THE DAY WE BUILT A HYDROGEN BOMB

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 11.04.48 AM© 2017 Bill Murphy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s no small wonder that I survived childhood. Those “Don’t try this a home” warnings only made us want to try it all the more!

Even with running the risk of being investigated by the FBI, ATF, AEC, and LSMFT – I’ll relate this story of how I (and my neighborhood pal and partner in crime, Jay Tolar) built – and exploded, a rather impressive Hydrogen Bomb in his back yard.

OK, I’ll admit it – Jay was the real ‘brains’ behind this undertaking.

Jay lived one block over, on Winter Street. His Dad was a radio/TV repairman, and had a quite impressive radio/TV shop in his backyard garage – filled with all manner of exotic things both electrical and electronic. Of course, it was ‘off-limits’ to us. But to 12 year olds, ‘off-limits’ actually meant ‘just don’t get caught.’

We had no access to items radio-active, unless you counted the recently repaired and now working Crosley Portable Radio sitting on the shelf in Mr. Tolar’s shop. (That radio was now ‘active.’ Get it?)

Jay and I built our bomb using the everyday and very plentiful items HYDROGEN and OXYGEN – the two ingredients which make up common WATER! Thanks to the excellent teaching of the Jackson Public School System, we knew how to separate common tap water into hydrogen and oxygen. We had also learned (in school) that hydrogen BURNS – and that oxygen SUPPORTS combustion! Yes, we paid attention in school.

Our ‘factory’ which did the work of breaking down our water into hydrogen and oxygen was a simple quart Mason Jar. This same Mason Jar also served as out bomb casing.

Not wanting to give our great grand kids too much information on how to blow their heads off, I’ll just say that our ‘bomb’ was one evil step beyond a simple class-room experiment in electrolysis. And because we intended to build a bomb, and because bombs are supposed to ‘go boom,’ we really didn’t want to blow our own heads off either.

Using a post hole digger, we dug a really deep hole in which to place our little home-made, back-yard, Hydrogen Bomb. This way, we reasoned, the blast would go UP. So what if we punched a hole in a cloud?

We buried our bomb that afternoon. Early the next morning and before school, we turned on the current to begin the hydrogen/oxygen separation process. It merrily made hydrogen and oxygen all day long! We could hardly wait to get home.

Jay had access (when we didn’t get caught) to a large timer. We disconnected the wiring from the Hydrogen/Oxygen separation circuit, and transferrer it over to the Detonation Circuit, and attached these leads to the timer. We set the timer for 60 seconds, and crouched safely beside the garage – not really knowing WHAT to expect.

What happened was far more than we’d expected. All that was missing was the familiar mushroom cloud – and the unhealthy dose of radioactivity.

What we had instead was a very, very tall/vertical cloud/column of mud, dirt, glass, wire, grass, and probably quite a few earthworms. Oh, and the earth shook. It really shook. It was probably quite loud too. It was a few minutes before our hearing returned.

Jay’s mother came running from the back door, her mouth wide as if in a scream. As our hearing slowly returned, her screaming only intensified. I decided it was best that I mosey on home. Exit, stage right.

Amazingly, the hole was not all that much larger, but I do believe it was deeper.

Only once more was I ever that close to a really big explosion. That was the time I emptied a full can of Carbide into the sewer drain not long after a good rain. When I threw the match in after it, the blast actually raised the man-hole cover in the middle of Evergreen St. high enough to see light beneath it. Now that blast was LOUD!

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