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5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT BOOK ABOUT VERY INVENTIVE TEENAGER
David Hahn who has grown up in the suburbs of detroit for all of his childhood and teenage years.From the time he was about 4 years old he had a fascination with mixing things and expermintation which was on going process as he grew up with his parents buying remote control anything chemistry sets and the such and his desire not to play with some of these things but to...
Published on March 18 2004 by T. A Kelley

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3.0 out of 5 stars Being left out of the equation.
This book was quite scary. And it wasn't even fiction, which made it all the more frightening. (I also found it equally as frightening that at least two of the previous reviewers spelled "Manhattan" incorrectly as "Manhatten." It's called a dictionary. Look into it.)
In addition to hearing about how seemingly easy it was for David Hahn, the...
Published on April 6 2004 by Kevin T. McGuinness


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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading even with author bias, June 4 2004
By 
Stevan Davidovich (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (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 Caveat Emptor, May 28 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
After reading a positive review of "The Radioactive Boy Scout," I bought a copy without first scanning a few pages. Such a blind purchase is against my usual practice, because I have learned how overhyped many new books are. I found the book well-nigh unreadable because it is so poorly written and edited. It reads like breathless pulp fiction and is written at about that level of intellect. It contains numerous grammatical and other writing errors; they made me wince throughout the book. Moreover, the author seems to have had little real information about and even less understanding of the people involved. His analyses of them and the setting of the events are simplistic and cliched: the awfulness of the suburbs, the challenges to children of divorce, that sort of thing. (Do you think that the impressions of your high school teachers would help readers understand you?) The timeline is unintelligible, with a muddle of the concepts and events of more than five decades.
The book is described as having arisen from the idea of a publisher's editor, who contacted the author for an expansion after reading his initial article about the Boy Scout. That probably explains to a great extent why the book is so padded with pat recitations of the history of the nuclear age. I suspect that the review I read was prompted only by the reviewer's politics, which is unprofessional and unfair to readers.
All in all, the product seems to reflect little but laziness. That's a shame because an insightful and careful analysis of the case might have been a good contribution to the literature of the nuclear debate.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Being left out of the equation., April 6 2004
By 
Kevin T. McGuinness (Virginia, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
This book was quite scary. And it wasn't even fiction, which made it all the more frightening. (I also found it equally as frightening that at least two of the previous reviewers spelled "Manhattan" incorrectly as "Manhatten." It's called a dictionary. Look into it.)
In addition to hearing about how seemingly easy it was for David Hahn, the radioactive boy scout described in the title, to obtain radioactive materials from regular, nonrestricted products, I was just as surprised and shocked to hear about some of the other, larger nuclear accidents of the past few decades, some of them not well publicized.
While I was aware of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and some of the others, there were incidents from the 1960s such as the British Windscale plant and the breeder reactor around Detroit, which I'd never heard of.
(While the author is at it, he might look at Brookhaven National Labs in NY. Given the cancer clusters in the areas around it, I'm sure there's a book there too.)
I did see that the main story of David Hahn didn't take up a huge amount of space and that there was some padding with other, related material. However, I don't think that diminishes the impact of the story. The lesson here is that while nuclear planners have strategies for regulated, large-scale nuclear accidents, small-scale efforts by individuals seem to have been left out of the equation entirely.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Atom is Our Friend, March 28 2004
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
There's something not quite serious about The Radioactive Boy Scout. The book jacket has a cartoonish design and each page has a little atomic symbol by the page number. It's a small book, almost like a children's reader. It seemed to me as if it would be a quick, fun read.
Well, it was quick, all right. Author Ken Silverstein originally wrote this as an article for Harper's Magazine, according to the blurb. The article has been padded with several chapters on nuclear power, chemistry, and the history of the Boy Scouts. But The Radioactive Boy Scout is hardly a cartoon or a fun little story.
Although this is a story about how one teenager nearly built a nuclear reactor in his back yard, Silverstein wants us to know it is more than that. He emphasizes how David Hahn, the teenager, was neglected by his parents and not taken seriously by his teachers. If only someone had taken the time to take this boy under his wing, perhaps a near-disaster could have been averted. Certainly, the fact that there was no disaster takes the edge off the story, but unfortunately, we already know what can happen when teenagers don't get the attention they need.
I enjoyed the main story as well as the chapters on science and the Boy Scouts. Silverstein describes how radium-based products were sold in the early 20th century as tonics, lotions, and even suppositories, to improve one's health. He recalls filmstrips (remember?) and pamphlets that cheerfully told us to "duck and cover" in the event of a nuclear explosion. He uses a hilarious passage from P.G. Wodehouse to illustrate a common view of the Boy Scouts in their early days.
Although I share most of Silverstein's opinions on federal government, the nuclear power industry, the Boy Scouts, and inattentive parents, I think the story would have been more effective if he had left his editorial comments out. Describing David's father as "pathologically oblivious" is unnecessary. True, but unnecessary.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and also frightening story, March 23 2004
By 
Kurt A. Johnson (North-Central Illinois, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
August 31, 1994, Clinton Township, Michigan police searched the trunk of a teenager's car expecting to find stolen tires. Instead, what they found was a lot of chemicals and powders and equipment that the teenager warned them was radioactive. In the ensuing investigation, American authorities quickly learned that the young man, David Hahn, was building his own nuclear breeder reactor for a Boy Scouts badge! In this remarkable story, author and journalist Ken Silverstein follows the life of Mr. Hahn, from his birth, through his mother's descent into mental illness, his parents' divorce, and his own monomania for investigating nuclear power.
This is quite a fascinating story. The author paints a gripping and also frightening story of a young man who is willing to break any rules to acquire the tools to make his own reactor, and just how close he came to doing so. I must admit to being absolutely amazed at what that young man accomplished!
On the down side, the author does leaven his story with a good deal of editorializing. He has many, many axes to grind (he dislikes nuclear power, Disney Corporation, right-wingers, "technological truimphalism" and most of all the Boy Scouts), and he uses this book as a convenient grindstone. But, on the up side, he does use the Notes section at the end of the book to clarify that much of this story is derived from David Hahn himself, and that he is not an entirely reliable source.
So, let me just say that I found this to be a great book, a gripping read, and a sadly cautionary tale. I highly recommend this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Radioactive Boy Scout, March 20 2004
By 
Nichol Draper (West Jordan, UT) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
I recently purchased a copy of "The Radioactive Boy Scout." I had read a Ken Silverstein's article in "Reader's Digest" about this teenager who created a nuclear reactor in his backyard shed. Having taken a few physics classes in college I was interested to learn more about this teenager. I grew up in Silicone Valley and attended high school in the early eighties. I had a friend who performed many of these same experiments. Our science fairs prizes were sometimes awarded to youth who had created electron microscopes or other endeavors, which to the uninitiated would seem beyond the abilities of a teenager.
Unfortunately Ken Silverstein not only falls into the category of the uninitiated but his writing is repetitive, his views are stereotypical and his book is an embarrassment to the anti-nuclear movement. Not only is he ignorant of the level of science experiments that are presented in high school science fairs, he has such a stereotypical view of scientists that he continually refers to David as a geek. Ken is truly surprised that David is not an ugly boy with thick glasses. It is clear that Ken has sophomoric view of the world.
Ken quotes a 2001 report from the International Energy Agency, "Nuclear power is currently being abandoned globally." It may have been abandoned by the western world, but both India and Pakistan have demonstrated bombs in the last decade. North Korea is rumored to be very close. Rather that providing a comparison with the bomb programs in Pakistan, India or North Korea, Ken spends a chapter in his book lamenting the fact that the founder of the Boy Scouts encouraged boys not to masturbate.
Realize that a boy in Detroit without the encouragement of his parents and living in a country that closely monitors radioactive material was able to enrich small quantites of highly dangerous material. There is an important story here, but the book the "Radioactive Boy Scout" is not it.
The book the "Radioactive Boy Scout" is short and tedious. If you read his article, you have already read the interesting parts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT BOOK ABOUT VERY INVENTIVE TEENAGER, March 18 2004
By 
T. A Kelley "kelleyt" (pueblo, colorado United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
David Hahn who has grown up in the suburbs of detroit for all of his childhood and teenage years.From the time he was about 4 years old he had a fascination with mixing things and expermintation which was on going process as he grew up with his parents buying remote control anything chemistry sets and the such and his desire not to play with some of these things but to take them apart and make other things.I think is desire was fed also from the fact he did not get much support from the family yes his mother loved him to death but she was dealing with mental problems and alcoholism,and his father who divorced his mother and married again into another family that left david feeling left out and seems he found at least some comfort in his voracious appetite for reading scientific material.
This book also cover alot about the nuclear industry from the time of discovery by the Curies,the Manhatten Project to modern day nuke power plants.There many interesting facts to see how people with no prior knowledge of the effects of radioactive exposure.In the early 1900's when they thought that Radium was a great elixir and the fact that it glowed they used on all kinds of things like roulette wheels clock faces people even smeared on the teeth and lips to make them glow,the cost for Radium was amazing they figure about 3 million an ounce an it only took about 70 cents to kill you.
David was by all accountswhat most people would figure a geek but according to the book he was not your typical geek in that he was a fairly good looking kid who had a very pretty gir;friend.He had a few other interest but his main ohter interest was in scouting which fed his desire to learn about atomic energy and related subjects and also gave him the drive to go on to be a eagle scout.He develop many things his own gun powder,fireworks,hair color,tanning solutions.
