Monday, November 24, 2008
The Demon Core
In 1945, physicist Harry Daghlian was working on a 6.2 kg (14 lb) spherical mass of plutonium at the Los Alamos laboratory. He was stacking bricks of tungsten carbide around the plutonium core when he noticed a nearby neutron counter signaling that the addition of the final brick would make the assembly supercritical. Daghlian immediately withdrew his hand ... and the brick slipped onto the center of the plutonium core and the assembly went critical. Daghlian was able to dissemble the bricks (the core didn't explode), but he died from radiation poisoning 28 days later.