Unfavorable Geometry

Unfavorable Geometry is my new favorite phrase. Apart from being a kickass band name, it is possibly the most understated term to describe extremely dangerous stuff I have ever heard.

This phrase is from a report by the Los Alamos National Labs titled A Review of Criticality Accidents. If you’ve ever watched one of those Air Crash Investigations shows, or read comp.risks, you may enjoy reading this. If not, you may experience a slight case of Oh My God What The Fuck Is Wrong With You People. If you work for Fox, you’ll be thinking about how to pitch When Fissile Materials Attack! to the network execs.

You see, this report is all about how very, very dangerous nuclear reactions are to humans, and how a bunch of people have died because they accidentally triggered nuclear fission.

Think about that.

Many of the accidents occurred because a quantity of dissolved Uranium (or Plutonium, or some other dangerous stuff) settled into an unfavorable geometry. Imagine you’ve got a bottle of softdrink. Now imagine that if you tip it on its side, it will become a nuclear reactor. Fun, eh? Even better, there’s a thing called reflection. That’s when stuff around your bucket of nuclear fun solution can cause too many neutrons to bounce back at the sub-critical nuclear mass sloshing around in the bucket, causing it to become super-critical. And no, that’s not the super-fun kind of super-. It’s the kind that means you’ll die in 36 hours and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

So if you ever see something labelled Unfavorable Geometry, and it isn’t a band, get as far away from it as fast as you can.

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