Saturday, August 04, 2007

Crackpot or Genius?

Some stories beg for questions, something that will put our fears to rest while we wonder to ourselves, “What the heck was he doing?” This morning on the Fox website I found, Radioactive Boy Scout Charged with Smoke Detector Theft”. The headline grabbed my attention as I found the details listed within.

“Investigators say Hahn was arrested Wednesday after a maintenance worker saw him stealing a detector from a ceiling in an apartment complex where he lived. They later found the other detectors in his apartment in the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township.”


“Hahn learned that a small amount of a radioactive isotope could be found in smoke detectors during his experiments in the 1990s, according to a 1998 article in Harper's Magazine that later expanded into a book by journalist Ken Silverstein.”

In 1951 there was a black and white movie, The Man in the White Suit, starring Alec Guinness; a wonderful romp to be enjoyed watching this reclusive inventor as he steals away space from local manufacturing facilities in order to create the perfect fabric, a fabric which will never wear out and never get dirty. He “borrows” whatever he needs, chemicals, explosives, materials as if they were donated for the common good; blowing up chunks of private factories, small and large chunks, all the while his goal getting a bit closer. Was he a crackpot or a genius; I’m not sure that was totally resolved as the movie ended, a familiar gurgling sound from the corner of yet another borrowed manufacturing facility.

Perhaps our “Boy Scout” falls into the same category, hard to justify the boundaries crossed when taking items not his own or putting his neighbors at risk with unknown quantities of hazardous materials; but what about his goal? Does this young man have something to offer that might be worthy? Is there a “White Suit” hidden away in the recesses of that creative, if not damaged mind? I only ask because the idea came to me as I read; what if this kid only needs a little guidance and funding to find the answers he’s been looking for, wouldn’t we be better off helping him rather than branding him as undesirable?

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