Museum of Atomic perMutation

Louis Slotin, 32 year old scientist who had worked on the first atomic bomb in the super-secret Manhattan Project. The second accidental victim of a "critical reaction" of the man-made fissionable element, plutonium.
[1946: Los Alamos, New Mexico]

Slotin was demonstrating the technique of "tickling the dragon's tail," which is a funny name for a dangerous experiment with enough plutonium to create an explosive chain reaction. A fatal slip of the hand led to a massive whole body dose of neutron and gamma radiation.

Slotin died after nine grisly days of painful body decomposition. His assistant also suffered serious injuries, some permanent. The other six people in the room recovered from the prompt effects of exposure; I don't know if they suffered any long-term effects.

Louis Slotin's lethal dose

For a split-second the "blue glow" was seen and a heat wave was felt. The "blue glow" is Cerenkov radiation which occurs when subatomic charged particles move "through a medium at a speed greater than the velocity of light in the medium." [Chambers Nuclear Energy and Radiation Dictionary, 1992] If you've ever seen a water-cooled nuclear reactor, you may have noticed that the cooling water is suffused with this pale blue light, chilling beauty.

This event was dramatized in the movie Fat Man and Little Boy.


Trinity Atomic Web Site:

History of
Radiation Protection

Dr. Michio Kaku
"Dr. Louis Slotin had a screwdriver and two pieces of plutonium. He was screwing these two pieces together very slowly, watching the Geiger counter needle rise, and then he would unscrew it. One day he slipped. As a consequence critical mass was attained right in his face ... Slotin lunged forward and grabbed the two hemispheres with his bare hands, ripped them apart and took the full brunt of a nuclear detonation right in his stomach."

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Museum of Atomic perMutation

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last update: December 1998
* The Museum of Atomic perMutation * is a by-product of NUKEVILLE