As It Happens

Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck in nose while trying to fight face touching

An Australian astrophysicist says it was a combination of goodwill and boredom that caused him to get several powerful magnets stuck in his nose on Thursday.

Daniel Reardon was trying to invent a device to protect people from coronavirus when things went downhill

Daniel Reardon, an Australian astrophysicist, was trying to build a device to help people stop touching their faces, when he got four powerful magnets stuck in his nose. (Submitted by Daniel Reardon)
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Transcript

An Australian astrophysicist says it was a combination of goodwill and boredom that caused him to end up with several powerful magnets stuck in his nose on Thursday.

Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at a Melbourne university, was attempting to build a device that sends out an alarm whenever the wearer unconsciously touches their face.

The 27-year-old usually studies pulsars and gravitational waves, and his foray into home engineering didn't go well.

"Magnets are very dangerous," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

'This is not my expertise'

The idea was to make a necklace with a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and bracelets containing powerful neodymium magnets.

That way, every time you go to touch your face, you would trigger the alarm 

Instead, it did the exact opposite, buzzing non-stop until Reardon moved his hands closer to his face. 

"This is not my expertise," he said. "It's just something I was working on in my spare time."

These are the magnets that astrophysicist Daniel Reardon got stuck in his nose. (Submitted by Daniel Reardon)

Disheartened, but still bored, Reardon gave up and started playing with the magnets — first attaching them to his earlobes like magnetic earrings, and then to his nostrils.

"That was OK, just having one set of magnets on one nostril," he said.

"But I had problems when I stupidly attached these magnets to my other nostril. And then they all, of course, were attracted to each other across my nose and pinched together."

And then there were 4 

At this point, Reardon had two magnets on each nostril — one inside, and one out. But when he removed the outside magnets, the inside ones were drawn together, pinching his septum.

He decided to Google the problem. He read about an 11-year-old boy who had a similar situation who removed the trapped magnets using yet more magnets. 

He gave it a try. But the magnets were too small, smooth and powerful. Reardon lost his grip. 

"I actually managed to get more magnets stuck up my nose," he said. "And so I had three magnets in one nostril and one in the other."

He also made a misguided attempt to remove them with a pair of pliers.

"The problem was the pliers are made out of steel, so it's a high iron content attracted to the magnets," he said.

"When I got the pliers close to my nose, my entire nose would just shift with the force of these magnets toward the pliers. And it was getting quite painful."

That's when he realized he would have to go to the hospital. 

"I had two doctors working on me. They were basically pulling with their hands. One doctor in each nostril," he said.

"By sheer force, the magnets started coming out. And fortunately, I had some anesthetic in my nose at this point."

Reardon admits the story is embarrassing, but says he's happy to share it to cheer people up, and spread his cautionary tale. 

"There's a possibility that pressure damage from magnets is not too good for tissue in your nose," he said. "That's part of the reason why they're dangerous and people shouldn't play with them."


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. 

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