X-Ray Machine

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Martin Hash
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X-Ray Machine

Post by Martin Hash » Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:09 pm

Recently, there was a story of a neighborhood that was evacuated because some guy's homemade “nuclear reactor” had burned him. It wasn't really a reactor but anything with the word “nuclear” in it, especially if there are injuries, gets Baby-Boomer negative coverage. The incident reminded me of a YouTube video, “Radioactive Boy Scout,” who attempted to make a reactor out of radium dial watches, and that reminded me that during the same era, I also tried making a nuclear reactor my first year in High School. It wasn't really a "reactor" in a nuclear power sense, I just called it that as a kid. The idea was to make Alpha particles shoot through a cloud chamber so that you could see their path, just because. After building the coffee can and getting the dry ice for my reactor, I could never get the thing to work, but I still have my piece of uranium ore, about the size of an egg from my grandfather's uranium mine in Utah. I used to keep it in a tin box he had brought back from Morocco but now it sits on a shelf in my library irradiating the autographed books.

Cloud Chamber.jpg

My attention switched to building an X-ray machine, which seemed less esoteric and more likely to create cool pictures. First, I designed and drew up schematics in my drafting class. The instructor had long since stopped asking what I was doing. In fact, he'd switched his whole grading practice, after 25 years as a teacher, to give anybody an “A” who got one-half my semester point score.

X-Ray Machine Schematic.jpg
X-Ray Machine.jpg

I worked months constructing each component; for example, hand-winding the transformer coil during boring classes, 5000 winds of #40 gauge wire. My mom drove me to another town to find a Model T spark coil from the 1920s, and I can still remember riding my bike 20 miles to get an old-fashioned mercury coated vacuum tube, an A1A, for the emitter. I also melted and poured the scrap lead myself to form the containment enclosure. Finally, I entered my X-ray machine in the school Science Fair. I never spoke to anybody about what I was doing, only delivering the completed device the night we were supposed to set up. The teachers in charge, none of whom cared much for me (precocious, smartmouth kids aren’t treated like you see in the movies), couldn’t believe it worked so I showed them by turning the thing on (it hummed like a swarm of finger-snapping bees) while putting my hand over an 8” piece of negative. Unfortunately, I never even got to develop the film because, to my ultimate horror, the teachers confiscated my prized X-ray machine without remuneration or even a prize. Public education was a terrible disservice to me. No telling what I could have achieved without “teachers” holding me back. Whatever, after that I built a Millikan Oil Drop Box.

Millikan Oil Drop Box.jpg
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