On January 22, 1998, Theodore Kaczynski pleaded guilty to a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three people and injured 23. The "Unabomber," now serving a life sentence in prison without parole, had been designing explosives in a one-room cabin deep in the Montana wilderness.
When FBI agents arrived at the tiny house after Kaczynski's arrest, they discovered a live bomb, packaged and ready to be mailed, under the bed. Kaczynski built his bombs so that they couldn't be linked back to him, and thus far the FBI had gleaned only a few clues from debris fragments. Normally, a bomb disposal squad could simply remove the device and explode it harmlessly, but the FBI needed this bomb intact for forensic evidence. How could they defuse the explosive without destroying it?
The FBI knew it couldn't handle the problem alone, so it called in a crack team of nerds: Chris Cherry, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque; veteran Sandia assistant Rod Owenby; and Vic Poisson, a long-time associate of the Riverside, Calif., police department. The team flew to Montana and, one by one, entered the chemical-filled, 10- by 12-foot cabin, Popular Science reported in October 1998.
Read the rest of the story in the October 1998 issue of Popular Science.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.