This Is What A Real Bomb Looks Like

In 1980, Lake Tahoe, Nevada was a popular tourist spot. The area offered skiing, sailing, hiking in the mountains, and of course, gambling on the Nevada side of the lake. It was in this somewhat unlikely place where the authorities found the largest improvised bomb seen to that date in the USA.

Harvey’s casino was opened by former butcher Harvey Gross in 1944. In less than 20 years it grew to a 192 room, 11 story hotel casino. Thousands of people played Harvey’s slot machines and table games. Some were winners, but most were losers. John Birges was one of the latter. Formerly a successful landscaping company owner worth millions, he lost all of it to his gambling addiction.

Born in Hungary in 1922 as János Birges, John grew up in Budapest. When WWII hit, he flew an Me-109 for the Luftwaffe. He was arrested by the Gestapo for disobeying orders during the war, but was released. After the war, he again found himself in hot water – this time with the Russians. He was arrested in 1948 and charged with espionage. His sentence was 25 years of hard labor in the Gulag. The stories vary, but most agree that Birges was able to escape his work camp by detonating a bomb as a diversion.

In 1957 Birges and his wife Elizabeth immigrated to California. He changed his name from János to John to fit in. The couple had two sons, Johnny and Jimmy. John built up a successful landscaping business and bought a restaurant, working his way into the millionaires’ club. From the outside, they were the perfect example of the American dream.

Appearances can be deceiving. Behind closed doors, Birges was a right bastard to his family. He beat his wife and his children, even forcing them to kneel on gravel when they disobeyed him. Eventually, Johnny left home to escape his father’s fists. Elizabeth filed for divorce, and was later found dead under mysterious circumstances. Birges began gambling heavily, especially at Harvey’s Wagon Wheel casino in Lake Tahoe. He eventually burned through his personal savings, as well as the income from his businesses. The once millionaire was now penniless, but he had a plan. Just as a bomb had helped him escape the Gulag, he’d use a bomb to extort his money back from Harvey’s.

Birges built his bomb. He convinced his sons to help him. The trio stole TNT from construction sites, amassing more than 800 lbs. of the highly explosive compound. Then he built what may be the most insidious device FBI agents had ever seen: A detonator that could not be disarmed, even by its creator.

Bomb-frontThe bomb itself looked like two large steel boxes stacked on top of each other. It was disguised as an IBM copy machine in order to sneak it into the casino after hours. The only visible user interface was 28 toggle switches arranged in 5 neat rows. Investigators found the bomb armed – 27 of the switches were toggled off. However, switch #23 was on. Like everything with this bomb, the switches included quite a bit of misdirection.

There were no less than 8 independent trigger systems, each capable of causing an explosion:

  • Double-walled box triggers: Both the top and bottom box were lined with rubber. A layer of aluminum foil was placed on top of the rubber, followed by another rubber layer. This deadly layer cake created a double-walled box. The foil and the box sides were wired to the battery and the detonators. Any attempt to drill the box would cause the foil to come into contact with the box, completing the circuit and triggering the bomb.
  • Float trigger: A standard toilet bowl float was placed in the top box. Rather than shut off a water valve as it would in it’s normal duty, this float closed a switch. If the bomb squad attempted to fill the device with foam or water, the float would hit the switch, causing the bomb to explode.
  • Tilt trigger: A plastic pipe was lined with tin foil. A metal contact hung inside the pipe. Any tilt, shaking or jostling of the bomb would cause the metal contact to touch foil, once again triggering the bomb. This was the only circuit which could be disabled via the front panel switches.
  • Edge foil trigger: The joint between the top and bottom boxes was lined with foil on both sides. If the bomb squad used a metal tool like a crowbar to attempt to pry the bomb apart, it would complete the circuit.
  • Lid triggers: The lids of each were secured by plunger switches. Any attempt to remove the lid from either box would cause the bomb to detonate.
  • Screw triggers: The screws on the boxes were also booby trapped. They were connected to spring loaded switches such that unscrewing them would cause the switches to close. This would complete the circuit and detonate the bomb.
  • Front panel switches: 28 switches. Some were dummies while some disabled the tilt trigger, allowing the bomb to be moved. Others completed the circuit when flipped, detonating the bomb on contact.
  • Timer trigger: An electro-mechanical sprinkler timer was the final detonator circuit. The delay could be set anywhere from 45 minutes to 8 days. No one knows how long it was actually set for.

clearbombThe bomb wasn’t delivered alone. It came with a note describing the various triggering systems and explaining that the bomb could not be moved. Birges’s plan was to have the money delivered to him by helicopter. Once that was taken care of, he would provide the bomb squad with the correct switch configuration to disable the tilt sensor. At that point the bomb could be moved to a location where its explosion would cause no harm.

Like most plans, Birges’s fell apart rather early on. One of his sons got a speeding ticket, placing him near the ransom drop point. His girlfriend drove off the road, resulting in her hospitalization. The helicopter pilot missed the drop zone. Even if the pilot had found the right spot, he would have only found $5000 cash. The rest was blank paper cut to look like 3 million. The chopper also carried an armed FBI agent hiding behind the pilot.

boomWith the ransom drop a bust, the FBI now had no way to contact their bomber, and no idea when the bomb was set to go off. They carefully took X-rays of the detonator. The murky images confirmed the claims of the ransom note. The only plan they could come with was to attempt to split the TNT box from the detonator box with a shaped charge of C4 explosive. If the charge was fast enough, it could cut the wires before the tilt switch was triggered, preventing the explosion of the larger steel box.

Unfortunately, the FBI didn’t plan on Birges’s last booby trap. He had left a few sticks of dynamite in the detonator box. Essentially, dynamite is composed of sticks made from sawdust that are soaked in nitroglycerin, a much less stable explosive than TNT. The shaped charge detonated the dynamite, which then caused the TNT to explode. The tremendous explosion left a 5 story deep crater in Harvey’s casino. Thankfully, no one was hurt or killed.

john-mugshotThe manhunt which followed the bombing was one of biblical proportions. The case wasn’t cracked however, until Johnny’s ex girlfriend talked to someone about his participation in the plot. Once caught by federal agents, Johnny and Jimmy both turned on their father, who was arrested. Birges couldn’t find a lawyer he agreed with, so he defended himself in court. He was found guilty and sentenced to life. He died in prison of liver cancer in 1996.

Some of the FBI agents involved say that even with today’s technology, Birges’s bomb would still be tough to beat. In fact, the bureau still uses a replica of the bomb to train agents. While the actual circuitry inside was incredibly simple, consisting of several parallel circuits, the mechanical design made it extremely hard to work on. Most of all though, we can see that this bomb, like just about every other real bomb, didn’t have a visible clock. Placing a pretty LED display on the outside of the box is something that happens in the movies, not reality.


403 thoughts on “This Is What A Real Bomb Looks Like

      1. in that sense many drive bombs every day as well.
        i think to technically qualify as a bomb then it has to intentionally blow up to cause harm, not do so as a consequence of bad use or similar.

        1. I believe TheRegnirps was referring to the use of pressure cookers containing explosives in relatively recent bombing attempts, much like an oversized pipe bomb, not an accidental kitchen mishap.

  1. So if a teacher sees a student with a home-made box with a lot of switches they should treat it like a bomb because that is what a “real bomb looks like”, right? And if a teacher sees something that she thinks looks suspicious, but it has a blinking light, she shouldn’t worry, because that only happens “in the movies”?

    I’m sure educators around the country would value a clear set of absolutes about what they should and should not be concerned about – that would simplify their jobs.

    1. No, teachers should stop being paranoid as the chances of a student bringing in a real bomb and showing it to people are less than winning every single lottery in the USA simultaneously using the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6.

      This living in paranoia is horrible and should not be encouraged because it is used to persecute and intimidate people who have an interest in expanding their knowledge than anything else.

          1. You (Americans) always live in constant fear. Have you seen your TV advertising. Almost every advert is trying to make you afraid. This is just one aspect of the fear campaign that keeps you controlled.

          2. When the IRA started blowing up London, the British resisted. We carried on as usual and refused to let it bother us. That’s ignoring terrorism. That’s how you fight it. Like trolls, really, but with more casualties.

            The Americans immediately lose their shit, throw the place into lockdown, arrest anyone slightly foreign-looking, torture people, piss off the UN, and suspend the liberties they’re so proud to have on paper.

            If they didn’t bomb so many people, nobody would take any notice of them. The American government, I mean.

        1. The IRA preferred targeting buildings in the UK mainland and always called a warning in first so they could get people out.of harms way. (although not always giving a lot of time to do so). And sometimes government officials or the royal family.
          And in northern ireland proper they normally targeted the army and cops and other groups or their own people if the fell out of line.

          Same for the RAF and such german and italian terrorist incidentally, targeted army/cops/industrial CEO guys and not civilians much.

          So that is a bit different than most modern terrorists who seems to steadfastly avoid targeting the governments/cops/army and seem to focus on blowing up civilians, the more innocent the better. Don’t ask me why.

          1. “So that is a bit different than most modern terrorists who seems to steadfastly avoid targeting the governments/cops/army and seem to focus on blowing up civilians, the more innocent the better. Don’t ask me why.”

            Uhm, because purely random bombing are a more terrifying prospect that only targeting Military, Gov’t or Royalty…

            During the 60’s and into the early 80’s domestic US terrorists liked to blow up bombs in office buildings of corporations that they disagreed with (defense contractors, oil companies, banks, etc.)

          2. I lived in Germany for several years in the 80’s when the 3rd generation Red Army Faction (RAF) was active. They actively bombed several targets without advanced notice. While they tended to target military facilities, they killed whomever they could civilian or not. My understanding was they seemed to prefer shootings so they could pick their targets.

            The way I feel about all of it is: Peacefully argue and dissent politically with a ballot box and peaceful protests. The violence doesn’t advance your point at all.

            (This was not pointed at @Whatnot in any way, he mentioned the RAF. I grew up with them constantly in the news and they bombed the base my family was stationed at)

          3. Thanks for providing that, especially the IRA part.

            Also to Ken:
            The IRA didn’t bomb for terror, or to kill(necessarily), they were making a stand, they recognized their true enemies and fought them solely, avoiding the innocents(at least in regard to the struggle). It’s important to remember the IRA isn’t exactly a terrorist group, more rebels.

          4. I met a guy involved in all that, he was just a criminal and a psychopath, with a big appetite for bondage porn and drugs. So you should not pretend that you know enough about them to generalise one way or the other. Some of them were just sociopaths, which is why the British could turn them against their “friends” so easily.

          5. Some of the pub patrons were police, military, ex-police, ex-military, might grow up to be either, or happened to be the wrong religion – any one of those made them legitimate targets in the eyes of the IRA I suspect…

          6. This is a terrible, terrible miscomprehension.

            There’s an American conception that the IRA were gentlemen bombers — that they blew things up to make a point, because they had a cause, and that they always made sure people weren’t there.

            They did have a cause. But they killed people and they certainly didn’t go to great lengths to avoid doing so. Quite a lot of people. Including teenage recruits at a British Army musicians training centre. They didn’t always send a warning — many of the early bombings in Northern Ireland did not have coded warnings. The warnings could be too obscure to be understood. They could also be infeasibly late, such as the Warrington bombing. There were also bombings where a coded warning if sent would have been absolutely fruitless given the scale of the bomb, like the truck bomb that blew up outside the Baltic Exchange, which killed civilians including a teenage girl. Early in the campaign there were days when _dozens_ of separate bombs were set off, such as Bloody Friday in 1972. Warnings don’t help when the intention is to sew mayhem.

