Flashback

5 wild schemes to stop the oil spill

Concerned parties are proposing out-there solutions to the Gulf disaster — from nuclear weapons to the subtler power of absorbant human hair

As BP readily admits, its experimental plan to lower a 100-ton concrete-and-steel dome over one of the Gulf of Mexico oil leaks might fail completely. But the vast technical challenges of stemming an underwater "volcano of oil" certainly call for creative thinking. Here, five much-further-outside-the-box strategies to stop the spill:

1. Nuclear weapons
Between 1966 and 1979, the Soviet Union used "controlled" nuclear blasts five times to successfully plug leaking oil wells. According to the Russian daily Komsomoloskaya Pravda, "the underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well’s channel." Given the technique's track record in Russia, says KP, "the Americans could certainly risk it."

2. Peat moss
The Norwegian company Kallak Torvstrøfabrikk claims to have developed a strain of peat moss that masterfully soaks up floating oil. "It absorbs the oil on contact and encapsulates it," company founder Ragnar Kallak tells Science Daily. The special moss was already deployed in 2009 on a slick off Norway's south-east coast, reports to the Associated Press, and at least one expert is pressing the U.S. government to begin strewing hundreds of thousands of tons of the peat moss into the Gulf.

3. Human hair
Inspired by the concept of a "greasy hair day," Environmental charity Matter of Trust has collected nearly half a million pounds of clippings from salons around the world, and volunteers are stuffing the hair into nylon stockings to create sausage-shaped "booms" designed to soak up the petroleum along beach fronts. "Basically, everyone is desperate to help," says Matter of Trust President Lisa Gautier of the hair donors. "They just really, really want to help." (Watch a CNN report about salons collecting hair for the oil cleanup)

4. Frozen carbon dioxide
The entrepreneurs behind Clean Kool — a sprayable carbon-dioxide solution that can be shot from a gun — claim that it can freeze floating crude oil into lumps that are easier to collect. "We're fixing to do a demonstration of our product for a couple of mayors down at the beach," Clean Kool representative Terry Hester tells the AP. "We've got a product we know will work."

5. Meditation
Carl Fuermann of Boulder, Colorado, believes the leak can be staunched through mindpower alone. "The basic concept is to try and get as many people to visualize that the [shut-off] valve is actually functioning," Fuermann tells Colorado Daily. Describing himself as a man "known for fixing things and making things work," Fuermann says his meditative potency has already repaired a friend's Flip video camera.

Sources: AP (2), APP, True/Slant, KP, Science Daily, Fast Company, Colorado Daily

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