Sewing machine frenzy in red mercury hoax

By | April 16, 2009

Singer sewing machine“It is believed that tiny amounts can sell for millions of dollars, the Saudi Gazette reported.”

Saudi police are investigating the origins of a hoax that had hundreds of people believing that old sewing machines may bring fortune because they contained an elusive, and probably mythical, substance known as red mercury.

Saudi newspapers on Tuesday published pictures of Saudis proudly posing next to old sewing machines awaiting prospective buyers at traditional markets.

The English-language Saudi Gazette newspaper said some buyers were willing to pay up to 200,000 riyals ($50,000) for an old Singer sewing machine proven to contain red mercury.

Mobile phones are supposedly employed as instruments to prove the existence of the phony substance. Popular belief in the Middle East has it that it can help uncover hidden gold treasures, though there are other theories which say it can be used to create a nuclear bomb.

“If the line cuts off when the telephone is placed close to the needle … that proves the existence of the substance,” Saudi Gazette said.

Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper said “poverty provided a fertile ground for the red mercury rumor to spread in Saudi society, especially the middle class.”

“We have to find out who started this hoax. We cannot be 100 percent sure of getting in the short-term to the person or persons who started this,” an interior ministry spokesman told Reuters.

“People hope to make profit. This is no different to cases of citizens who put their money in untrustworthy schemes,” he added.

Thousands of Saudi citizens have lost their life savings to financial scams consisting mainly of operations to raise money for real estate projects.

via Sewing machine frenzy in red mercury hoax | Oddly Enough | Reuters.


Here is some Wikipedia on red mercury:

A key event in the history of the red mercury story was an article in the daily Russian newspaper Pravda in 1993. Claiming to be based on leaked top secret memos, they noted that red mercury was:

a super-conductive material used for producing high-precision conventional and nuclear bomb explosives, ‘Cleft’ surfaces and self-guided warheads. Primary end-users are major aerospace and nuclear-industry companies in the United States and France along with nations aspiring to join the nuclear club, such as South Africa, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Libya.[2]

Samuel Cohen, the “father of the neutron bomb“, has been claiming for some time that red mercury is a powerful explosive-like chemical known as a ballotechnic. The energy released during its reaction is enough to directly compress the secondary without the need for a fission primary. He claims that he has learned that the Soviet scientists perfected the use of red mercury and used it to produce a number of softball-sized “pure fusion” bombs weighing as little as 10 lb (4.5 kg), which he claims were made in large numbers.[6]

He goes on to claim that the reason this is not more widely known is that elements within the US power structure are deliberately keeping it “under wraps” due to the scary implications such a weapon would have on nuclear proliferation. Since a red mercury bomb would require no fissile material, it would seemingly be impossible to protect against its widespread proliferation given current arms control methodologies. Instead of trying to do so, they simply claim it doesn’t exist, while acknowledging its existence privately. Cohen also claims that when President Boris Yeltsin took power, he secretly authorized the sale of red mercury on the international market, and that fake versions of it were sometimes offered to gullible buyers.[6]

Cohen’s claims appear to be difficult to support scientifically. The amount of energy released by the fission primary is thousands of times greater than that released by conventional explosives, and it appears that the “red mercury” approach would be orders of magnitude smaller than required. Furthermore, ballotechnic materials are those that do not explode, so it is difficult to understand how their energy could be used to produce compression at all.

Additionally, it appears there is absolutely no independent confirmation of any sort of Cohen’s claims to the reality of red mercury. The scientists in charge of the labs where the material would have been made have publicly dismissed the claims (see below), as have numerous US colleagues, including Edward Teller.

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