In 1995, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States raided a back garden in suburban Detroit. Men in white moon suits sawed up a garden shed, dug up soil and raked the lawn, putting all the debris in large black drums marked with yellow signs warning of radioactivity. Just what was going on?
For three days the men worked away, then disappeared, but not before all the neighbours knew that dorky young David Hahn, son of the dysfunctional couple who owned the house with the empty swimming pool, was in trouble. David, it turned out, had been trying to build a nuclear reactor in his spare time from school and Boy Scouts.
At the time of the raid, David was 17. He was on the point of joining the elite Eagle Scouts, a feat narrowly missed by his father, who keenly promoted David's scouting involvement. Shuttling between the homes of his distant father and drunken mother, David had recently been chucked by his surprisingly dishy girlfriend and was on the borderline of failure at school. He had few friends but held down several part-time jobs and maintained a huge correspondence with journals, manufacturers, merchants, academics and monitoring bodies concerned with atomic physics and chemistry.
Read this review in full in this week's TES. Friday reviewsnbsp;will continue to appear in the paper through the summer, but the magazine will return in all its glory on September 3 2004