Glenn Fleishman writes, "A responsible dealer of the radioactive element radium, a substance once pushed widely as a quack cure, tried to keep the genie in the bottle. Theresa Everline explains that in the first half of the 20th century, Frank Hartman, known as the Radium Hound, kept track of accidents and incompetence in handling radium. His diaries reveal that radium lingers in forgotten places."
Radium has a spectral quality. And it’s hard to fathom. If a box of it gets dropped in a dumpster, you won’t feel it when you’re nearby. Its energy is logarithmic: you can be six feet away from it and be fine, then you can move to six inches away and still be fine, and then you move slightly closer and it’s suddenly causing you grave harm. One can imagine this mystery fueling all the stages of people’s reactions to radium, as Lavine identifies them: the fascination, the commodification, the backlash when, as Lavine puts it, “People got tired of waiting for the miracle to happen.”
Now Allard and his radiation-protection team are the ones mopping it up in Pennsylvania. What they find can sound startling to the layperson. He tells about a plant in Lock Haven, designated as contaminated in 2008, that once manufactured aircraft instruments, many of which were coated with radium paint so they’d glow: one building razed, 543 tons of soil carted away. Or a whole neighborhood in Lansdowne that needed cleaning up because in the 1930s a University of Pennsylvania physics professor enriched radium in the basement of his house; five decades later, after the contamination was discovered, the house was demolished, the sidewalks and portions of the street torn up, the sewer line replaced.
Radium Hound [Theresa Everline/Medium]
Since its publication in late 2015, science writer Oliver Morton’s The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World has swept many “best book” (best science book, best business book, best nonfiction book) and with good reason: though it weighs in at a hefty 440 pages and covers a broad scientific, political and technological territory, few science books are more important, timely and beautifully written.
After years of speculation and wrangling over his remains, Kennewick Man turns out to be closely related to contemporary, local Native Americans after all. Discovered near Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, the skeleton ended up in a tug of war between tribes in the pacific northwest who wanted to bury the remains, and scientists who wanted […]
Our solar system is awesome.
Why buy one of those expensive and confusing universal remotes, clogged with enough buttons to launch a space shuttle, when you could accomplish the same electronic control right on your favorite mobile device? The Blumoo Universal Remote, now just $52.99 in the Boing Boing Store, harnesses the audio power of all your household equipment right […]
You may not love Microsoft Word, but you’ve definitely used it. Other than being one of the most ubiquitous programs on the planet, it’s been the go-to word processing system for more than a quarter-century because it’s as basic as it gets. But occasionally, you’ve got assignments that beg for a lot more options than simple […]
Almost everyone has their smartphone in a case of one kind or another. Beyond simple protection, finding a case that can charge your phone on its own, but doesn’t feel like it’s also adding a couple pounds to the phone’s weight is the tricky part. Billed as the world’s thinnest battery case, the ThinCharge iPhone […]