            Various splinter factions of the IRA, in its more undisciplined phase in the 1990s, still funded by international donations, would seem sometimes to have sent deliberately confusing warnings.

            They attempted to kill politicians, and they successfully killed politicians. They also did target civilians, particularly in Northern Ireland. There were bombs left in British mainland railway stations at rush hour; you can’t call this targetting buildings. There was a mortar attack on Downing Street that was intended to kill.

            You really must not buy the myths so prevalent in the USA about the way the IRA conducted their campaigns. That was for fundraising. The IRA were _real_ terrorists.

            The difference is we didn’t panic (quite so much). We also entered into peace talks and the peace, eventually, held. To the extent that Martin McGuinness (who was a Provisional IRA member of some rank) and Ian Paisley (who founded the Third Force and co-founded Ulster Resistance, both loyalist paramilitaries) became firm friends, with McGuinness very poignantly expressing his loss when Paisley died.

          7. @Mike I don’t want to get into a big fight about the whole specifics of the various terror groups, but I do want to object to your statement that the brits wanted to make peace, the brits were almost as violent and nasty as terrorist during most of the conflict to people they suspected, as you can sort of expect when being bombed and attacked like that, but they certainly didn’t take the high road for most of the troubled years and it’s best to not shine a too bright a light on either party and best to avoid painting anybody involved as ‘good guys’.
            Except maybe people like those sisters of the guy who’s throat was cut, they certainly had a steady stand and a view of violence being bad regardless what excuse someone comes up with.

            As for the other person on the subject of the RAF, I think I sort of said that they didn’t target civilians much, so I did not deny they might have, just not much AFAIK, I’m not an expert on terrorist history. Oh and I didn’t even know the RAF ever warned, I thought they just bombed/shot targets without warning. I only knew the IRA did warn more than once with bombings in mainland england, and as I said that they sometimes gave a extremely short time to react from what I hear.

            And to Ken: yes you terrorize civilians if you attack civilians, but if your enemy is the government(s) then it makes more sense to terrorize them, and that actually works better since if you kill ten people in 50 million people will think the chance they become victim as not being big, but the leaders are of course a much smaller group and if they were targeted they would be much more terrorized. But I’m not sure I can successfully get into the mind of terrorists so I’m not sure what thinking and logic they employ, if any.

          8. I didn’t suggest that the British conducted themselves with honour. Surprisingly Maggie had a back-channel communication with the IRA from _very_ early on, as it turns out, but yes, the aim was to crush the IRA if they wouldn’t negotiate surrender. I didn’t try to paint the British as the good guys (I’m too British to do that).

            I was trying to counter the idea that the Provisional IRA were mere rebels targeting property; they were not. (For example, twenty minutes warning that there might be a bomb in ANY mainline railway station, only for a bomb in a litter bin to kill a commuter. And that’s before you look at the pub bombings.)

            It was the real thing, they weren’t doing it for show. They are absolutely comparable with other terrorist organisations.

            It wasn’t a good time, and nobody really conducted themselves with honour. Mercifully it is — just about — in the past, and everyone remotely sane wants to leave it there. But let’s not pretend.

        2. The *VERY* big difference is the brits didn’t panic. They took a few sensible precautions and just got on with their lives.

          Even the so-called ‘cold war’ was only a ‘problem’ here in the States. Nobody else was panicking or running witchhunts (McCarthy, et. al.).

          Believe me, the move to England came as a *VERY* big shock to a young teenager who had been been doing ‘duck-and-cover’ drills since kindergarden.

          1. The point of terrorism is to terrorise people – if you do (as the UK did/does) dust yourself off, make a cup of tea, and carry on then they have lost. If you run round screaming and panicking, lock down every airport, border crossing, school and other public building, install body scanners, and then start a war or two, they’ve got exactly what they wanted.

            Sure it might mean a few more people might be killed (although the effectiveness of the anti-terror precautions / TSA scanners etc. seems at best questionable), but it’s the price you pay as a free society for remaining free, and sending the biggest possible “fuck you” to the asshats.

          2. @D Ballantyne: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

      1. Teacher was only doing what they were instructed to do. You say the teachers were being paranoid but they were just being cautious. This is likely the purpose for the kid bringing the hoax bomb to school, come up with a story to make it look like the school was being racist so for now on the teachers will be more hesitant to speak up about a potential threat.

        1. The very fact that we are talking about this now seems to indicate that this was a publicity stunt. A very sucessful one too. I could very easily build the clock. I could not very easily get the most powerful man in the world to ask for some of my time.

          1. The family set the story just right to light up social media.

            I wonder how the President will handle the truth about Ahmed’s invention. I suspect he will try and pitch it as a case of a boy that is struggling to learn about technology, so we need to invest in more STEM classes, carefully avoiding the reality that Ahmed was already in a STEM program.

          2. If I was Obama I would have have somebody quickly teach my daughter how to make a real clock, even a kit, then have her teach the brat how it’s done. Now that would be a lesson he deserves.

        2. but then why was the school not evacuated? why did the boy remain in class until police arrived for questioning?
          this only makes sense if the teacher/school authorities in general already realized it was not a bomb at all…

          1. Making a hoax bomb is against the law, no matter how lame the construction job is, if you intimidate people you are in trouble. See how it works now? The law has a lot to say about even your impact on other people’s minds.

      2. So you’re advocating teachers just shut up? Odds have zero impact on what a kid will do in the future; they are derived from history and show what kids have done in the past.
        …When a bomb DOES get created and brought into school (columbine much?) who is at fault?
        My plan:
        Educate the teachers. Tell them the odds, but tell them who to contact BEFORE they simply call the police.

          1. They damn well better be “islamophobic”. Have you seen what Muslims to do other Muslims, let alone what they do to non-Muslims? I fear the sort of terror attacks that Muslim fanatics have perpetrated so many times against Americans and so many others, including other Muslims following other sectarian teaching. I do not fear all Muslims, but I do fear the bad ones, and I prefer to get to know someone before I determine that I can trust them or I need to be wary of them.

            It’s not paranoia if they are out to get you. And Muslim fanatics ARE out to get us. Islam is at war with western civilization, only we refuse to acknowledge it. Islam is not a peaceful religion, according to its own scriptures. Islam literally translates to “submission”. If we do not submit willingly, they will make us submit by violent force. Muslims do horrible things to other Muslims; how much more horrible things will they do to non-Muslims? We had all better be “islamophobic”; it may just save our lives. Anything else is willful ignorance.

            Was the clock a bomb? Obviously not. Was it a deliberate attempt at a hoax? I think it has become clear that it was. Was it something that the boy’s father hoped to use to prove some sort of racism or intolerance? Almost certainly yes. Did it work? To a certain degree, yes. It sure got a lot of you riled up against the school, the teachers, “the man”, and whoever else you could think of. The boy deliberately did a really dumb thing, and he got caught and arrested. Sometimes stupid people need to be arrested every once in a while in order to learn to be less stupid. Let’s hope this boy learns the lesson now. Before he builds a real bomb.

          2. Initially I thought perhaps the whole event was designed as propaganda – because of the release of the photo of Ahmed in handcuffs.

            However, it turns out the adult sister was present and she took and released the photo.

            It seems perhaps the family pushed the story. There are pictures of a encampment the family started at the school..

        1. The difference is that most of these kids telegraph their intentions for months or years before they take action, if they ever do.
          So the question is, did this kid telegraph any intent to do harm to others? If not, then you deal with a clock looking device as a clock looking device.
          If not, then you treat it like a possible threat.

          1. His entire family have been telegraphing their hostility towards local authority figures. The entire thing has political overtones, therefore what he did does constitute a very mild form of terrorism. Fear as a political tool.

            Except there are a lot of intelligent people who are not afraid to call bullshit on the entire farce.

          2. simplistically split up the situation in 2 possible cases:
            1) teacher/school follows standard operating procedure
            *why upon discovery of a potential bomb is the school not evacuated?
            *why is the kid pulled from class (which goes on regardless of potential bomb) only later when police arrive?
            => Either a serious problem with SOP, OR it was no SOP at all, goto case 2)
            2) teacher/school acted prejudicially
            * entirely conceivable that either the kid or the teacher wanted to score publicity points… playing into each others prejudices.

          3. You eliminate the possibility of a discipline problem with the child that exacerbated the situation.

            The school thinks the boy wanted to create a disturbance with his ‘clock’, and that earned him a ride in a cop car. The family said that the teacher, the principal, and the police thought it was a bomb – every action the teacher, principal, and police took confirms they didn’t think it was a bomb, but hey – everyone ‘knows’ that every Texan is racist & stupid, so people ignore the facts and go with their opinion.

    2. A couple years ago in Germany there was a case where a student tried to bring an actual bomb-looking bomb to school. It was an old WWII bomb he had found playing somewhere. When he called the police about it they didn’t believe him so he thought he’d show it to a teacher. But he didn’t even make it to school as the busdriver recognized what the kid was trying to take into his bus.
      The police came and took care of the bomb but the student did not get into trouble for doing what he did. ( though afterward all the news where full with instructions on what to do when you find an old bomb )

      1. Thanks to helpful members of the public, old munitions have often arrived at the front desks of police stations in the UK. Often from sources such as wartime UXBs, military keepsakes and collectables, uncovered Home Guard stashes and the odd IRA arms dump.

    3. If any student does anything to intimidate any other student or staff member they should be punished in proportion to the magnitude of the implied or direct threat. i.e. Any form of death threat requires the involvement of the police, in fact in many jurisdictions failure to report an indictable offence is also an offence.

      See, TEX PE. CODE ANN. § 38.171 : Texas Statutes – Section 38.171: FAILURE TO REPORT FELONY

        1. “At no point did the boy offer a threat or intimidation. Intent is required for a crime.”

          He wasn’t charged with a crime, he was suspended from school gor 3 days.

          The intentional act of bringing a potentially intimidating item to school counts as provocation (he claims he was worried about scaring others with his clock, so he put it in the pencil box.) when asked he gave a non-sensual answer (he brought it to school to ‘impress his teacher’) and soon stopped answering questions about his ‘invention’, causing the police to become frustrated and ‘take him downtown’.

          Oh wait, you think it was perfectly reasonable for a 14 year-old to expect his teacher to be impressed by his ‘invention’?

        2. Your claim is blatantly misleading, he *enacted* the threat, and succeeded. Otherwise we would not be having this conversation. His very lame copy of a theatrical “bomb in a briefcase” was created for the purpose of making people think it was what it looks like, a bomb. His intent is crystal clear. His plan was to induce fear, for political gain, that is the definition of terrorism.

          The irony is his father may succeed politically in his native country and they will all move back there only to be killed in a bob blast set off by other terrorists.

    4. Seriously, teachers shouldn’t even stop being paranoid. Why should they?

      But they should learn to be brave and keep their fears in check until they confirm that they are just. They have to teach kids not to jump to conclusions, not to act on instinct, but to be brave and solve their problems with reasoning.

      Everyone can act on instinct, they can already at birth. That’s not what schools and schoolteachers are about. They are about reasoning, verifying, about teaching anything that involves the conscious mind instead of just feelings and instinct.

