Guns

How to Really Exercise Your 2nd Amendment Rights

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bomb

Ever wondered if you could whip up your own A-bomb? No? I haven't either, really. But I find it strangely comforting to know that I could:

In his mid-20s, working entirely as an amateur and equipped with little more than a notebook and a library card, [Dave Dobson] designed a nuclear bomb. Today his experiences in 1964—the year he was enlisted into a covert Pentagon operation known as the Nth Country Project—suddenly seem as terrifyingly relevant as ever. The question the project was designed to answer was a simple one: could a couple of non-experts, with brains but no access to classified research, crack the "nuclear secret"?

The flip side, of course, is that anyone could. Darn.

If you'd rather not go to all this trouble, you can always borrow Peter Bagge's bazooka.

Via BoingBoing

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  1. Didn’t some dude do this in the ’80s?

  2. Designing it isn’t the problem. The general notion of how a nuclear bomb works has been in public view for fifty fucking years.

    Getting the requisite materials, and then putting them in a bomb is engineered precisely enough that it will actually *go off* is the trouble.

    As the article illustrated.

    “I’m sure in 1984 you can just buy Plutonium at any corner store, but in 1955 it’s a little hard to come by!”

  3. In 1984 I bought Potasium Nitrate and Sulphur at drug stores to do boy stuff with. We had good neighbors. Bad neighbors would have called the police.

  4. I’m pretty sure a nuclear bomb doesn’t qualify as a “firearm.” Or does it? How about a bazooka? What is the technical definition of “firearm” anyway?

  5. I think it might, just might, fall under “destructive device” with the feds.

  6. Designing a bomb seems to be a lot easier than designing equipment that can process and maintain fissile material.

  7. Ever wondered if you could whip up your own A-bomb? No?

    No, illegal possession of a nuclear weapon is a 15 year sentence under federal law. A long time, but shorter than the sentence for possession of a kilo of cocaine, which I think is 25 to life. Does that really make sense?

  8. Steven, that depends. Which is more fun?

  9. Steven, that depends. Which is more fun?

    My first instinct would be to say “the bomb”. But upon reflection, seeing what people will go through to get their hands on some coke, I would probably be forced to conclude that the coke is more fun, and is punished accordingly.

  10. But which is more harmful.

  11. I would probably be forced to conclude that the coke is more fun

    You don’t know already?

  12. Elemenope and joe are correct. Casting and machining radioactive metal into precise shapes in a no-oxygen atmosphere is not trivial.

  13. Which is more fun?

    Trick question. If you have an atomic bomb, you can get all the coke you want.

  14. Building an efficient nuclear bomb with a low critical mass is difficult. Building an inefficient nuclear bomb is easy. If you keep adding enriched uranium to the mix, sooner or later there is enough to sustain fission.

  15. Trick question. If you have an atomic bomb, you can get all the coke you want.

    I like the way you think.

  16. You don’t know already?

    I’m an addictive enough personality to know that me trying coke would be a monstrously stupid thing to do.

    I’ll stick to being addicted to relatively harmless things, like sci-fi, Hit & Run posting, and Marijuana.

  17. I’m an addictive enough personality to know that me trying coke would be a monstrously stupid thing to do.

    You’re missing out. I too have the addictive impulse but I’ve managed to control myself with it.

  18. Epi —

    There’s also the part where I don’t really have enough money to maintain a habit. That has been a practical valve against the occasional impulse to try new drugs & other things to which I am readily addicted.

  19. Meh. This was my high school physics report. In theory, a low-yield uranium device isn’t too difficult to build and detonate. But a low yield device is just not that impressive, or particularly useful. For the time and hassle you’d go through, the Ryder truck with the ANFO is really a better option. More bang for the buck, as it were.

    A high yield device using plutonium is several orders of magnitude more difficult. Plutonium is highly toxic, difficult to machine, and hard to come by. You also have the issues involved in making it function correctly, which are far from trivial. Plus, it ain’t like you can test it out to see if you’ve done it right.

    And you can just forget about doing a fusion device. That really does require the resource level of a government to get right.

  20. Elemenope,

    Try crack then. It’s a cheaper variant of cocaine.

