'Underachieving' student once designed an atomic bomb
January 20, 2022 | 3 comments
Image Credit: YouTube / Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
John Aristotle Phillips' science project was so impressive that it had to be confiscated by the FBI.
The 21-year-old Princeton University undergraduate student had been studying aerospace and mechanical sciences when he decided to pursue his interest in the workings of the atomic bomb.
Drawing upon what he could learn from declassified government documents along with books from the school's library, he began to draw up plans for an actual working nuclear bomb.
It was a concept that other students had attempted before, albeit with little in the way of success, but Phillips was adamant that he would succeed where they had failed and hoped to demonstrate just how easy it could potentially be for a terrorist or other bad actor to build a working nuclear device.
Incredibly, he not only managed to come up with a viable design, but even built a non-working mockup of a nuclear bomb in his bedroom. According to nuclear scientist Dr Frank Chilton, the bomb was "pretty much guaranteed to work" and could have levelled a large part of Manhattan.
When Phillips finally handed in his project he naturally received an A, however not long afterwards the FBI arrived at the facility to confiscate both the project's papers and the mockup bomb.
Not all was lost, however, as the man himself went on to become a celebrated anti-nuclear-proliferation activist.
Source: IFL Science
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