      Teachers, of all people, should display rationality when handling situations. Not just rationality in confirming their suspicions, but also rationality in punishment.

      For instance, if you make a judgement mistake as a teacher, you do NOT react base and punish the student for WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Because you’re only punishing the student for YOUR FEARS, not for anything that really happened. That is completely irrational and exactly contrary to what you should teach kids.

      Punishing kids for something that they did not do is worse than anything you can do to them. It erodes their faith in their fellow humans, it turns children into psychopaths if they are not strong enough to resist that.

      1. So you believe Ahmed’s fantastical story that he removed the insides of a commercially-produced alarm clock ‘to impress his engineering teacher’ with his ‘invention’?

        The teacher acted rationally, she had a student that disrupted class, intentionally or accidentally. She took the student to the office, just as she might if that same student’s cellphone rang during class. (Assuming, for the moment that this high school like many/most high schools had a rule that cellphones had to be off during the school day.)

    5. If they suspect a bomb, they should call the bomb squad, follow their directions, and attempt to evacuate people from around the bomb or the bomber, without creating panic.

      What they should NOT do is corner the potential bomber, harass him, and attempt to be cute and examine the device. Doing so proves they were either retarded or dishonest. In either case, they should all be fired.

    6. I’m sure they would too, or, rather the admin layer would. Because – these are mostly retarded people. Retarded people fear and loathe responsibility more that anything.

      Given the current state of education the odds of a student successfully cooking up some improvised explosives and a reliable way to set them off is … very, very small. Takes study and effort – making explosives and blowing up the local rubbish dump is one of the things we did when I was a teenager.

      1. See comments below:

        > “I’m sure they would too, or, rather the admin layer would. Because – these are mostly retarded people. Retarded people fear and loathe responsibility more that anything.” > Ask the bomb squad what you should do, I think they’d encourage you err on the side of safety.

        Calling people ‘retarded’ because they put your children’s safety ahead of their image is, well, ‘retarded’ (to use your own word).

        > “PS: > Given the current state of education the odds of a student successfully cooking up some improvised explosives and a reliable way to set them off is … very, very small. Takes study and effort – making explosives and blowing up the local rubbish dump is one of the things we did when I was a teenager.” >

        Wow, aren’t you smart – we’re so lucky to have someone as smart as you in our (virtual) midst.

        I’m sure the workers at ‘the local rubbish dump’ we’re delighted to have you sneaking in and leaving your improvised explosives littered about the dump.

        You being a former explosives expert that is well-versed in planting IEDs at public facilities, I value your input on this topic.


  2. Very cool, that’s a lot of sensing with such basic components- and the toilet floater is brilliant.

    Bomb-making is an interesting thought experiment really, how would you make a bomb that couldn’t be disarmed? Personally, I would think a barometric sensor inside of the case, and then pressurize the case would be the best option- it would make it impossible to open the case unless you were in a pressurized environment. Vibration sensors are another obvious one, as would be a gyroscope/accelerometer. Wrap that all in lead shielding to prevent xrays, and then have a visible detonator on top to prove your point, while a mirror of it all is on the inside of the bomb as well. (Perhaps you could actually put the circuitry on the inside of the explosive?) Heck, it’s the future now so we might as well put a gps on there. While we’re at it, let’s give it a remote detonator so when we pick up the money Arno Funke style we can make sure we get all of it instead of 5k. Oh, and let’s add a digital clock on the side, because hollywood.

    Fun stuff, and I’m now on another watchlist.

    1. GPS is easily spoofed.
      Pressurized environment is also not that hard to find.
      And a lead lining means that the bomb squad has no reason to believe that it’s actually a bomb (or not).
      Have to let them see enough of what is inside to know that it’s serious, but not so much as to tip your hand and give them an idea how to disarm it.

      I think the inability to move the bomb is really brilliant, modern tech that’s just an accelerometer…

      I think the other key to this bomb was the sheer size of it… makes it hard to get a blast cover over it.

      1. Wouldn’t say easily, but yes, spoof-able.
        However, the bomb was in a building made of reinforced concrete, several stories high. GPS tends to not work in such places…

        And since we’re trying to come up with an even more insidious construction – imagine the sheer panic if you actually added something radioactive. Not much to pose any danger, but enough to get detected.

    2. Most bomb-makers actually value their life, so they leave a way of disarming the bomb in case something goes wrong while they are working on it or transporting it. That’s why there is usually a short delay between triggering one of the safety mechanisms, and the bomb actually going off — with some way of stopping it. Only an amateur would make an un-disarmable bomb.

      1. “Only an amateur would make an un-disarmable bomb”
        The bomb in this article was un-disarmable. It was only possible to disarm one of the 8 triggers, so it could be moved to another location before it explodes.

          1. No, it was just movable. You forget that there was a timer that could not be disarmed once it was set. The only thing that could be done to make the situation safe was to disable the movement trigger and rush the bomb to a place where it could not do any damage when it exploded. Not a question of IF it exploded, but WHEN.

      1. It was meant to induce fear, not death. Do you think that anyone would pay up after the bomb would have exploded? Of course not. The bomb was MEANT to be scanned, so that teh people who scanned it would realize that it was dead serious and therefore pay up.

        That’s the thing with terrorism. Only a dumb terrorist kills the people of which he wants something. That’s why they always kill innocent people.

          1. The suicidal terrorist is the most dangerous by an order of magnitude. That is the problem with a mind set that sees this life as just a test to get access to an infinite hedonistic existence. It is very attractive to angry, impoverished, young men.

          2. No, no, no, no, no.

            I think if you’re keeping score, Muslim civilianss killed by Americans vs American civilianss killed by Muslims, the USA is well ahead. When you drop your bomb from a plane, it’s not murder, apparently.

    3. How about capacitive sensors hooked to the metal side-panels? Any person or large piece of machinery comes close, or any tool touches it, and the panels would detect it. Once they get the disarm code, they can use an infrared remote control to enter it.

        1. Ah, but you would have it sound a warning – “remove that in 10s or I blow up”. Won’t work with the X-ray detector, as they’ll have their photos already – or do they need several angles?

  3. >”Most of all though, we can see that this bomb, like just about every other real bomb, didn’t have a visible clock. Placing a pretty LED display on the outside of the box is something that happens in the movies, not reality.”

    And the “bomb” that motivated this article didn’t have one either. On the outside it was a pencil case with a power cord sticking out. On the inside it had the appearance of a bomb detonator.

    The difference between such a clock and an actual bomb is still just the inclusion of an explosive, because it’s such a trivial job to wire up a blasting cap or a smashed lightbulb, or any piece of thin wire to the alarm buzzer to set off an explosion with it. When I was 14 we used to take toy gun caps that come in rolls, combine several and ignite them with a piece of magnet wire taken out of a toy car motor – and yes, we did build a time bomb out of an alarm clock.

    The whole debate about how it was “obviously not a bomb” is just stupid, because actual IEDs don’t come in any standard format, and the defining factor in time bombs is the inclusion of a clock of some sort. Finding such a device in the hands of a student is similiar to finding a half-finished zip gun.

        1. That’s *EXACTLY* the point.

          The whole thing is ridiculous. A narrow-minded bigot panicked because he saw an ‘Arab’ boy with a ‘bomb’ which just happened to look like a pencil case with a power lead.

          1. ANY student with such a device would have been detained and questioned when found with an “innocent” looking pencil case with a power cord, that also happens to beep and reveals to be a bomb detonator when opened.

          2. @ Dax,

            What do you mean the pencil case clock reveals to be a bomb detonator when opened? What is the difference between a bomb detonator and an object that reacts based on a stimulus (alarm clock, kitchen timer, cell phone etc)? I could turn my wristwatch into a bomb detonator if I wanted to but that doesn’t mean that I should be arrested/questioned. If the clock didn’t have any explosive material, or anything meant to simulate explosive material then it shouldn’t be considered a bomb.

          1. His actions caused fear in his target, the teacher, and she was required by law to report the matter. This is a fact and her technological competence is irrelevant. It is pretty clear that he has a problem with women having authority over him and that lead him to hatch a plan to intimidate her and or humiliate her, which he succeeded in doing, and the fact that his actions were naive and incompetent does not detract from the fear he induced or make the act lawful.

          2. “There is no evidence he intended to do that..”

            Argument of ignorance.

            The whole point here is that the clock was constructed at the instruction of or by the publicity seeking father, who told Ahmed to show it around in school to cause the exact reaction it got, because they -knew- exactly how the teachers were instructed to react to such devices. There is a zero tolerance policy in place, because such devices -are- an actual cause for concern because they -are- trivially converted to actual IEDs and IIDs.

            Simply having one is a reasonable cause to question a student, because you -have- to establish that they aren’t trying to pull off another Columbine attack or at least burn down someone else’s locker with it – or plant it as an evidence against someone, pull off a bomb hoax… etc. etc.

            At first he showed it to the shop teacher with the intent that he would report it, but the shop teacher ignored it and instructed against showing it to any other teacher, so he set the alarm to go off during another class, and got the wanted reaction.

        1. His target was his science teacher, who was not afraid. And you are not adding more statements that you cannot prove. You cannot prove that he had an issue with women having authority over them, you cannot prove he hatched a plan. You are just making shiat up at this point.

          Also just because my actions lead to you being fearful does not make my actions illegal. I have to intend to make you afraid, and again you have no evidence that this is the case.

          1. I am not making anything up Chris, I am just taking the arguments your kind use and turning them against you to prove a point about you, because I am tired of you polluting my inbox with bullshit and propaganda that is an insult to my intelligence.

            All of the accusations you have made against multiple people are far harder to prove, it is just that you want to believe them and therefore need to reject any other logic that undermines your existing world view.

        2. This is America though. If someone wanted a gun, they’d just buy one. They don’t even cost a lot. You seem to forget that “kid brings gun to school” is actually a pretty common thing.

          But if they happen to be a darker shade of brown than Weird Al, clearly they’re a terrorist and therefore the police can use those awesome special powers that come with terrorist charges. You know, the powers that used to violate all the rules that cops had before about 2002.

        3. >”Yes. Let’s talk about intent.”

          No. How about let’s not talk about intent. Let’s keep it to verifiable measurables.
          Assessing immeasurable intent is based on the same thing as assessing immeasurable desire of some god.
          Its just projecting things on real or imagined persons.

          Join a cult, but stop spamming HaD with arguments over immeasurables.

          1. Considerer this, the kid’s hoax bomb actually resembles other hoax bombs that can be found on the web, he employed a visual stereotype to ensure recognition and induce fear, and that the correlation can be expressed mathematically, is that quantifiable enough for you?

        1. What would you say if you found a kid with a tube matching a .22 round, a spring, a nail and a block of wood carved roughly into the shape of a handle.

          Would you surmise they’re making some sort of “innocent science experiment”?

          Of course they could just be kids being kids – but you’d be very very naive to assume – and very stupid to criticize the person who doesn’t.

          1. I would say: “I see, so you are trying to make a gun? You seem to have the principles about right. I hope you only use it to defend yourself, and only when more peaceful options are exhausted, say against an angry bear in the woods…”

            and also “Be careful you don’t hurt yourself in the process!”

    1. “the defining factor in time bombs is the inclusion of a clock of some sort. Finding such a device in the hands of a student is similiar to finding a half-finished zip gun.”

      You’re…you’re actually buying into the argument that owning a clock is halfway to making a bomb? Congratulations, you’re ready to send people to Guantanamo for owning the most common watch in the world, like a TRUE patriot.