  21. The problem is not the design, but the manufacturing. The interviews with the FBI were at first scary, then boring. We weren’t allowed to keep our notes.

  22. I might note that Dobson and his associate (two of them were put on the case) both had a Ph.D. in physics. So, two guys who are physics Ph.D.s, given two years and access to a good library, could figure out how to build a “Fat Boy” implosion device, given the assumption that they would have the requisite plutonium.

    The idea is that you create a hollow sphere of plutonium, which, when compressed, would be a critical mass (create a self-sustaining chain reaction that would run off about 2 to the eightieth power rounds of fission before physically tearing apart).

    You do that by surrounding the hollow sphere with a cluster of shaped charges that, when detonated in the proper sequence, would create a spherical imploding shock wave. So all you need is access to TNT, blasting caps, sophisticated timing devices, a competent machine shop, and about 20 kg. of pure plutonium, preferably not in one big lump.

    How did that old Chinese recipe for rabbit stew begin? Oh yeah. “First, catch rabbit.”

  23. # Brian24 | September 3, 2008, 10:47am | #
    # I’m pretty sure a nuclear bomb doesn’t
    # qualify as a “firearm.” Or does it?
    # How about a bazooka? What is the
    # technical definition of “firearm” anyway?

    I think a “firearm” is what we would call a “gun,” big or small, as long as it could conceivably be a personal weapon. A rocket launcher would probably not be classified as a firearm. A bomb is not a firearm. Even a flamethrower is not, technically, a “firearm,” even though it is a “fire”-arm.

    But the interesting thing about the 2nd Amendment, in case that is why you were asking about what did and didn’t “qualify,” is that it does not specify “firearm.” It simply says “arms,” which is a much broader category that conceivably includes all of those non-firearm things and many more (e.g., bowie knives, throwing stars, bare hands and feet, wielded according to especially deadly martial arts methods, etc.).

    In the Supreme Court’s Miller decision, the justices declared that, if the 2nd Amendment protected anything at all, it protected the right to keep and bear weapons that might typically be used by individual soldiers in the army and militia (as opposed to, say, heavy artillery). The ruling at the time was that a sawed-off shotgun was not such a weapon. But we have seen that type of gun employed by soldiers and police forces in the decades since. If Miller were decided today, I think the sawed-off shotgun would pass muster. But what about the bazooka, the suitcase nuke, the 50 caliber machine gun, or even the broadsword? There is a whole universe of “personal arms” out there, more and more of which are coming into more-or-less common use in the military and para-military (e.g., police, DEA, etc.) What about the “armored personnel carrier” (tank) that one local police force in South Carolina just got with grant money? It seems to me that, once a great many police forces have their own tanks, the lawyers and judges will have to use their best weasel words and misdirection to keep the general public from seeing those things as “arms” eligible for citizen ownership under the 2nd Amendment. “Let’s watch!”

  24. T | September 3, 2008, 1:02pm | #

    # And you can just forget about doing a
    # fusion device. That really does require
    # the resource level of a government to
    # get right.

    A fusion bomb, perhaps. But true fusion can be done by high school students, using the farnsworth fusor apparatus or one of its variants. The “toys” generate neutron radiation while operating (and for this reason, fusors are used as neutron sources in such applications as medical radiation therapy), but do not generate net power, which is why various governments have pursued tokamak-based fusion for decades. Recent developments in fusor technology have, however, suggested that the Polywell style of fusor can yield net-positive energy output, provided that the right fuels are used and/or the size of the device exceeds a particular threshhold value.

    Polywells built and tested to-date have not been big enough to generate more energy than they consume — though they generated a lot more than the kinds of fusors that are built by high school and college students. But if the most recent experiments with model Polywells are successful, the next step will be to build a full-scale unit that will consume less energy than it provides.

    For more info, see http://www.emc2fusion.org/

    Every source I’ve seen that confronts the question answers that Polywell-style fusion would not, could not lead to bombs, but who can say? One thing I can say is that, if power-utility-grade polywells prove practical, then high schools and colleges will theoretically be able to build them. The devices are a lot simpler than the fusion apparatus used in fusion bombs or as-yet-unrealized fusion powerplants.

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