled atomic bombs was done by manually searching the containers. This had the minor disadvantage that very few containers actually got searched. Genius.
Our excellent engineer, who has more than four times my intelligence at half my age, expresses an interest in getting a PhD in Nuclear chemistry, and doing government work.

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