        1. LOL

          I remember that one. That particular ‘device’ was built by one of the maintenance guys at Fox News because they needed a ‘visual’.

          A modern technical version of the ‘Piltdown Man’ hoax :)

          1. Hoax was probably the wrong word for him to use but he’s quite right about the original origin of that photo. The DOD probably included it just to err on the side of caution.

          2. It’s actually one of several ‘fake’ timing devices built as examples. I think the confusion / hoax story came about because Fox News wrongly claimed it was a recovered device then later admitted it was a fake.

          3. Can anyone provide a source for this? Nothing I’ve been typing in google can corroborate the story about Fox News as a source for this device. In fact, the only mention of a Fox News fake example IED is this very thread. Whereas, the source I listed actually specifies a bunch of the Casio watch trigger devices as being recovered in Afghanistan and Iraq.

            Was the DoD lying in that document?

          4. Fox News were not the source of the device. It was one of a number of examples built by a DOD contractor on behalf of the DOD for awareness and other training purposes.

            Or do you really think the military and law enforcement use recovered evidence for that?

            As for finding references to “Fox News fake example IED”… I’ll let you work that one out for yourself :)

        2. Why is dismantling and repackaging a clock halfway to anything? Why focus on the electronics? The explosives are the hard part to get, and the least common. Having explosives is at least 99% of having a bomb, I’d say…so that means owning pieces of a clock accounts for only 1%. I knew the F-91 was used for IEDs, that was the entire point of the article. However, fearmongers like you will equate the clock with the bomb, rather than equating the explosives with the bomb. I see the electronics above and think how I could use that to time lawn sprinklers or a chicken coop door or a loud siren to wake me up after a long night. The electronics aren’t frightnening to me. Strap it to a bundle of tubes or blocks and I’m running the opposite direction.

          1. Because all you need to do to go from a dismantled alarm clock in a suitable case to an actual bomb is to cut the wires to the alarm buzzer and insert an igniting device. It can be as simple as 5 mm of thin magnet wire wrapped around a match head. That’s how we did it when we were kids.

            The Casio wrist watch doesn’t have enough power to light it, but a 9 Volt battery backed desk clock does. I know this from experience because we tried and got the matches to light with a single AAA battery. After that, it’s just a matter of what you want to do with it – arson or explosives.

            That is why, if I found any student with such a device, I would detain them whether they were white, black, brown or green. 14 year old kids don’t dismantle alarm clocks to “impress” their teachers – 9 times out of 10 they’re doing it to do something stupid and illegal, exactly like we did when we were 14.

        3. Crap, should I be worried by wrist is going to explode if I use the countdown-timer function?

          Wait a minute, electronic devices are not bombs. A bomb requires an explosive. No amount of messy wires, ticking noises, or beeping is going explode, ever.

        4. This is stupid. My 8 year old son has made electronics projects like this before, and without someone saying “This is the timer of a BOMB!!1ONE!” you would literally have no frickin’ idea what the hell it was. In fact, for all you know, this isn’t even a timer for a bomb. It might not even be soldered on the other side. As for “this particular Casio watch has been used for…” literally *any* cheap throwaway $5 watch will do the job just fine. So would a cell phone, which has been the IED remote detonator of choice of terrorists and freedom fighters everywhere since about 1996. You should panic about brown kids in turbans carrying cell phones instead.

          1. It takes experience and experimentation to use just any cheap digital wrist watch to construct a bomb. You need to open the watch without damaging it, and isolate the right signals off the circuit board, and for that you need equipment and time.

            That is why the terrorists used a specific brand, make and model of a watch. They needed something that an illiterate idiot could be trained to build with no special equipment in the field, so they standardized on the Casio watches.

          2. “My 8 year old son has made electronics projects like this before, and without someone saying “This is the timer of a BOMB!!”

            This type of project is age-appropriate for an 8 year-old, not a 14 year-old ‘electronics wizard’ as his family claims he is.

            Did your 8 year-old take their similar project to school, or did s/he keep it at home? The security concerns at a school are different than in a private residence.

            I could understand an 8 year-old calling this their invention, but a 14 year-old enrolled in STEM classes really ought to know the difference between partial disassembly and invention.

        5. “Dismantling an alarm clock and rebuilding it inside an enclosure is.”
          An alarm clock’s original enclosure has more than enough room for explosives, replacing it makes the device no less or more dangerous.
          And while I might expect more ingenuity of a fourteen year old, keep in mind how many people don’t know how to blink an LED, with or without the help of an Arduino. And his dad’s a politician, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t biased to trusting his own son. If anything that makes him sound less likely to understand the tech involved and more likely to be proud enough of his child making a pencil case that tells time as to presume anyone else would feel the same.

          1. “And his dad’s a politician, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t biased to trusting his own son. If anything that makes him sound less likely to understand the tech involved and more likely to be proud enough of his child making a pencil case that tells time as to presume anyone else would feel the same.”

            Until his dad realizes his son took a perfectly serviceable alarm clock to make an alarm clock with the exact same features as the clock he started with, minus the case.

            This is the technical equivalent of his 14 year-old son running up to his dad boasting that he went poopie in the potty all by himself. There are children with challenges for whom that would be an accomplishment, but Ahmed doesn’t face mental/developmental challenges – quite the opposite, as I understand.

          1. A wrist watch in itself doesn’t have the output power to set off a bomb, and requires significant modification and additions to do so. You need a transistor circuit and an extra battery to drive the actual igniter.

            The difference here is, I could take Ahmed’s clock as-is and simply add the bomb to make a bomb, or an incendiary device, because a full size alarm clock has enough output power to light it. What makes it even more so is that the whole thing is already conveniently packed in a covert container to hide it. Just tuck the wire in the box and nobody can tell – the clock itself runs on the 9 V backup battery.

            The whole thing was built just short of being an actual IED to force the school to take action.

        1. Sure. If I find a person with a bomb detonator and explosives, I will let them walk too. There are perfectly legal and legitimate uses for explosives, you know. Your car has at least two. If you find a person with a car, you should let them walk?

      1. Remember if he had a son, he’d be like Trayvon? Or how about the “beer summit” or trading five violent terrorists (who have since been involved in, wait for it, more terrorism since their release) for one US Army deserter?

        Obama doesn’t care about being “tainted” by getting involved with things that blow back on him because the media constantly covers his backside.

      2. > “But why would Obama let himself get tainted by getting involved, surely he is well enough informed to know how messy the situation would get?”

        No, his advisors likely saw this as a golden opportunity to talk about STEM, to talk about how racist, bigoted, and islamophobic folks in Texas are, and say that the school ‘acted stupidly’.

        Maybe he’ll try and have a ‘Root Beer Summit’…


        1. Surely his intelligent enough to not make the same sort of gross generalisations about people as genuine racists do? How far is the slur, that all Texans are racist and whatever-phobes, going to get him if the double standard is so obvious?

    2. What color is commercial dynamite?
      What color is C4, and its wrapper?
      What is the mass of a standard block of TNT?

      If you don’t know the answer to these questions, perhaps you should keep your pole hole shut, as should the teacher, and let experts handle it?

      You realize laptops have electronics and a power cord sticking out of them, right? And bombs have been hidden in backpacks?

      So why isn’t every kid with a laptop or backpack being searched?

      Also, if this was actually a bomb, the wall plug would be there for a reason, not to make everyone think it was a bomb.

      Unless he communicated a threat about the device.

      Which he did not.

      This is why racist tards should stay out of technical matters.

      And I’m probably more right wing than most here.

  4. Strange, when I was disarming IED’s in Afghanistan and Iraq, I came across nothing like your bombs. I came across, poorly wired triggers, using cell phones and old clocks.
    I guess, I could have been wrong. I should stand with Achmed. MY experience gets in the way.

    1. I can’t say I believe you actually did that job, but even so, I think it unlikely any IED ever had a LED display, the simple nokia or casio LCD was the display present if any display was present from what I hear.

      1. You are confusing IED with land mine.

        IEDs are anything that is repurposed to cause damage. It could have a trip wire, it could have a timer, it could have a remote-controlled detonator, etc.

        Improvised Explosive Device is a catch-all term that covers many types of ‘home made’ explosive devices.

        1. Many of those phone triggered IED’s simply connect the wires to the vibrator motor to the detonator circuit. Turn the ringer off and there’s your remote detonated bomb. This also works well for ensuring the bomb placers don’t change their minds. Tell them where to place the bombs then when they get close to the spot, give them a call on the explod-o-phone.

  5. Further, how many teachers would know what a sheet of C4 looked like, maybe when that sheet of C4 was under the foam of the pencil case? And that C4 being more than enough explosive material to destroy a classroom?

    1. I think you’re exaggerating C4. How many grams do you think will fit inconspicuously in a postcard sized sheet?

      Sure, if you’re making a shrapnel grenade, but when people think of “destroying a classroom”, they’re thinking of a bit more than a loud sharp bang and flying pieces of a pencil case.

      1. You don’t need to destroy the classroom, the shrapnel would do fine at the job it was intended for. Just look at an ordinary hand grenade, the pressure wave itself would probably only break the windows/damage the doors, maybe bend the walls if it’s one the overglorified tool sheds.
        It’s the metal pieces that maim and kill.

    2. I recall a story about an airliner that was brought down by explosives in a boom box radio over Lockerbee, Scotland… But that couldn’t have been a ‘real bomb’ – it had lights on it.

        1. wrong, logically that doesnt connect, a gun wtihout its firing pin is a more apt comparison, as he didnt have neither explosives(bullet) nor detonator(firing pin).

          if you want to make logical comparisons at least get the logic right.

          1. The clock as it was dismantled and rebuilt inside the case was already suitable to be used as a detonator without further modifications. Just add the bomb.

            The logic stands. A detonator without a bomb is still grounds for alarm, just like a gun without bullets or even bullets without a gun, when held by a teenager who has no reason to be handling such things.

  6. This bomb could have been disabled by freezing it. It is used to make the battery inert and prevent any electrical ignition. Anyway, adding a thermic sensor is easy once the maker know that.

      1. Freezing nitroglycerin (in the sticks of dynamite) would make the nitroglycerin more sensitive. The shaped charge would have set them off anyway. The nitroglycerin has sufficient brisance to detonate the TNT, even at liquid nitrogen temperatures.

    1. A clever way to prevent it is to make a dead man switch: the battery feed an electro magnet. If the battery lose it’s power the electo magnet is released and detonate the bomb mechanically. This way, if anything happens to the power source, everything goes boom.

  7. Apparently, even the FBI couldn’t help but eventually trust the guy just a little bit. Birges had told them a few details about the bomb and they came up with a plan to disarm it, based on that information. It went wrong when there was just one other detail (the explosives in the top case) that they didn’t know about.

    I tried to think of what the FBI could have done, if they would have had, say, today’s technology. They might have gotten better images from the inside of the bomb and might have had a better chance at analysis (and not make the whole building go boom). Fill up the whole room with foam? No that wouldn’t work, it would just transfer more pressure on explosion. Try to find the battery on the X-rays and drill a hole with non-conductive tools (do ceramic drills exist?). Dig a deep hole around the bomb to absorb the pressure of the explosion? Too risky because it might go off any time while you’re digging, and besides, it was probably on concrete or something.

