In 1976, an underachieving Princeton student named John Aristotle Philips wrote a term paper describing how to build a nuclear bomb. He received an “A” but never got his paper back as it was seized by the FBI.
Here’s the story of the “A-Bomb Kid”.
In 1976, John Aristotle Phillips was the mascot in the Tiger outfit at Princeton University. He was not the brightest student of his class and his academic prospects were not so promising. “If I flunk another course,” he admitted, “I’ll be bounced out of the Big U right on my ass”. (the article continues after the ad)
So Phillips decided to change all that. He proposed to write a paper that would “end all term papers”. Its subject? “How to Build Your Own Atomic Bomb”. After getting approved by his instructor Freeman Dyson, Phillips started his research. His main source of information was the National Technical Information Service were he studied all the available declassified documents.
And he made it. After numerous calculations, Phillips created a paper in which he described how anyone could build its own atomic bomb!
But how good was it?
According to his teacher, it was extremely well written. Dyson told Phillips that he would give him an “A” but, as soon as the grade was registered, the paper had to be burned. Phillips agreed but he didn’t have to. He never got the paper back. The term paper ended up in FBI which seized and classified it. In the following months the Pakistani embassy tried to get a copy but it was too late.
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Photo: Saïd Business School, University of Oxford / YouTube, AETHERFORCE
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie