Around 1977, a strange, exotic material known as Red Mercury appeared on the international black market. Shrouded in mystery and highly desired by buyers, it caused an uproar across the globe. Just what was Red Mercury?
The Chaos Book Club
Today is Day 13 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:
The Rise of Red Mercury
Red Mercury burst into national prominence in the early 1990s thanks to a series of high-profile newspaper articles. No one knew what it was, other than it was really important and really dangerous. Oh, and very expensive…prices ranged from $100,000 to $300,000 per kilogram.
The legend of Red Mercury soon took on a life of its own. Con artists went to work to fill the insatiable demand, grabbing gigantic wads of cash and giving away useless chemical mixtures in return. Researchers attempted to sort through the mess and eventually determined that Red Mercury was nothing more than a hoax.
However, that conclusion remains questionable. Why would individuals, groups, and nations drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on useless chemicals? Didn’t they bother to ask for proof that it worked before they gave away their cash?
What was Red Mercury?
When Red Mercury first hit the market, it was sold as a material that could be used to build atomic weapons. Since then, various theories have been put forth to explain its purpose. It has been considered a code name for uranium or plutonium as well as a form of stealth paint. However, the most interesting theory is that Red Mercury represents a shortcut to fissile material.
Hydrogen bombs consist of two stages. In the first stage, a “primary” fission bomb explodes. This compresses a “secondary” section of fusion fuel, causing a fusion reaction. The resulting explosion is, needless to say, massive.
All atomic weapons require the use of some sort of fissile material (U-233, U-235, Pu-239, or Pu-241). Fortunately, these raw materials are difficult to locate. And even if a nation were to get hold of enough uranium, it would still face the challenge of enriching it to weapons-grade level. This requires expensive centrifuges that take years to operate. Thus, nuclear non-proliferation efforts mostly focus on limiting access to the raw materials and centrifuges.
Some believe that Red Mercury facilitated the creation of fissile material, allowing a nation to proceed much faster than under ordinary circumstances. Others, such as Samuel T. Cohen (pictured above) claimed it was a ballotechnic. A ballotechnic is a hypothetical chemical, capable of releasing enough energy during a reaction that it could serve as a direct replacement to fissile material. Cohen, who was the “Father of the Neutron Bomb,” alleged that the U.S. government was deliberately hiding the true purpose of Red Mercury from the public.
Red Mercury in Chaos
If either of the above theories were true, the consequences would be disastrous. Nuclear non-proliferation efforts, at least in their present form, would become useless. The idea of a world where thermonuclear weapons technology is readily available to anyone who wants it is not a pleasant one.
In Chaos, (SPOILER ALERT), this possibility is at risk of becoming a reality.
He clucked his tongue, clearly annoyed at my ignorance. “So, Red Mercury is a super-dense form of exotic matter. It’s nearly indestructible. But when subjected to extreme pressure, it undergoes a chemical reaction that releases an enormous amount of heat energy.”
“Sounds like a blast at a barbecue.”
“The amount of energy released is sufficient to replace the fission-based primary in a fusion bomb.”
My heart beat faster. “Wait, are you saying…?”
“Indeed I am. Once I have the Bell, I’ll be able to produce an endless supply of Red Mercury, which will allow me to build hydrogen bombs without going through the costly and tedious process of gathering and enriching uranium.”
He smiled. “In other words, in a few short hours, I’ll be the world’s newest nuclear power.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos
Red Mercury weaves tightly into the story. The hero, Cy Reed, has his work cut out from him if he’s going to avoid a nuclear proliferation nightmare. But as with much of Chaos, nothing is as it seems and there is more to Red Mercury than meets the eye…much more. If you want to know the deepest secrets of this exotic material as well as Cy’s desperate fight to rid the world of it, consider picking up a copy of Chaos today.
That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’re going to delve a little further into the myths surrounding Red Mercury. Specifically, we’re going to take a look at a strange type of element and an “island” no one has ever stepped foot upon. What am I talking about? Stop by tomorrow to find out…I hope to see you there!
Chaos Book Club
- October 17: Chaos has Arrived!
- October 24: The Story of Chaos
- October 25: The Great Train Robbery?
- October 26: Is Treasure Hunting Immoral?
- October 27: What was Operation Paperclip?
- October 28: Nazi Treasure & ODESSA?
- October 29: Do the Mole People Exist?
- October 31: FDR’s Lost Subway Car?
- November 1: Do Alligators Live in New York City Sewers?
- November 2: The Mysterious Minamata Disease?
- November 3: Die Glocke & Nazi Wonder Weapons?
- November 4: Buildering: The Art of Climbing…Skyscrapers?
- November 5: The Strange Case of Red Mercury?
- November 6: The Island of Stability?
- November 7: The Nazi Atomic Bomb?
- November 8: The Nth Country Experiment?
- November 9: Why did America really bomb Hiroshima?
- November 10: New York’s Forgotten Subway Tunnel?
- November 11: Alfred Ely Beach’s Last Secret?
- November 12: The Strange Science of Superconductors?
- November 13: What’s Next for Cyclone Reed?