    It’s kinda fun to think about it, but also kind of scary: Any kind of way that I can think of to disarm such a bomb, I can think of a way to work around too. I guess the world should be lucky that determined bombers such as Birges are usually more crazy, more in a hurry, less intelligent and with less access to resources.

    Another thing: I had never even heard of this until today. Compare that to 9/11 which (pretty much) everyone in the world knows about. I think I know which one I prefer.

    1. Ceramic drills are too dangerous, because they may catch bits of the tin foil inside and still make a contact. Acid would have been better. Once you have good photos of the inside (a 3D model, including differences in materials), you can plan for strategic places for the holes. You can then fill just the tilt sensor with foam, immobilize the plunger, cut the wires, etc.

      1. I think if i could gain acess to the switches which shouldn’t be that hard use a chain of resistors to drain the battery with a dummy load. That is ofcourse if the switches are on a seperate circuit which I think is the case. the resistors could be setup to reduce the voltage to an unuseable level?

  8. I think a link to this article… Strike that, printed copies of this article… No, that won’t work either. I think a children’s picture-book style re-write of this article should be sent to every teacher and administrator in and around Dallas, Texas so that they can understand the difference between a smart young man with a homemade clock and a psychotic killer with a bomb.

    1. “a smart young man with a homemade clock”

      You still believe it was “homemade”, like he etched his own circuit boards? Read the datasheet for the IC controller and used his soldering iron to assemble the collected pieces into a workable clock?

      “a psychotic killer with a bomb”

      No one, not the teacher that picked up the device and walked with it down to the office, the principal that called the police about a “possible bomb hoax” and never evacuated the school or the police officers that took the boy in to be interrogated for a “possible bomb hoax” thought Ahmed had stuffed a bomb into his pencil box… They believed he wanted to dupe someone with his ‘invention’.

      If the teacher thought it might have been a bomb, why pick it up and walk down the hall with it?

      If the principal thought it was a bomb, why did he call the police and report a possible bomb HOAX, and not evacuate the building?

      If the police believed there might have been a bomb at the school, why didn’t they roll the bomb squad to the school, out of an abundance of precaution?

      The answer, because they didn’t think it was a bomb.

      1. Ahmed never called it a bomb, so it was down to the moronic “adults” running that school and police department to make wildly stupid accusations based on nothing other than their own ignorance.

        As for it being homemade, do you create every component of every project you make from scratch? If so, please let me know how to make your own ICs. That would be a handy skill to have.
        Yes, he used off the shelf parts. We all do. It’s no less homemade because of that.

        1. Have you even looked at the pictures? He clearly removed the plastic clock case and stuck all the electronics as-is into a case. I may not make all my own components when I call a circuit homemade, but I at least make one of the parts myself.

          1. I have seen them. Again, there are many hackaday articles that feature people that repackage existing circuits. Just because you do it a certain way, or someone else does it a certain way, or so-and-so says “this”, does not honestly mean much with regards to determining his motives. You are using anecdotal evidence to speculate. So could you be correct in your line of thinking? Sure. However, the fact remains that we don’t know his true motives and there is not currently any real evidence showing they were malicious. Innocent until proven guilty, right?

          2. Yup, I’ve seen them. Looks similar to a clock I once made. I gutted a cheapo off-the-shelf clock radio, cut the FM radio portion of the board, and stuffed it into a home-made case, along with an identical set of clock guts so that I had a dual-time clock for ham radio use.

        2. Yes, it was the “moronic” adults in school. However let’s call a spade a spade. The kid was a victim of the “No tolerance” policy and had nothing to do with his race or religion. His parents took advantage of the situation to scream “Islamophobia” and he followed suit.

          1. Serious question:

            How do we know anyone ever thought this was an ACTUAL real bomb, even for an instant?

            The teacher picked it up and carried it to the office.
            The Principal called the police but did not evacuate the school.
            The police never dispatched the bomb squad or called the fire department for an assist.

            I argue if anyone of the above thought for a moment ‘it might be a bomb’ they would have acted differently.
            (BTW, where is the 911 call from the school, that will tell us exactly what the Principal reported and would explain the police response.)

            The school and the police have their hands tied and can not divulge any information regarding juvenile offenders like Ahmed, so I suspect the vast majority of the ‘facts’ everyone is so certain of are coming from Ahmed’s parents, who may not be the most objective of sources.

            What I find amazing is that in order for #IStandWithAhmed supporters to avoid admitting they were wrong about any part of Ahmed’s story EVERYONE in this story EXCEPT Ahmed is wrong, ignorant, racist, and islamophobic.

          2. Zero tolerance of what? A clock? But you are correct, lets call a spade a spade. The city and its officails are known islamaphobes. With that being the case why would we assume it had nothing to do with this race or religion?

          3. The kid made a bomb replica to intimidate his teacher, it worked, and what followed was standard procedure following the letter of the law. Get over it.

            Your logic is seriously flawed because you don’t understand how proof works. If there was a rate of 2:1 of colored vs white boys being arrested for playing with fake bombs then one could suggest that there was a correlation, but even then you have not proven the cause.

          4. “The city and its officails are known islamaphobes.”

            No, Ahmed’s father is a media whore, the Islamic version of Charles Schumer.

            He ‘ran’ for the Presidency of Sudan twice.

            He ‘defended’ the Koran against Rev. Jones in Florida, who ultimately burned the bible.

            He attempted to create a Sharia Law court in Irving, in violation of existing state and federal law.

            And I hear vauge rumblings (unsubstantiated) that his family (him, his daughter, and Ahmed, the clockmaker) have been constant irritants in the local school system.

          5. “We know the city officals are racist and islamophobic, so it is not really a stretch there.”

            You know that how?

            His issue is with the school district, not the police – the school officials suspended him, the police elected not to file charges. ‘City Officials’ weren’t involved in this case, except maybe a prosecutor who, if contacted, apparently decided not to file charges against Ahmed.

            Teachers are hired by principals, principals are hired by the school board, the school board is an independent government organization elected by the residents in the community.

          6. @Dan Prove it. He never said it was a bomb, he opened it and let them see that it was wires, 2 circuit boards, and an LED clock. There was no evidence of any explosives or anything of the like. I understand proof just fine, you are the one not understanding it. Someone walking in with something that YOU think is a bomb is not proof that HE is trying to intimidate you. It is just proof that YOU are paranoid.

            My proof of the city officals is based on past actions, particularlly the outlawing of Muslim arbitration while allowing Christian arbitration.

          7. You don’t understand logic and proof at all, which you just demonstrated.

            You cannot prove he is innocent by defaming his victim and suggesting she is mentally ill, further more that does not detract from the fear she actually experienced anyway.

          8. Because if he intended to cause a bomb scare, he would admit it to the teacher, principal, police?

            So you believe Ahmed is so ignorant that he truly believed his ENGINEERING class teacher was going to be ‘impressed’ by his uncased table clock?

          9. @Dan, no his issue is with both. The police arrested him, they should not have. There was no evidence to arrest him, and yes you need probable cause just to arrest someone. You apparently also dont know how citys and schools are connected.

            “Teachers are hired by principals, principals are hired by the school board, the school board is an independent government organization elected by the residents in the community.”

            All of the above people are part of the electorate of the city, who elect its officials. If its officials are generally islomaphobes and keep their jobs them the majority of the people in the city are OK with that, which means that they are as well.

          10. LOL that is insane. For one the law is very clear about what must be done if a person tries to intimidate another person with a device that could be interpreted as having lethal potential. Furthermore you previous claims that the police are racist ignores the fact that one of the arresting officers is blacker than the boy is! What proof have you got that all of the officers are not atheists who would not biased toward any religion?

          11. “Because if he intended to cause a bomb scare, he would admit it to the teacher, principal, police?

            So you believe Ahmed is so ignorant that he truly believed his ENGINEERING class teacher was going to be ‘impressed’ by his uncased table clock?”

            If he inteded to cause a bomb scare he would not have told his engineering teacher about the clock, and then packed it up. he would have told someone about a bomb..

            Also it was not just an uncased table clock. It was a led from a clock modified to use an AC adapter. For a 14 year old that is pretty impressive.

          12. First off, he never showed it to his engineering teacher, he showed it to his first period teacher, who said not to show it to anyone else in school, then next period his ‘pencil case’ beeped, creating a disturbance in class. When the teacher investigated, she saw his ‘clock’. Neither of these teachers were his engineering teacher.

            Second, he didn’t re-purpose the display to run on an ac adapter… He removed the display, logic and switch circuitboards carefully, along with the power transformer, 9v backup battery, and dropped all the pieces in a store-bought pencil case.

            He made a working clock from a working clock, nothing more.

          13. “LOL that is insane. For one the law is very clear about what must be done if a person tries to intimidate another person with a device that could be interpreted as having lethal potential. Furthermore you previous claims that the police are racist ignores the fact that one of the arresting officers is blacker than the boy is! What proof have you got that all of the officers are not atheists who would not biased toward any religion?”

            First of all the operative word is TRIES. You have no evidence that he TRIED to intimidate, you are assuming with something you cannot prove. Having something that can be interpreted as having lethal potential is not trying to intimidate anyone. If that was the case then the liberals would have the perfect weapon against open carry, you could so that they are trying to intimidate people, and guns definitely have lethal potential…

            Also you are making the claims that black people cannot be racist? also atheists can be biased or not biased against religions. your logical fallacies are tiresome.

          14. QED Chris Bowen is a liar and a propagandist. Look at how he just used arguments that are a perfect template to destroy his own defamatory claims that the police and teachers are racist and islamophobic.

            Nobody is buying the bullshit Chris, the kid is a idiot and got off because daddy has political connections. Get over it before you end up harming the cause you are trying to defend.

          15. You communicated with the intent to deceive (lied) when you suggested that the victim was an engineering teacher in order to imply that she had no cause to be alarmed by the sight of the device that disrupted her class.

          16. Just so we are all clear, the city officials in Irving are racist and islamophobic because they wouldn’t allow Ahmed’s father to create a Sharia Law court in Irving… That’s your ‘proof’, right?

            Does your home city have a Sharia Law court? Is your city also racist and islamophobic?

          17. “The “sharia law” that they banned is the same exact thing as a Catholic going for confession.”

            Quite simply, no, it isn’t.

            A tribunal where both sides in a dispute meet to resolve a disagreement between them (as you describe the Sharia Tribunal/Court) is NOTHING like a little booth where Catholics go and confess their sins and seek redemption.

            You don’t bring an attorney to confession.

            You don’t bring evidence to confession.

            You don’t invite the person(s) you’ve sinned against to join you in confession.

          18. “If he intended to intimidate the woman he would have done exactly what he did, because it did in fact work. Duh!”

            Circular argument much? So if SHE was not intimidated by it then he would not have been trying to intimidate her? So his actual intent does not matter, what she believes is exactly what he intended?

          19. There is a lot case law to demonstrate that if a person actions cause fear that they have acted in an intimidating manner and that it is the opinion of the victim as to how they were made to feel that is relevant.

        3. He didn’t create any part of it. Not a single part. He removed an old clock from its plastic case and put it in the box. That is all. There was absolutely NO invention on his part and there is no logical explanation for taking the thing into the other class if he actually intended to just take it and show it to his science teacher. There is a whole lot of misdirection going on. I have no clue what his actual “intent” was because I can not read his mind, but it really does look like he (maybe put up to it by his uncle) intended to get the exact response that he got.

          1. I would be surprised if this kid even owns a soldering iron, but if he did, he had no reason to warm it up – he didn’t even solder a single connection on his ‘invention’.

          2. So if he didn’t invent anything, he didn’t build a fake bomb? or he didn’t build a clock .. or he didn’t deconstruct a clock … I don’t understand what it was he didn’t do.

            Do you dispute that a kid was playing with some electronics, and dismantled it in such a way that it still functioned, but no longer in the way the original equipment manufacturer intended?

            He intended to show it to his first period teacher (the engineering teacher). He did. That teacher said not to show anyone else. He intended to conform to that.
            In his second period the clock made a noise, and subsequent to that he showed it to his second period teacher (I am speculating here, but I assume the second period teacher demanded that whoever had the device that made the noise, they were to bring it to her desk and give it to her immediately – but this is speculation that I haven’t seen confirmed anywhere).

            This second teacher, started the chain of events that led to him being taken into custody.

            I can’t see where in any of that he intentionally built a device to scare anyone. He intended to show a single, educated teacher (and possibly show more after that). He changed his intention to show other teachers when the first teacher (that obviously could tell it was not a bomb) told him not to show any other teachers.

            He didn’t “invent anything” true, but he had in his possession a device that had been modified. I for one support people modifying devices, and learning what components are required for their functions to remain working. I for one support someone learning by trial and error. If he wanted to pull the guts out of a clock and make a soft-bodied clock in a pencil case, or even a hard-bodied clock in a hard-shell pencil case, is he not inventing an “exposed electronics clock”?

            99 times out of 100 this is precisely how new products are made. An off the shelf component is taken from its existing enclosure, and placed into a custom enclosure. Sometimes it has additional components added, sometimes it doesn’t. Just look at the range of CASIO digital watches, they all behave in a virtually identical manner. You telling me CASIO hasn’t made a new watch when they release the same thing in a different plastic shell?

          3. “Do you dispute that a kid was playing with some electronics, and dismantled it in such a way that it still functioned, but no longer in the way the original equipment manufacturer intended?”

            Yes, I do – the clock retained every function it had when it rolled off the assembly line 30+ years ago and had nothing added.

            “He didn’t “invent anything” true, but he had in his possession a device that had been modified.”

            What ‘modification’ do you believe he made?

      2. But why even assume the kid was trying to make people believe it was a bomb? Did he have a past history of such things? Why handcuff him and suspend him from school for three days. These are the real issues.

          1. The hoax he pulled off is the fact that the school had to detain him as a rule in order to ascertain that he -wouldn’t- use the device as a bomb hoax or an actual bomb – not that the teacher had been in any way intimidated or terrorized by it.

            He intended to be caught with it, so that he and his father could play martyrs about being wrongfully detained.

          1. He is a child.
            He is by definition so frigging stupid he thinks removing the case of a table clock is a notable achievement. (PS. removing it from the case and having it still work is an achievement for a complete novice, in my opinion)

            Hanlons Razor my friend.

          2. “PS. removing it from the case and having it still work is an achievement for a complete novice, in my opinion”

            Agreed, but he claims, as he did on Chris Hayes ‘All In’ show, that he has been ‘tinkering, inventing’ since he was 9 years-old… In other words, he claims to have a long history of doing things like this.

            As the editor of Nuts and Volts (and I) said, this would be impressive for a 9 year-old, not a 14 year-old.

          1. The alarm did go off in class.

            That requires that he intentionally left the clock powered.

            And why would the alarm be set to go off in the middle of the day in the first place?

          2. Table clocks need power, this clock ran on 120v wall current, and it did not have any battery, either to power the clock in the absence of wall power or to keep time during power outages.

            Where did the power come from to operate the clock?

            The logical conclusion, an assumption, is that. It was ‘intentionally’ plugged into the wall.

            Your assumption that Ahmed didn’t plug the clock into an outlet is a complete fabrication.

            We know the clock alarm went off – that point is indisputable, but your assumption it did so without a power source is illogical.

    2. The device in this article is nothing like an improvised weapon, or any common explosive device used in military, civilian, or criminal activities.

      Why be intellectually dishonest when you dont have to be?

      1. I made a similiar device when I was a kid and used it to set off firecrackers and other “improvised fireworks”.

        It wasn’t as “hollywood” looking, but the parts were fundamentally identical to this kids clock. It would take a very stupid and naive person to argue that it couldn’t just as easily have been a weapon. It certainly did fill the definition of an IED.

        1. how did it fill the definition of an IED (improvised explosive device) without having explosives, at worst he knowingly improvised a trigger, which is still debatable, as for what he did without intent, people wouldnt believe how easy it is to make a bomb, any electronics with a timing circuit would fit your defintion of a trigger, cars would in themselvbes be bombs.

          1. I think you guys are missing the point, the kid deliberately did something to intimidate people and that is against the rules of any school and because it was a fake bomb it was against specific Texan laws. It is no different from me indicating that I could stove your skull in with a frozen chicken. The tool used does not detract from the seriousness of the intent to intimidate.

          2. –“how did it fill the definition of an IED (improvised explosive device) without having explosives”

            By having explosives. I was talking of the device I made when I was 14.

            –“people wouldnt believe how easy it is to make a bomb, any electronics with a timing circuit would fit your defintion”

            Exactly. There wasn’t anything unwarranted about the way the school responded to what was for all intents and purposes a functional bomb detonator.

          3. It has been proven he did nothing more than remove the case from a store bought clock.

            Independent observers have described it as looking “just like a fucking bomb.” (Bill Maher)

            Why did he do this? To win praise and adoration from his engineering teacher? Is the bar for praise so low in his engineering class that this ‘project’ merits praise?

            The most reasonable explanation for his actions is he wanted to cause a disruption at school.

  9. Although I never heard of a real bomb with pretty LED display I think the image is so pervasive in TV and movies that it creates a possibility that if a kid made a bomb he might feel pushed to actually add the LED and countdowns and beeps.
    Of course a kid doesn’t normally have access and expertise in explosives to even start to design such a thing, so in practice it’s about as unlikely as a.. uhm… I dunno, a right-handed US president? :)

    1. Lamest movie bomb ever? The one in Executive Decision. An exposed hard drive platter with the head arm bent up so it’s not resting on the platter? Wouldn’t. Fool. Anyone. Even if the person on the scene knows nothing about hard drives, the specialist on the other end of the phone call would ask for a description. That would provide clues for more questions, soon leading the specialist to know that the junk on top of the case is a crappy decoy.

  10. This was my thought when I read that recent story about that kid and his clock. That if more people knew what actual bombs look like, they would understand the Hollywood rendition of a bomb is satire. Not really their fault they don’t know, after all any day I don’t see a bomb outside of educational articles and museum exhibits is a good day and I think most would agree with me on that.

    I seriously doubt most teachers could even identify the more basic types of bombs like pipe bombs and even draino bombs, let alone one with an actual timer circuit.

  11. I think this is not the best example…this was more of a movie-plot bomb than most movies manage. It was designed to do its work BEFORE exploding, not after. A bomb designed simply to cause destruction would be far simpler, relying on obscurity (backpack, cardboard box, etc) to remain undetected rather than try to be flashy and obvious and have lots of anti-tampering devices.

  12. a real bomb can look like anything even a pipe bomb is a bomb and it looks like a pipe maybe with wires.

    if the school had a basic electrical or electronics class they could have checked with the teacher and found out it was just a home made clock

        1. “just because not every part is homemade does not make the clock homemade. If that was the criteria there would be nothing homemade.”

          Literally everything inside the pencil box (except for the pencil box itself) was removed from the radio shack table clock… He ‘added’ nothing, he ‘changed’ nothing, all he did was ‘subtract’ the case.

          1. If he made a stereotypical artefact for the purpose of intimidating people without specialist knowledge of the subject it is expected that it would look like a stereotypical artefact for the purpose of misleading people without specialist knowledge in a similar theatrical context. Because clearly this was a little mind games theatre he set-up, that backfired.

          2. Chris we have your words, and they have been shown to be false claims, therefore if you are not a smart but dishonest person, must we conclude then that you are just an opinionated fool, or are you a troll?

          3. Chris there are photos of the device, your claims contradict what is obvious from examining the evidence. QED you are a liar, or a fool. I could give more examples but one so clear as that serves to proof my point perfectly.

          4. So once again you fail to point out where I lied, you just make crap up. If painstakingly saying IDE, instead of LED is the worse mistake you can come up with, especially given the IDE type cable in the image you are really quite bad.

        1. “The clock was homemade, scavenged from other parts.”

          No, it wasn’t – every part inside that pencil box was attached to each other in exactly the same way inside the Radio Shack clock he found it inside of, just like it was when it rolled off the Chinese assembly line in the mid-eighties.

          1. Is that an argument? LOL He put a thing inside another thing and made it look like a thing that makes people think about bombs which caused them to suffer fear for their life.

            You are defending a despicable act and nobody is buying into the propaganda, get over it.

            Not all politically motivated social media manipulations are going to be successful and as people get more jaded by past stunts it will become increasingly hard to pull them off successfully.

            Feel free to cash that reality check as often as you like because it will never bounce. :-)

          2. “It would be, if you started with said Guinness and then added other part to the Guinness to create a different beer.”

            What did Ahmed ‘add’ to the clock? As best I can figure it all Ahmed did was SUBTRACT the case.

          3. Chris, He did not add to it. He did not solder anything new. He simply removed it from its plastic case and put it in the box. There is ZERO invention here on his part. All of the original parts are connected exactly as they were when it was sold by Radio Shack. I seriously doubt if you have done any real research on this specific case. When It was first reported the first thing that came to my mind was “poor kid makes a clock and gets in big trouble”. Then the truth started coming out about the clock and his family. Now, I am fairly sure he did it as a hoax to get the response that he got.

  13. Don’t forget the X-Ray detection, magnetometer/gyroscopes, ultrasonic, capacitive, decibel metre.
    A nice clock that shows a time well ahead of the actual time it’s actually set to detonate the charge.
    Don’t forget the remote trigger and jamming detection.

    1. Such a device would likely go off long before intended from accidental triggering of the numerous sensors. With regards to the device in this article, any heavy machinery could have set it off.

      As for disarming, I like what the british inventor came up with for defusing mines and car bombs etc. An explosively formed penetrator of water used to slice out bits of the device with stunning precision that leaves the rest of the device intact to study and for evidence.
      “Alford is considered the pioneer in water projecting disruptors driven by high explosive”
      There is a “Future Weapons” video of featuring some of his tools.

      Basicly using bombs to defuse other bombs, like what the FBI tried on this device but with a better tool kit.

      1. There has been a much simpler tool in use with bomb squads, simply described as an explosive powered water jet. No fancy shaped charges, just a pressure vessel with a nozzle. Works very well for small stuff, probably not so well on something as big as the one in the article.

    1. Most of the triggers were avoidable: not removing the panels, not flooding the bomb, not flipping the wrong switch. The one thing he had to avoid was tilting the machine. One of the many switches (or some combination) defeated the tilt trigger. After moving it in place, he set the switches to the tilt trigger was live again, and probably set some switch to start the 24 hour timer, then walked away.

    2. It wasn’t armed until switch #23 was turned on.

      He delivered it unarmed, flipped switch #23, then left with the bomb armed.

      (Note: When I say ‘flipped switch #23’ you can think of that as a place holders or any pre-defined sequence of switch toggles… Were I the bomb maker, I’d have made it devishly complex, but made the disarm sequence insultingly simple, for example ‘just turn switch #23 off’.)

  14. The problem with this extreme example of a real life bomb, is that it too is straight out of a movie. I am of course referring to the 1974 film, Juggernaut

    Seven identical bombs on a luxury liner. A ransom demanded for disarming instructions. Invisible timer – no big red LED display or clock face of any form – although there was a nixie tube counter. Multiple booby trap triggers that include light-proof housing and photo-electric trigger – a robot sent to drill through the casing set off the first bomb. A fake relay – one bomb disposal expert killed himself inserting a piece of paper between the relay contacts which dislodged a hair-thin wire that was already bridging the contacts. Distractions like a meaningless paper tape driven counter, and a loud ringing bell that went off when one of several diversionary wires was cut. The actual disarming mechanism was hidden in the side of the bomb and not accessible through the front panel.

  15. Talk about evil genius. I’m trying to think of a way to disarm it using modern tech. I can think of only one way: portable MRI scanner (which doesn’t exist) and a 100MW pulsed laser to ablate holes through the device once the key wires were detected. Again…too big and heavy.

    Secondary option: surgically build a blast focusing steel chamber around the device to direct the explosion sideways out of the building. That would be REALLY heavy and part of the direction chamber would have to be bolted UNDER the floor to make up the “sphere”. Lots of vibration.

    If we were a 100 years in the future, maybe surround the device with a stasis chamber that brings molecular motion down to near zero without triggering temperature sensors.

    It’s a tough one. Pretty insidious. Was the device totally obliterated or has the entire design been re-created in 3D models? It would be interesting to see if there was a hole in his design.

  16. This is a great article, fun reading!

    It is a shame it is being used to further congratulate the not-a-hack hoax bomb kid. Even as a far leftist, essentially, I am unable to shame the school for finding the whole event suspicious enough to want a criminal investigation.

    The editor of Nuts N volts said it best “This would be a cute project for a 7 year old” (paraphrased).

    This bomb in the article is highly unusual for a device actually used in a crime, or any other bomb. It simply isnt relevant.

    I hate to think for once I side with Texas police on something involving race, but in this case I do. It is normal to involve police when something that looks a lot like a bomb is in a school – even if everyone involved knows it was not a live device.

    The initial media reports really wanted the clock to be an invention – but it simply wasn’t even a real project. The kid has admitted he knew it was suspicious as well, which really does say it all.

        1. No.. He said he tied it shut with wire, not a lock, so it wouldn’t be suspicious.

          It is simple: the thing was represented one way on day-one and it suited a certain media narrative which you agree with it. I happen to also believe the police and schools often go over the top, and that racial profiling is a blight on our country.

          But that isnt the actual story. There is a video floating around of the kid describing the thing in his own words, and showing his other ‘inventions’ (his words).

          These are not inventions. They are not really even electronics projects.

          I really wish internet had been around when I was a kid – I had to learn on my own, and it was very uphill.. Now days 10 year olds program FPGAs and 9 year olds design PCBs. but not this celebrated hacker kid – he is into make believe.

          This whole thing stinks of actual propaganda-exercise to me. If you also dont believe in propaganda, you are too naive to discuss these topics further.

          1. No actually given he said that after the fact it actually suggests that he did intent to intimidate people and that his claim to the contrary is a naive, and very flawed, attempt to set up a misdirection.

          2. “So if someone says something it means that is actually the opposite in your views?”

            Statements made after the fact don’t prove intentions.

            Timing is everything, I bet very few criminals admit their guilt after being picked up by the police…

          3. Yes it could very well mean that if their claim was made in a context that undermines it’s credibility. Your failure to recognise the importance of context is rather childish.

          4. If you did understand the context it would then be a deliberate avoidance of it’s importance, and once again we have proof that you are a liar, in that you deliberately communicate with the intent to deceive other people.

          5. “he stated he did it all so it would not be suspicious, and it would not be threatening. That shows his intent was not to have a bomb scare….”

            His ‘after the fact’ statements don’t prove his intentions – a similar video made before he took it to school might, but that would raise the question of why did he feel it was necessary to create an ‘alibi tape’ before bringing it to school.

        2. “That is because that is not what he said. you are creating a strawman logical fallacy. He siad he put it in the box so it WOULDN’T be suspicious.”


          So the box was an afterthought, he thought cleaning out the insides of a store-bought clock was enough to impress his teacher?

          1. No chris – if he thought the bare, un-housed clock was ‘too suspicious’ – he realized the device guts themselves were possibly suspicious.

            That is the logical conclusion on that.

          2. He knew it was suspicious. This is simple semantics you are arguing, and you are arguing a side that is not supported by the kid’s statements, or the specific events.

          3. If he was worried about it he could have done any one of many things.

            He could have taken it to the office, explained what it is, and then take it to engineering class and then return it to the office.

            He could have told his teacher that he planned to bring his invention to school the next day, ask how to handle it to avoid misunderstandings.

            He could have left it in his backpack powered off, so it couldn’t possibly go ‘beep’ during class.

            He could have clearly marked it as a CLOCK.

            He could have brought a picture of the device in to show his engineering teacher.

            Putting it in a little suitcase and plugging it in during English class was a very bad idea, which does NOT demonstrate any concern for how it will look to the casual observer.

        3. I am afraid his story does not actually make sense.. Many people are calling this a “pencil case” – but in fact it is a small hard-case of the type used to hold equipment, instruments, tools, art supplies, etc. Calling it ‘justa pencil case’ evokes images of candy-colored translucent plastic, not a black and metal mini-attache case.

          I am afraid there are projects on the internet for building faux-bombs which recommend the same style ‘pencil case’.

          That device was neither a clock nor a project and especially not an ‘invention’. There are 14 year olds that are amazing designers and engineers – this kid is not one of them, at all.

          There is other problems with the narrative presented and which you argue. The kid showed the device to a teacher who told him not to show it to others. Then he proceeded to, apparently, show it to several other teachers.

          The teacher who finally involved the principle and ultimately the police actually had the device go off in her class. From looking at the device, this would indicate the kid 1) set the alarm for that class period 2) plugged it into the wall. These are not passive actions, or the actions of someone who has a admittedly suspicious device who has been told not to show it to anyone by his would-be-mentor.

          I feel bad for our society, and for the teachers involved, for Ahmed as well.. This whole thing is ridiculous. I even feel bad for the texas police, unexpectedly.

          I am, again, a left-winger. I protested against Scott Walker, etc. I work in academia.

          if i was a teacher and this device was brought into my class, I would assume it is a hoax-bomb. Especially if it was set off in my class.

          1. It is a pencil box:

            So you are saying it could not tell time? That is what a clock does. It was an invention, based on the defintion of invention. It may not be based on what you think the word means, but “invention” does not mean that it has to be the first of its kind made, just that it was made with his imagination.

            He showed it to the second teacher because the second teacher heard it and TOLD HIM TO. Was he supposed to disobey the second teacher because the first told him not to?

            The clock did not just run off the AC adaptor, it still used a battery itself. And because you set it incorrectly does not mean it was on purpose.

            I work in academia as well, college engineering, my bother is an an high school engineering teacher. What you think it is is irrelevant. What it is ment to be is what matters. If he brought it to me, or my brothers class, we would not think that, and we would have told him to put it away as well. We would have acted just as the first teacher did.

          2. Your use of the word “nothing” is clearly another example of you being a liar. The entire concept is remarkably similar and there are a lot of them about, it is a distinct “class” of object and the kid’s bomb fit into it perfectly, if we allow for his lack of fabrication skills.

          3. Yes, it is in a box. That is the only similar things they have in common. The mounting is completely different, the case looks nothing like the original, other than being a rectangular box. The clock was mounted on the top, not the bottom. There was 2 exposed circuit boards, no C4..My “nothing” is a slight exaggeration where as your claim is a completely made up claim.

          4. Liar, for one “box”, singular is one characteristic and therefore not “things” plural, and furthermore the abstract set of parts has multiple correlations with other members of the class of objects, which is why an AI such as Google can find them so easily. The correlations are real and mathematically provable. No amount of “idiocy” from you can change that fact.

          5. Yet another false claim by Chris. Google knows what an “suitcase bomb” looks like, I did a “search by image”. As already pointed out the fact is mathematically provable, if I needed to do so I could give your an actual set of eigenvalues. You can’t disprove that any more than you can deny 1 +1 = 2 and 1 + 2 = 3, etc.

            Your kind always get destroyed by maths in the end. LOL

          6. You are not running the latest browser from Google (updated today) with a light blue camera icon on each image that you can click on to search by image?

            Well that just makes you simply ignorant, particularly if you fall back to “belief”, LOL.

            We can break it down easily to see why the correlations are there, silver case, mess of wires etc. You get a match on tools and bombs real and fake, and bombs like that are tools, for terrorists.

          7. I don’t care what you claim about yourself, we can all see what you have posted and can cross reference that against the evidence and observations offered by multiple other people. You should see it as a form of peer review, and the conclusion seems to not be in favour of accepting your claims of credibility.

          8. “It may not be based on what you think the word means, but “invention” does not mean that it has to be the first of its kind made, just that it was made with his imagination.”

            So he ‘imagined’ it without a case, and that qualifies as an ‘invention’?

            Based on that definition almost every teenage boy could properly claim to have ‘invented’ the first girl he saw naked – first he ‘imagined’ them without their case (clothes), then he removed their clothes, making her his ‘invention’.

          9. Chris – I have several patents. I am well aware of what it takes to ‘advance the state of the art’.

            I said it before, and will say it again – calling a equipment hard-case a ‘pencil box’ is misleading. It is being said in that way on purpose, to mislead.

            How did the second teacher hear it? First, he could have turned off the alarm to avoid the situation, but really, in reality he had to PLUG THE THING IN, THEN SET THE ALARM AGAIN (if it didnt have a battery) THEN WAIT.

            He made a specific provocative act. It is not possible to frame it as anything other than a provocative act using a device he had been warned was suspicious.

            What things are meant to be is NOT what matters in issues of public safety. The repackaged clock looks extremely similar to a improvised device, it’s housing completes that image. You can deny this if you want, but you are now treading into fact-oriented things.

            If you do some basic research on bombs, you will see that his device is very similar to a bomb, and provocative action such as setting it to go off in class is in fact the makings of an actual bomb hoax.

            I wish it were not true. I often enjoy piling on the right wing for their many shortcomings, and what I consider to be anti-american anti-intellectualism.

            This is not one of those instances.. Also, I suspect more info will come out about this kid and things he did and said that day.

          10. The definition of “invention” does not have to advance the art. you are thinking of it in terms of patents, that is not the only definition.

            The creators of the case call it a pencil box, it is marketed as a pencil box. That you dont want it to be a pencil box does not make it one.

            he could have turned off the alarm, but you are making the assumption that he remembered to do that. Have you never forgot to set a timer or turn one off when you needed to? If not I will tell you most people have. There is no evidence that he did it intentionally, which is what would be required as a condition of your assumption.

            So again I will bring up open carry, it is not meant to be a threat, but people see it as so. Therefore using your logic those people should be arrested…

            this entire site showed that this is not what a bomb typically looks like, so your statement is shown false.

          11. You intentionally did not read the statement that you commented on didnt you? If you had read it you would see that I stated quite clearly that invention, the definition, does not only contain the definition used for patenting things. I am starting to think you are a troll, well not really starting, I have thought you to be a troll for quite some time.

