The subject of this article, and about the first half of the interview, is a substance I'd never heard of: red mercury. What? I'm not kidding when I say that my first mental response to the discussion of red mercury was, "What's its atomic weight?" Red mercury has been discussed, publicly and privately, since the Cold War - the Soviets were reputed to have it. Mr. Chivers was unable to find anyone who had ever seen it. I recommend you to take the time and read The Doomsday Scam - it's absolutely fascinating and Mr. Chivers writes very well.
The theory of red mercury is that it can be used to build very small nuclear weapons. The following description (excerpted from the article) was written, I'm sorry to say, by an American nuclear physicist who should have known better:
In one edition of his autobiography, he claimed red mercury was manufactured by ‘‘mixing special nuclear materials in very small amounts into the ordinary compound and then inserting the mixture into a nuclear reactor or bombarding it with a particle-accelerator beam.’’ The result, he said, ‘‘is a remarkable nonexploding high explosive’’ that, when detonated, becomes ‘‘extremely hot, which allows pressures and temperatures to be built up that are capable of igniting the heavy hydrogen and producing a pure-fusion mini neutron bomb.’’ Here was a proliferation threat of an order never before seen.The author of this bilgewater is named in the article, so that's your incentive to read it.
But my second response was: I've heard this legend before. Not red mercury itself, but the legend of the rare and difficult to find substance that can confer unheard-of powers on the owner. It was called the Philosopher's Stone, and it was the goal of every alchemist the ancient world, and the Middle Ages, ever produced. Here is the invaluable Wikipedia on alchemy:
Alchemy is a philosophical and protoscientific tradition practiced throughout Egypt and Eurasia which aimed to purify, mature, and perfect certain objects. [n 1] Common aims were chrysopoeia, the transmutation of "base metals" (e.g., lead) into "noble" ones (particularly gold); the creation of an elixir of immortality; the creation of panaceas able to cure any disease; and the development of an alkahest, a universal solvent.Red mercury sounds like a form of Philosopher's Stone to me, although sadly one which is only used to destroy. We tend to look down our noses at our ancestors, as ignorant and uneducated. At least their rare and powerful Philosopher's Stone was used to cure and create. Red mercury is apparently only intended to destroy. How fortunate we all are that it doesn't exist.
But what is it in the human race that makes us believe in the Philosopher's Stone, or red mercury, or snake oil, or any other substance, just because someone we don't know tells us it exists and we only have to find it.