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Death of Doctor Egghead

Death of Doctor Egghead

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Published by Ben Lacy
A genuine scientific whodunit, as a brilliant but rude professor attempts to solve the murder of a colleague from radiation poisoning. The facts are all there, can you figure out who the killer is?
A genuine scientific whodunit, as a brilliant but rude professor attempts to solve the murder of a colleague from radiation poisoning. The facts are all there, can you figure out who the killer is?

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Published by: Ben Lacy on Jun 21, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/20/2009

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DDE/BPL
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 THE DEATH OF DOCTOR EGGHEAD byBen LacyCopyright © 2009 Ben LacyAll rights reservedI finally returned from the conference in New York, hoping to get back to some realwork, only to find myself plagued by constant interruptions. Maybe if I kept my head down andignored him he'd go away.He hrrumphs again and I realized it was hopeless."Detective Dave Johnson, doc."I had heard him the first time. I kept trying to concentrate on my work. The problemwith the beam energy dissipation with distance was becoming disturbing. "You know, of course,about Doctor Rialson's death."I decided to just nod. The trouble kept coming down to the increasing static in the lowfrequency bands as the focus distance increased. I was beginning to worry that I'd have to back up and try a different approach, a possible loss of weeks."I hope I'm not disturbing you?"Lord forbid. "You are.""But I think you might be able to help me."
 
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"I doubt that."Damn that conference. I suddenly realized he was bothering me because I'd been out of town and was therefore above suspicion. Back to the matter at hand, maybe if I thought in termsof pulse frequency instead of pulse synchronization."Dr. van Keising said you were in charge of the linear accelerator.""Among other things.""Yes, well, according to the coroner's autopsy, Dr. Rialson died of radiation poisoning."Odd, but irrelevant. "What does that have to do with me or the accelerator?""The coroner couldn't find any radioactive material in his body or at his apartment. Ithought possibly the linear accelerator was used on him." Nuts. I sighed and looked up. "And how did they get it to his apartment? It's only 100feet long." Now that I had no choice, I looked the cop over. He appeared to be in his earlyfifties, bald and slightly overweight. He also looked to be on the verge of a fit of apoplexy,which might be amusing."Could it have been used on him here?" He was holding his frustration in quite well.Too bad."Sure, if he was tied to the beam exit for 10 minutes while a two man crew operated thething. By the way, we have a tape record of all uses of the beam. I'm sure it will show that theywere all authorized." I looked down at my papers again."Will you check . . . please?""I'll have a grad student look at the tape when I have the chance. Good day." And goodriddance.Later in the day, mainly for fun, I had one of my students look at the tape. Of course alluses of the Linac were legal. Assassination by particle beam! What next? On the other hand,what about a beam weapon mounted on a high resolution spy satellite? It just might work.Maybe I should mention that at the next funding request.So far, I'd managed to avoid all the university gossip concerning Dr. Rialson's murder in
 
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his apartment three days ago. Even though he was a colleague in the applied physics and nuclear engineering department, and the department's expert on health physics (radiotherapy, that sort of stuff), I'd never had much to do with him.Anyway, I didn't think about it any more until the cop returned to ask about the results of my check."Negative." At least that was quick.He gave me his "I'm trying to be patient" look. I wasn't in the mood for it and went back to typing on the computer."What else could have caused his death? No one else can think of anything." No one else? That put things into a slightly different light. Maybe I could give this alittle thought. I have a reputation that I liked to enhance whenever possible.How could you give someone a high rad dose without feeding them cobalt-60? It'd haveto be done with a limited amount of material and equipment. It would also have to be quick."Any idea of the dose he got?" I asked."They're guessing around 15,000 rems of neutron exposure." Damn, he must have diedwithin a few hours of getting exposed. That was incredible. But it could be done.I lead him to the vault containing the university's highly enriched radioactive isotopes. Igrabbed an inventory list and slowly started to count off the plastic encased isotopes. Theyappeared to be all there, so I grabbed a radiac from a locker and started to examine the blocksmore closely."About 30 years ago there was a really stupid scientist trying to demonstrate the principalof nuclear fission to some students by holding two blocks of uranium apart with a screwdriver.By allowing the two blocks to come closer together, the neutron count being measured would goup from the fission reactions. Well this guy's screwdriver slipped and the two blocks camecompletely together. Bam, the uranium formed a critical mass, bombarding him with neutronradiation. He died about 10 hours later.""You think that could have happened here using two of these blocks."

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