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Very bad toys: Atomic Energy Lab usa ca. 1960

Honey, why is your face glowing? In 1951, A.C. Gilbert introduced his U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, a radioactive learning set we can only assume was fun for the whole math club. Gilbert, who Americanmemorabilia claims was "often compared to Walt Disney for his creative genius," had a dream that nuclear power could capture the imaginations of children everywhere. For a mere $49.50, the kit came complete with three "very low-level" radioactive sources, a Geiger-Mueller radiation counter, a Wilson Cloud Chamber (to see paths of alpha particles), a Spinthariscope (to see "live" radioactive disintegration), four samples of Uranium-bearing ores, and an Electroscope to measure radioactivity.

And what nuclear lab for kids would be complete without an Atomic Energy Manual and Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom comic book? (The latter was written with the help of General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project.)

Kids do the darndest things, but not, apparently, nuclear physics. The toy was only sold for one year. It's unclear what effects the Uranium-bearing ores might have had on those few lucky children who received the set, but exposure to the same isotope—U-238—has been linked to Gulf War syndrome, cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma, among other serious ailments. Even more uncertain is the longterm impact of being raised by the kind of nerds who would give their kid an Atomic Energy Lab.


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Added: Sep-17-2007 
By: GringoInBrazil
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