Thursday, August 4, 2011

Swedish Man Caught Trying To Split Atoms At Home


Aug 3, 11:33 AM EDT


        A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby.

        Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

       The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.
Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden's Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

       "I have always been interested in physics and chemistry," Handl said, adding he just wanted to "see if it's possible to split atoms at home."

        The police raid took place in late July, but police have refused to comment. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison.

        Although he says police didn't detect dangerous levels of radiation in his apartment, he now acknowledges the project wasn't such a good idea.

        "From now on, I will stick to the theory," he said.

NOTE:  This is indeed odd and unnerving -- almost as much so as learning today that my daughter is currently embarked on a 6-day canoe trip on the Allagash in Maine, something that was forced on me when I was her age.  I trust she'll do much, much better than I did (I was an absolutely miserable camper), although I have recently regained my affection for the Maine woods, lakes and rivers and would consider spending A LOT more time up there. As for Richard Handl, I give him high points for originality and nerve and am grateful that he did not blow up our friends, the Shaw family, who are currently on vacation in Sweden.


  1. "Small meltdown on the stove -- we have plenty of those!" exclaimed one interested reader.

    However ours are never the product of great prowess in the areas of physics, thermodynamics & c.

    By the by -- "only doing it as a hobby" was also the alibi of this rather clever cat.

  2. The "cat with the app" now stands alongside P.G. Wodehouse's "cat in the adage" in my imagination. I can't wait to show Caroline. Years ago we owned a cat toy called the Gommelgrabber, which was a hollow circular blue container that had a fitted blue covering with a small circular opening in the center. There was a small white ball (like a ping-pong ball) you would send traveling around the edge and the cat would follow it with eyes and paws until the ball fell through. Our cat U became obsessed with it and actually injured her paw through over-exertion trying to recapture the ball. Much better from a cat safety point of view was our cat Santa who, using colored sponge golf ball-looking items devised a sort of one-cat soccer game in the long hallway of our railroad apartment. The best part was when he would take the sponge ball in his mouth and put the ball in play by knocking it free with his paw. I am glad the Shaws survived Richard Handl's experiment. First Norway, now this. I read a report this morning saying that Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto contains all sorts of coded information regarding further attacks, etc. I think I'll stay inside today. It's been a rough week for everybody. Curtis

  3. Curtis, you can say that again.

    Our generations of cats have usually preferred living animals (small ones naturally) as toys, and when those were not at hand, simulated animals, preferably those fur mice spiced with catnip. The way of it is usually a proffering of great animated affection upon the toy, followed by a patient application of feline "play-cruelty" -- systematically tearing off the ears, eyes, tail & c.

  4. I never knew about cats and mice until we left Manhattan and moved to Tuxedo. Then I learned a lot. (In Manhattan, cockroaches were the only "pest" issue.) Caroline grew up in the country and was way ahead of me. An annual event around here is the Christmas gift of bio-engineered super-catnip sent to us by a group we support called Farm Sanctuary. When they first started sending it, we thought it was amusing because it was so potent and the cats seemed to enjoy it, but now it tends to scare us. Like other "better living through chemistry" milestones, I guess cat cannabis cultivation has taken great leaps forward. Today we're taking our cat Eddie, a beautiful large and friendly feral, to the vet for his post-op (some tooth extractions) check-up. He's doing great. The only problem is that he's huge and needs to be put in a dog crate and I put my back out this morning, which clearly resulted from all the current political conniptions. I stay calm for my clients, but all the worry needs to go somewhere. It's a beautiful day in PA and I'm so pleased that Jane will be returning next week so that I can lavish attention on her and remind her that correspondence is two-way street. Curtis