I am not against nuclear energy but it was interesting to see how atomic has been portrayed through the decades how in the 50's they basically said there was no real harm and that one day we would use nuclear products to operate everything cars ,airplanes and such and how in modern day how countries have went about saometimes for decades to cover up accidents.
There were many interesting things to learn in here like when they dropped the bombs in japan it cooked birds in midflight.Some of the scientific stuff was a little tough at times for a novice like me but the author did a pretty good job.I did not know there were so many things that wehave that have traces of radioactive material in it.This is a great book i encourage to give it a read.The only thing in conclusion is i wonder what course his life would take with a little direction
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Story, March 15 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
This book's title immediately caught my attention. Since I've been working in the nuclear field as a radiation dosimetry specialist for almost 30 years now, I couldn't help but to wonder what this young man could have done to be the subject of a book with such a title. So, I bought the book out of curiosity and read it with intense fascination. It became clear to me that this young man is gifted; and if his efforts could be properly focused, he could do great things. The book is a page turner. It is well written and in an engaging style. The author weaves a truly riveting story - and a true one on top of that. Unfortunately, the book has two shortcomings, i.e., the reasons for four stars instead of five. First of all, there are technical errors; here are only two examples: Roentgen discovered x rays in 1895 and not in 1896 as indicated on page 30; also, and more importantly, the statement on page 159 that beta particles from tritium can penetrate one or two centimeters of human flesh is grossly incorrect. In fact, the most energetic beta particles emitted by the tritium nucleus cannot even penetrate the skin's dead cell layer on the outer surface of the skin - they are simply not fast enough to give a radiation dose even to the skin, let alone deeper human flesh. The second shortcoming is the book's anti-nuke flavor. Tongue-in-cheek statements that tend to put into question the competence of engineers and scientists who are trying to improve the human condition should be replaced by statements that put as much emphasis on the successes and breakthroughs, as on the errors and misjudgments; otherwise a very misleading, erroneous and biased impression may be acquired by those simply wishing to learn the facts. At any rate, it is not my intent to belabor these points. This book presents a truly exciting story and will not disappoint; but by no means should it be used as an accurate historical or technical reference in nuclear science.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Story, March 15 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
This book's title immediately caught my attention. Since I've been working in the nuclear field as a radiation dosimetry specialist for almost 30 years now, I couldn't help but to wonder what this young man could have done to be the subject of a book with such a title. So, I bought the book out of curiosity and read it with intense fascination. It became clear to me that this young man is gifted; and if his efforts could be properly focused, he could do great things. The book is a page turner. It is well written and in an engaging style. The author weaves a truly riveting story - and a true one on top of that. Unfortunately, the book has two shortcomings, i.e., the reasons for four stars instead of five. First of all, there are technical errors; here are only two examples: Roentgen discovered x rays in 1895 and not in 1896 as indicated on page 30; also, and more importantly, the statement on page 159 that beta particles from tritium can penetrate one or two centimeters of human flesh is grossly incorrect. In fact, the most energetic beta particles emitted by the tritium nucleus cannot even penetrate the skin's dead cell layer on the outer surface of the skin - they are simply not fast enough to give a radiation dose even to the skin, let alone deeper human flesh. The second shortcoming is the book's anti-nuke flavor. Tongue-in-cheek statements that tend to put into question the competence of engineers and scientists who are trying to improve the human condition should be replaced by statements that put as much emphasis on the successes and breakthroughs, as on the errors and misjudgments; otherwise a very misleading, erroneous and biased impression may be acquired by those simply wishing to learn the facts. At any rate, it is not my intent to belabor these points. This book presents a truly exciting story and will not disappoint; but by no means should it be used as an accurate historical or technical reference in nuclear science.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I AM AMAZED AT THIS STORY AND BOOK...TOTALLY TRUE, March 11 2004
This review is from: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor (Hardcover)
David Hahn as a young boy somehow decided to build a nuclear reactor in his mother's garden shed. He came very close. His genius propelled him to secure the right equipment including coffee cans, wire, rubber balloons, common flour, and off the shelve items from Home Depot.
He actually built a real working nuclear reactor. All he needed was radioactive material that he collected from objects suck as glow in the dark paint, smoke detectors, and Three Mile Island surplus.
An overhead satellite that measures radioactivity measured extremely high levels of radioactivity emitting from his mothers garden shed in a little village in Michigan.
Hahn, now a 27 year old, works for a secret origination (EPA) that tracks other countries nuclear capabilities with the same satellite technology that exposed his creation ten years before. Hats off to Ken Silverstein for writing a riveting and radioactive book. A must read for everyone.
It should be noted that Mr. Hahn continues to emit a low level of radiation from four years of exposing himself. We wish him the best. He will never need a night light.
Signed,
Erica Phillips
(My flowers have never grown back)
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