The Tragic Death of Dr. Manhattan's Real-Life Counterpart

Illustration for article titled The Tragic Death of Dr. Manhattan's Real-Life Counterpart

In the Watchmen comic book (and forthcoming movie), one of the most intriguing characters is the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan, a superhero who can manipulate the physical laws of the universe as the result of a strange accident involving "atomic physics." After being exposed to radiation, Dr. Manhattan is suffused with a blue glow and can see through time. But it turns out there was actually a real-life version of Dr. Manhattan, a physical chemist named Louis Alexander Slotin who was exposed to the same radioactive particles as Dr. Manhattan and many other superheroes. Unfortunately, Slotin did not develop superstrength.

Illustration for article titled The Tragic Death of Dr. Manhattan's Real-Life Counterpart

As Think Artificial puts it:

It's May 21, 1946, Louis Alexander Slotin, scientist with a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, is working on the Manhattan Project with his colleagues. Their experiment involves fission reaction, placing two half-spheres of beryllium around a plutonium core. At 3:20 p.m. Slotin is grasping an upper beryllium hemisphere with his left hand while maintaining separation of the sphere with a screwdriver-a tool that was not part of the protocol. The screwdriver slips and the upper hemisphere fell, causing a critical reaction and a burst of hard radiation. His colleagues report seeing a "blue glow" as the air ionized and felt a wave of heat. Slotin retracted his hand in reaction and the upper hemisphere fell on the floor. He was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, equivalent of being 1500 meters away from a detonation of an atomic bomb. Nine days later, Slotin becomes the second victim in history to die of a criticality accident.

So this is what would really happen to somebody exposed to high levels of radiation in the middle of a science experiment. No super-strength, no super-size. Just a human body, blasted by mutation-causing particles racing through the "blue light." Real Life Dr. Manhattan [via Think Artificial] Thanks, Hrafn!



How did I know my girlfriend was "the one"? We both uttered the phrase "glowing gonads" while walking in Harrisburg, PA, near Three-Mile Island.

You'll have to wiki TMI if you don't get the reference.