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borrowed a Geiger counter and was measuring everything.” He found a hot spot in his former school. It turned out to be radium on a nasopharyngeal applicator—a device for treating nasal tumors. It was never explained why the device was in the school, but within about a half hour, Koeth had convinced a teacher to let him take the source home, gotten his parents scared that their house had become contaminated, and been exposed to 275 millirem—or nearly a year’s worth—of radioactivity. “It was a piv- otal moment,” says Koeth. “I was a born scientist.”

Like Koeth and Hanebuth’s meet- ing, every aspect of the cyclotron has a story behind it. “Nothing was just purchased, right down to the red light on top of the machine, which we bought from US military surplus be- fore we knew what we would use it for,” says Hanebuth. Take the 200- amp, 40-V power supply. Says Koeth, “I called around, and found one for $1000. So we made a list of all the sur- plus we had and asked if we could trade.” In exchange for some fre- quency counters and plug-in modules for oscilloscopes, they got the power supply. On the way home, adds Koeth, “my girlfriend started screaming that [the power supply] was falling through the car.” It turned out that the 400- pound box was safe, but it crushed the jump seats in his mom’s car.

The first magnet Koeth and Hanebuth scrounged up was only 9 inches in diameter. They got their first proton beam in September 1999. Says Koeth, “It was during Hurricane Floyd—I got off work early. The nee- dle pegged, showing I had a beam.” They worked on the 9- and 12-inch versions in parallel. With the 9-inch magnet, says Koeth, “I could only get 600 keV [protons]. You can demon- strate the principles at lower ener- gies, but you need 1 MeV to do real experiments.” Besides, he adds, he wanted to emulate Ernest Lawrence, who was the first to get 1 MeV and who received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Later, Koeth found a 12-inch mag- net at Argonne National Laboratory. It weighed two-and-a-half tons and had been the steering magnet for a 60- inch cyclotron that was scheduled for demolition. “Stu flew out and we rented a truck and drove it back to New Jersey,” recalls Koeth. “The mag- net came to us ugly,” Hanebuth adds. “We stripped it and repainted it. It was a full-time job for us for quite a while.” They swapped magnets and had the more powerful cyclotron working by early 2001.



The pair spent perhaps $15 000 on their creation. Koeth estimates that, had they bought new parts and “paid real money to the machine shop,” it would have cost about $250 000.

Plans and projects

Relentless scroungers, Koeth and Hanebuth have already started col- lecting parts for their next project: a Farnsworth Fusor. Says Koeth, “It’s a curiosity. It has no magnetic field, no superconducting coils. The idea is to use electrostatic confinement to pro- duce fusion on a tabletop.” The fusor was first proposed decades ago by Philo T. Farnsworth, a pioneer in de- veloping television. But, says Koeth, “there are problems in making one. We think we have some technological innovations.”

clotron as undergraduates—Koeth in physics and Hanebuth in environmen- tal science—and continued after Hanebuth went to work for the Con Edison electric company in New York City and Koeth became a health physicist and then an accelerator en- gineer for Rutgers. Koeth took gradu- ate classes part time, but after re- turning to Rutgers from a stint at Fermilab and being hired on a project that required trips to CERN in Switzerland, Koeth says, “I realized that my course schedule was not con- ducive to traveling. I had an epiphany that I wanted to go back to graduate school full time.” He started back in 2002. When he finishes, he says, he’d “like to pursue a career in accelerator physics, perhaps at a national lab like Los Alamos. But I’d prefer it not be

They began working on the cy-

weapons related.”

Toni Feder

LANL Resumes Work, Morale Stays Low

n response to a safety violation and a supposed security breach this sum- mer, Los Alamos National Laboratory has fired four people and punished eight others. In a 15 September memo to lab staff, LANL Director G. Peter Nanos wrote, “It is now time to begin conscientiously moving forward in a safe, secure and compliant manner. The period of the last several months marks a new beginning for this insti- tution.” But many lab scientists, bit- ter about Nanos’s handling of the safety and security lapses, are skepti- cal about how new the beginning re- ally is. “Nanos sowed the seeds of dis- content, and there is now a lush garden,” says Rhonald Keinigs, a longtime LANL weapons scientist.


portedly went missing and a student’s eye was damaged by a laser (see PHYSICS TODAY, September 2004, page 32). Later in the summer, reports surfaced that the storage devices had never existed; the real error, it seemed, was one of inventory, not of mishandling sensitive information. By press time, LANL had completed its own investigation, but lab officials would neither confirm nor deny the ex- istence of the storage devices. Exter- nal investigations were still under way; David Cremers, a laser physicist, was preparing to appeal his firing in connection with the eye injury and an alleged cover-up; and lab staff were passing the hat for legal funds for other scientists.

Nanos halted work across the lab in July, after two electronic storage de- vices containing classified data re-

As of early October, administrative tasks, much theoretical work, and some experiments at the lab had re-

sumed. A lab spokes- man said most activi- ties would be back to normal by mid-October, and everything should be running by year’s end. The work stop- page cost taxpayers $4–5 million a day; or, as the spokesman put

G. Peter Nanos, the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, addresses employees at a lab-wide meeting.

November 2004

Physics Today


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