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'Most dangerous object ever' was created by accident and killed the people who made it

'Most dangerous object ever' was created by accident and killed the people who made it

One 'cowboy' got too close to the 'demon'

The ‘most dangerous object ever’ was created by accident and it killed the people who made it.

As anyone who has watched Oppenheimer will know, the Manhattan Project was a group of researchers and scientists in the US who worked together during World War Two and ultimately created the world’s first atomic bomb.

However, the ‘demon core’ caused huge problems earning its name after being repeatedly involved in horrific research accidents.

Scientists were using the object - which was a hunk of plutonium - to work out exactly where the tipping point was in changing these cores into explosive nuclear chain reactions, known as going ‘supercritical’.

So, essentially, they had to prod the core (obviously, in a more sophisticated manner then giving it a good poke) to see what the reaction would be.

And it was this that led to the first accident in 1945.

In an absolute breach of protocol, scientist Harry Daghlian was working alone with the core and he ended up accidentally dropping a tungsten carbide brick on it. Unfortunately for him, this caused the core to go supercritical.

Scientists died because of the 'demon core'. (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
Scientists died because of the 'demon core'. (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

So, when he reached back in to retrieve the brick, he instantly received a fatal dose of radiation.

Less than a month after this accident, Daghlian died of a radiation poisoning.

While this was obviously a pretty horrific incident, teams of scientists carried on with it. And in May 1946, another accident with the demon core occurred.

Involved in this one was ‘cowboy scientist’ Louis Slotin, known for being a bit risky with experiments.

On this occasion, the team were putting two beryllium dome half spheres around the plutonium core. But accidentally, the two halves were allowed to touch.

As any science buffs will know, this obviously caused a reaction that made the core go supercritical.

Louis Slotin. (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
Louis Slotin. (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Radiation was therefore absolutely blasted out into the room, meaning every single scientist in there got a dangerous dose.

And because Slotin was in such close proximity to the core, he did.

You won’t be surprised to know that the string of horrific accidents forced the scientific teams and institutes to urgently update their safety protocols.

Plus, in response to the fatal incidents, the ‘demon core’ ended up being melted down.

It then formed smaller cores for other bombs and missiles in the US nuclear arsenal. But still, even now, it is regarded as the ‘most dangerous object ever’ – even with the elephant’s foot still sitting in Chernobyl.

Featured Image Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Topics: Science, History, World War 2