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The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor
 
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The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor [Kindle Edition]

Ken Silverstein
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: CDN$ 13.99 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
This price was set by the publisher

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In the summer of 1995, a teenager in a Detroit suburb, a mediocre student with a relentless scientific curiosity, managed to build a rudimentary nuclear breeder reactor in a shed behind his mother's house, using radioactive elements obtained from items as ordinary as smoke detectors. He got so far along in his efforts that when the Feds finally caught up with him, the EPA used Superfund money (usually spent on the worst hazardous waste sites) to clean up the shed. Building on a Harper's article, Silverstein, an investigative reporter for the L.A. Times, fleshes out David Hahn's atomic escapades, and though it takes a while for the story to kick into gear, readers will be sucked in not just by how Hahn did it but how he was able to get away with it. His "pathologically oblivious" father comes in for the sharpest criticism, but Silverstein takes note of the teachers who failed to pick up on Hahn's cues (his friends called him "glow boy") and the Department of Energy official who offered crucial tips on creating a neutron gun. Silverstein also examines the pronuclear ideology Hahn picked up in the Boy Scouts (where he had earned an atomic energy merit badge) and dated government publications that touted nuclear power while glossing over setbacks in the troubled breeder reactor program. And though there's little mention of how easily terrorists could duplicate Hahn's feat, perhaps the accomplishment of one obsessed teen is scary enough in its own right.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–After his grandfather gave him a used copy of The Golden Book of Chemistry,David Hahn became obsessed with science and conducting his own experiments. As an Eagle Scout, he began work on the Atomic Energy badge by making a model of a nuclear reactor. Not satisfied with that, he set out to build a real one. He read voraciously and scavenged for materials, finding some of the items he needed in gas-lantern mantels and smoke detectors. By posing as a professor, he used the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to get much of the information that he needed. And in the summer after his junior year in high school, he nearly succeeded in building a reactor in the potting shed behind his house. He created a site so hazardous that it became an EPA's Superfund site. Silverstein writes in a light, easy-to-read style even as he explains the atomic theory behind Hahn's experiments. He sees the young man's dysfunctional family and his teachers' lack of time or interest in finding out more about "Glow Boy's" pursuits as the framework for Hahn's misguided conduct. Readers will have plenty to think about and discuss after reading this amazing tale of an adolescent loner's single-minded pursuit of a dangerous goal.–Jane S. Drabkin, Chinn Park Regional Library, Woodbridge, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The Library Wasted it's Money July 2 2004
Format:Hardcover
Apparently the author had some extra facts on the history of nuclear power, the boy scouts, and a human intrest story that he couldn't sell. So what is a person to do? Twist the facts, tell small lies, and put three seemingly unrelated stories together to make a bad book.
It is obvious that the author has had some bad experiences with nuclear power, becuase he takes at least 70 percent of the book to bad mouth america's cleanest and safest form of energy.
The title was inviting and the cover art is interesting, but the words and story are a waste of time and not nearly as controversial or interesting as he makes them sound.
I feel bad for the library wasting thier money on this, but I am sure glad I didn't waste mine.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story! June 29 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book was just amazing. I couldn't believe that this kid really built a reactor in his mothers shed. What was really amazing was that he was never charged with any crime. He, after all, put not only his life in danger but his parents and neighborhood and school. The EPA never pressed David to seek medical attention, they just suggested it to him. I just couldn't beleive that he never even received a slap on the hand for what he had done. The icing on the cake was that he joined the Navy and after boot camp was posted to the U.S.S. Enterprise which carries nuclear war heads. What a great country we live in! Never the less a good read that will blow your mind.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not related to Boy Scouts June 28 2004
By Cindy
Format:Hardcover
I really liked the story. Unfortunately, the author seemed very biased against the Boy Scouts. Linking the boy's activities to scouting activities was REALLY a stretch. Similarly, the author seems confused by the senior patrol leader position, camp position and Eagle projects...this leads me to wonder how accurate the rest of the information is...
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Author June 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The book itself is good, the story is fine, but the way is written is terriable and they author uses the word "hence" almost every 2 pages.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps a good magazine article... June 15 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The central story of "The Radioactive Boy Scout" would make for an interesting short story, but is too thin to have been turned in to a novel.
The historical background and mildly informative padding would not be so bad if weren't for the authors strong anti-nuclear power bias. Every incident was a "disaster" and every "nightmare" was "hushed up."
I cannot recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and Entertaining June 4 2004
By GF
Format:Hardcover
The book works on several levels. It's informative in detailing precisely how the boy obtained and used the materials in his nuclear experiments. As a human interest story, it shows once again how kids fall between the cracks when parents and teachers fail to pay close attention to them as individuals. And it both informs and entertains with its background history of the atomic age. I can see how the book might irritate nuclear power enthusiasts, but perhaps reading this cautionary tale will curb some of that enthusiasm.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading even with author bias June 4 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book is worth reading and is very informative. The only down side is the obvious negative bias the author has toward nuclear engery in general and the Boy Scouts in particular. The story of David Hahn is truly an amazing story of a young and gifted young man who is in a troubled family situation. He finds in science and chemistry a world of discovery that becomes an outlet of his hopes and dreams. His knowledge of chemistry and initative does protect lives when a chemical spill occurs in a retail skill. The author does capture the highly dangerous nature of what David is doing with nuclear chemistry, but misses a more significant point. Not only does David do what no other teenager has ever done, he does it with creativity, persistence and faith in a higher good. While David does make errors in judgement in his quest for a breeder reactor, in the end he stops the experiment and dismantles the nuclear apparatus when he realizes that the reaction might be going out of control and is a risk to the community. Those values are just as much the governing principals of scouting as the emphasis that scouting places on self-reliance which is also demonstrated by David.
Read the book, but keep in mind that the author Silverstein has his own set of biases as he describes a truly amazing and unique story of a young man's journey to adulthood through his backyard lab.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Where is Golf Manor, MI????? May 31 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I'm from suburban Detroit and had never heard of this story. (Maybe we were on vacation at the time.) I was not aware of it until a review of the book in DISCOVER this month. And I cannot find any place called "Golf Manor, MI". Is this a pseudonym? I'd like to know the name of the real city in which it happened. Mapquest shows the only cities by this name as being in Ohio and New Jersey. What is going on?
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