atom plans were spoof science
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
DOCUMENTS found last week in an al-Qa'eda safe house in Afghanistan that purport to be instructions on how to build a nuclear weapon were shown yesterday to be based on a spoof scientific article.
The "plans" were discovered in a ruined house in Kabul after the Taliban fled the city, and included notes ostensibly showing how to create a nuclear device.
Although the partly burnt documents may well confirm that al-Qa'eda was trying to get hold of weapons of mass destruction, they also indicate that the group had little idea what it was doing and absolutely no sense of humour.
Jason Scott, of the internet newsletter rotten.com, said he had searched the internet for the phrases used in the documents, which were in English, and found they were the same as a well known 1979 spoof article. Among the tell-tale references were to "theory of operation - the device basically works".
The original, entitled How To Build An Atomic Bomb In 10 Easy Steps, described how to create a device for between $5,000 (£3,000) and $30,000 that "is a great ice-breaker at parties, and in a pinch, can be used for national defence".
The original was one of a series run by the Journal of Irreproducible Results. Yesterday, a former editor, Marc Abrahams, confirmed that the documents, shown in a report by BBC reporter John Simpson, were from the article, though in a different format. "I have a copy of the issue and I have also seen footage of the BBC report and it is clear it is the same text," said Mr Abrahams.
"It is very clearly a piece of humour writing the Taliban were poring over," said Mr Abrahams.