Today in Mad Science news...

The Cyclotron Comes to the 'Hood

Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home.

But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard.

Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.

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22 Responses:

  1. jarodrussell says:

    My favorite quote is, "We don't need cyclotrons operating out of back alleys, or in someone's garage." I just have this image of a guy, in a tranchcoat, whispering to kids walking home from school...

    "Pssst. Hey, kid, want to buy some radium?"

    "No, sir! My mom told me never to accept radio-active isotopes from strangers."

  2. dcdan says:

    This is no different than having a gun owner or a smoker next door.

  3. strspn says:

    The problem isn't too many particle accelerators; in fact, there are too few.

  4. usufructer says:

    Dang. If they fight against a cyclotron in Alaska, I probably shouldn't let my neighbors know that I'm collecting parts for a Farnsworth Fusor.

    • riffraff says:

      an extended google search and some slack-jawed browsing later, and i am amazed by what the establishment suppressed.

      i want my daughter to build a fusor for her high school science project in 2022... that's doable, eh?

      • usufructer says:

        Yeah, that'd be no problem. It might be harder by then to buy deuterium, if someone uses it for something nefarious, but all the other bits are off the shelf or custom made.

  5. korgmeister says:

    Aww, but it was OK when Michio Kaku did it!

  6. abates says:

    Well, that leaves me with my portal to the Hell dimension, crazed supercomputer bent on destroying the world, and the Cyberdemon I have chained up in my back yard. At least until they ban those as well. Tsk.

  7. kathrynt says:

    People are just freaked out at the name. Cyclotrons are really safe, I grew up around them.

  8. ivan_ghandhi says:

    Oh... they have similar problems in Dawson city, Yukon, Canada. People dig gold mines in their backyards in "residential neighborhood"; and the Canadian Mining Law is too soft to prevent this.

  9. pnambic says:

    "I kid you not. Thirty years ago it cost ten billion ecus and a machine thirty kilometres in diameter. Today a bunch of teenagers spend maybe a couple of thousand ecus, build a Rube Goldberg contraption three metres long, and achieve a hundred times the peak energy."

  10. auntyglory says:

    I know where there is one in Manhattan

    • hadlock says:

      Too laxy to find the original article, but the one you linked to is the cliff notes version; the original is close to 10 pages long. It also details things well enough you could probably process your own weapons grade uranium ore.

    • conradkilroy says:

      A few years back, Susanna Speier wrote a "string-theory comedy" in which New York subway workers try to build a particle accelerator in abandoned subway tunnels, called Calabi-Yau.

      I've always wanted to see it.

    • strspn says:

      In case you're wondering whatever became of nuclear boy scout David Hahn, well, um, see ... for ... yourself. Are the paranoid delusions a cause or an effect of being around so many heavy metal radionuclides?

  11. taffer says:

    Do you have any idea how expensive it is to build a secret underground lair in permafrost?!

  12. fgmr says:

    Someday I'd like to build a radiofrequency quadrupole linear accelerator ("RFQ") in my garage, just because they have such an amazingly elegant design.