          12. If I am a troll I am still an honest troll, which makes me a far better human that you could ever be, but I am not a troll, just an honest person who’s culture abhors bullshit artists like you. Yeah my “culture” so if you don’t like that you are (how ironic) “racist”.

          13. you are showing more an more often you do not know the meaning of the words you use, first liar, now racist. Not liking your culture does not make me racist, even if it was a culture even. If you are a good human, then we are doomed as a race.

          14. I didn’t use the term racist I used the term “racist” as an ironic dig at people like you who misuse the term all the time despite the fact that the idea of race is an abstraction and that races do not really exist as far as genetics are concerned.

            Are you autistic? Just asking, because you are missing clues that other people would understand.

          15. The clock he ‘unboxed’ (or as you describe it, ‘invented’) runs on 120v, and only has a battery to maintain the correct time, not to operate the clock. Unplugged, his alarm clock would not sound the alarm. He had to plug it in for the alarm to go off – this is, as has been previously described, an intentional, provocative act.

            BTW, the ‘clock’ didn’t have a backup battery attached, based on all the pictures I’ve seen.

          16. Chris – the makers of that case have unknown terms for it- the Vaultz group is marketers of that case. That case style is used for many things these days – knife sets, chess sets, makeup, etc. It isnt a pencil case as is commonly understood – it is in fact a hard-case meant for equipment, and these days, consumer products.

            Marketers often repackage and call things differnet things. Look into ‘personal massager’ for an example, but there are many more examples.

            Let us think of this device in terms of ‘an invention’. So he took a off-the shelf clock, which has a display and user interface which can be read and operated safely and logically.

            He then placed it into an opaque black plastic and metal hard-case, with all controls and display on the inside. The display itself was mounted to the top lid, like the display in all of the results if you google ‘suitcase bomb’.

            This new invention is what exactly?

          17. Chris, The battery was simply a battery backup. Anyone with an alarm clock knows that ALL it does is allow the clock to hold the time when there is a power failure. The display will not light and the alarm will not go off with just the backup battery. The kid HAD to plug it in AND set the time AND set the alarm unless he had a battery hooked up which would mean that all he had to do was plug it in. The fact remains that he HAD to plug it in.

          18. -“Anyone with an alarm clock knows that ALL it does is allow the clock to hold the time when there is a power failure. ”

            They do sound the alarm under battery power. Otherwise what would be the point?

            A capacitor will keep the RTC running over short power failures; the battery is there so the clock would still buzz in the morning even if the power has gone out. When you pull the plug, the clock display turns off (or blinks to save power) but the alarm stays on.

            That’s what makes the device useful as an actual bomb or incendiary device detonator.

          19. Dax – you are wrong. The alarm does not usually work with the battery backup. There may be exceptions. I doubt this is one of them based on the era of the clock.

            I had several similar alarm clocks – the battery did not make the alarm work on any of them. I agree, bad designing.

            Google “Alarm Clock Backup battery” to learn all about it – from confused late people.

    1. All this focus on immeasurable intentions. All this projecting of intentions. You guys sound like North Korean propaganda machines, especially Ken & Dan who keep referring to intention.

        1. Time to let this thread die… The emergence of ad hominem attacks and the stunning lack of any additional information on the issue begs us to let it go…

          We’re well past the point of being able to convince Ahmed’s supporters that they are wrong, we’re well post the point where we’ll learn anything more about the actions of the teacher, principal, and police in this matter to change our minds, and neither of us knows the great unknown in this case – the real reason why Ahmed sat down with a table clock, a pencil box, and a screwdriver and start down the path that ended with him leaving his local school and preparing for his ‘victory lap’ at an upcoming White House science-themed event in the near future.

          Let it go, the shark has been jumped.

  17. Briefly, the reason this whole clock story is likely to be state sponsored propaganda is that it perfectly fits the new mold propaganda seems to take on.

    Ferguson was presented in a way to raise maximum disagreement between ‘left and right’. The media and various big-$ groups were shown, beyond doubt, to be manufacturing that story. This was, IMHO, a example of modern propaganda in which dual false-narratives are presented and then debated.

    This story has the same sort of confusion over basic facts and chronology.

    I happen to believe police abuse authority and unfairly target minorities. I also believe that USA’s two party system is in shambles and the right wing (and therefor their partner in crime, the left wing) require these sorts of pageants to reinforce the 2-party hegemony.

    It makes me a crank to believe this, but I do think I will be vindicated in the future when some inkling of how much propaganda is used to enforce the 2-party system eventually becomes known. I think it enforced itself fine before internet.

  18. Sigh. Some high school kid takes apart a clock and puts it in a box that scares his teacher and we have to hear about it for weeks. C’mon people this is not about engineering, electronics, or the maker movement — its all about politics, political correctness and pushing certain minority agendas. Give it up before you jump the shark.

      1. Oh – nonsense.. The school is probably dumb as rocks, given other things we do know about them. However, in this case there is only one proper response and that was calling the police and making some sort of investigation into the very-suspicious device.

        1. I guess many an arts major in history have brought dangerous nitrate film, with unimpressive content to schools in the past. This is not about dangers of project results being brought to schools, its not even about religion or race, its about prejudice against unknown motivations, its xenophobia…

          Every failed arts major (with “unimpressive” results on nitrate film) should be considered threatening society?

          I fully understand that his project was unimpressive, or late by age, but hey, perhaps his family environment was not the most conductive for early tinkering with electronics? But better late than never? I wonder if this teacher would succeed in doing a simple case mod of an alarm clock… and yes a case mod is less advanced than constructing a clock from parts, but it is more advanced than not being curious at all to what’s inside the black box…

          1. “perhaps his family environment was not the most conductive for early tinkering with electronics?”

            On Chris Hayes’ show ‘All In’ Ahmed claimed to have been ‘tinkering’ for the last 4 or 5 years… (Just one of the absurd claims his supporters apparently accept without challenge.)

            Also, just an observation, but I found it very interesting that this child, when being interviewed on national TV chose not to sit with either parent or a lawyer, but instead a representative of CAIR… This is not to imply he shouldn’t sit with whomever he chooses (he certainly can), but this choice seems, from my sofa, to be away to ensure this issue stays political.

      2. Or how the boy and his family culture are anti-feminist etc. etc. none of these claims are provable and all of them can be counted by some other claim. It is like setting up a room full of fans and flinging dung around.

  19. I lived near Lake Tahoe at the time and I remember this very well. The best part of the story wasn’t even mentioned in this article. The day after the explosion you could buy T-shirts at Lake Tahoe that said “I got bombed at Harvey’s”.

  20. It seems like all the the substantive conversation about the actual topic has been drowned out by the ravings of a couple of passionate yet misguided users about a completely different subject.
    Cool article though.

    1. Yes, I very much want to read the comments of people who remember this event or have novel ideas about disarming this classic puzzle. Adam, thanks for bringing this story back into the conversation. Sorry the comments were ruined. Sifting through the second hand rhetoric of a few pseudo-intellectual sociopaths makes the comments too unpleasant for the few gems about the casino bomb. I hope all of the fussbudget haters go back to trying to get their dicks wet while keeping your shitty logic on the shitty websites where it’s welcomed by other future Hitlers.

          1. You didn’t even read the wiki article did you? You lost the argument the moment your comments were a match for Godwin’s law, your comments. Or to put it another way, you have foot in mouth disease so nobody cares what you think and even the suggestion that you do think is speculation.

  21. I enjoy a good puzzle – like how can the bomb be defeated. The article describes the bomb being left with a note that told of the detonation mechanisms and how they would be triggered.

    The Double-walled box trigger seems to be a weak point. There is the metal outer box layer, inside of which is rubber, then metal foil, then rubber. If foil touches metal box outside (ex drilling), you are defeated. Why not use some form of non conductive drill bit, then current can’t jump from foil thru bit to box. Alternatively, get a drill with a depth plunger guide (ex, drill only 1 mm deep), and slowly cut down to the rubber but never pierce it.

    If that is too complex, just get a corrosive acid (ex sulfuric acid) and strip a portion of the metal box away. The sulfuric acid will have a much stronger reaction to the outer metal box than the rubber liner. Once you strip away the outer box defeating the rubber-foil-rubber should be trivial, and then you have access to the interesting interior where you can defeat in detail the various triggers (using x-rays as a guide).

    Those switches rather stand out. The note on the triggers doesn’t really mention that. What prevents drilling thru the toggle itself and use that to “peek thru the keyhole” to examine and defeat the other trigger mechanisms? (You can’t have the box-rubber-foil-rubber trigger in the same place as a toggle / switch)

    Considering that they had experts including the U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Nuclear Emergency Search Team, they certainly would have considered and rejected this. Can anyone tell me why these methods would not defeat the bomb?


    1. Drilling the switches wouldn’t be safe. Assuming he was smart enough to solder wires to every switch, there was no way of knowing which switch to drill through. He could have rigged every “wrong” switch to detonate the bomb if their contacts were shorted which could easily happen when drilling.

      I agree that the double-walled trigger seems like the easiest to beat. If the rubber was thick (like a mouse pad) then the drill has a good chance of working. But if the rubber was thin ( like latex gloves) then acid could work. But it would be risky. As others have mentioned, acids are good conductors and you’d have to hope it doesn’t have the opportunity to drip someplace unsafe.

      But given the information they had, I agree with their decision. Without modern technology it was likely impossible to remotely operate a drill with the required precision on such short notice. This means that a bomb technician would have to do it personally. Since they didn’t see the explosives in the control portion, blasting it off was the obvious choice. There were too many unknowns and if blasting failed (which it did) then they would lose an evacuated building. If the drilling/acid failed, a man would die.

      1. They had X-rays, so they knew which switches were dummies, dummy.
        I think both the depth plunger guide, and the acid approach could have worked.
        I agree that the people dealing with this problem knew these approaches might work, as far as I can tell, it would require a person to do it in that day and age. I think the reason they did not have a person do such a task was that it was unknown when the bomb would go off…

        1. I could not find a good copy of the xrays. It seems that all of the switches had wires on them. The wires as shown are a tangle. So – it is not clear which switches were dummies.

          However, the nuts holding the switches in could be removed and the switches carefully pushed in, creating a hole to look through.

  22. To the what if crowd, could you defeat this like some landmines. By burning the change. Its my understanding that burning some explosives is possible since many are shock sensitivity but fairly heat tolerant. I have seen online articles talking about how in vietnam some G.I’s would use C4 as a food heater and others learned the hard way that it burns but if they stepped on the burning C4 it would blow their foot off.

    Basicly a thermite charge that melts into the case and ignites the explosive, could this have been used to reduce or eliminate the charge in the lower section bypassing most of the triggers? Then if the top does have any hidden explosives(as it did) then the size of the explosion might be reduced?

  23. Terrorism needs political ideology coupled with threats or actual collateral damage, this was revenge and greed. Wasted talent, waste of life. Good thing he didn’t want to hurt others in his self-destructive plans. After reading several posts, people seem fixated on the word terrorism when describing criminals.

    Thank you for bringing this old story back – enjoyed the pictures.

  24. To (hopefully) inject some humor: (A great list. I suspect the current North Korean overlord has read it, because he seems to be using many of the same tactics.)

    9) I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

    15) I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

    and kind of related:

    72) If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.

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