Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters

Hair Care During Nuclear Attack

Prompted by the recent threats from North Korea, Guam's Office of Civil Defense recently issued guidelines on what people should do in the event of a nuclear emergency. It included the advice that you should wash your hair with shampoo or soap. However, you shouldn't use conditioner "because it will bind radioactive material to your hair."

Interesting and potentially useful to know.

More info: Guam Civil Defense Fact Sheet,

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 16, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Baths, Showers and Other Cleansing Methods, Hair and Hairstyling

Atomic Bomb Car

In 1953, Corwin D. Willson of Flint, Michigan patented the Atomic Bomb Car. Though the official title on the patent was a "sedan having versatile structure."

His idea was that if the United States were "atomically attacked," people would need to flee the cities, and then they'd have to live in their cars. But most cars aren't designed to be lived in. The solution: turn cars into mobile bomb shelters that could provide temporary housing for people. Essentially, he was patenting a camper car, but he was trying to market it as a defense against atomic attack.

From the patent:

Obviously, today's family car, while as numerous as dwellings, would fail, under threat of atomic attack, to meet the needs of millions of families simultaneously for widely diffused family shelter during an emergency probably timed to occur in mid-winter and to be of some duration. yet, once some practical: i.e., simple and economically possible, means is found for making the average car quickly convertible to housekeeping use, then the threat of the atom bomb to our cities loses some of its menace.

And also:

It is commonly acknowledged that the physical structures of congested areas are doomed once atomically attacked, The real problem is: how sensibly to save the lives of the inhabitants of cities thus marked for destruction and temporarily house them so that the business of resistance may go on in spite of the chaos engendered? Americans own as many motorcars as dwellings: 30,000,000 cars. If these cars were built as taught herein and if the civilian masses, against whom the next war acknowledgedly will be waged, were trained to diffuse in an orderly fashion to points prepared in advance and to occupy their convertible motorcars as temporary family dwellings till the danger passed, then one of the greatest problems to face the coming generation would have found a simple, economically sound and eminently satisfying solution.

More info: JF Ptak Science Books, Patent #US2638374A

Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 27, 2017 - Comments (1)
Category: Inventions, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

Home Radiation Detector

If the crystals are glowing, it's time to get going.

The Opelousas Daily World - Sep 6, 1957

Posted By: Alex - Sun Feb 05, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

Radium Cap

I'm guessing that if this actually worked to cure headaches it was because of the placebo effect. Although radium does, of course, produce heat, which might help a headache. But if there was enough radium in the cap to feel noticeably warm, it must have been incredibly dangerous.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - June 11, 1937

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 21, 2017 - Comments (21)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Headgear, 1930s

Atomic Dog Tags

September 1950: The AMVETS organization announced its plan to issue plastic dog tags to all civilians in the United States, to help identify people in case of an atomic emergency. The tags would carry the wearer's name, address, and blood-type. The tags were plastic in order to "prevent radiation effects in the event of an atomic explosion."

AMVETS hoped to have the tags issued to all Americans within 18 months, but obviously that never happened.

Some searching has revealed that President Truman and actress Doris Day were presented with their own atomic dog tags, but I'm not sure that anyone else ever got one.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Sep 29, 1950

New Philadelphia Daily Times - Sep 28, 1950

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 19, 2016 - Comments (3)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

Survival Experiment

November 1961: As an experiment in survival, Portland radio announcer Bill Davis spent a week confined in a windowless fallout shelter with his family... and his mother-in-law.

They survived, although Davis's wife admitted, "There were problems."

One of the problems was that four days into the test an earthquake struck Portland, and the Davis family, cut off from communication, thought it was a nuclear attack.

Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 1, 1961

Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 10, 1961

Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 9, 1961

Posted By: Alex - Sun Nov 27, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Family, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Experiments, 1960s

Dagwood Splits the Atom


I would not trust goofball slacker Dagwood Bumstead to split any atoms for me. But in 1948 the authorities obviously thought he was an identifiable role model for their science popularization.

I would like to see this updated for this week's news: DAGWOOD DISCOVERS GRAVITY WAVES.

See several more pages of this comic here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Feb 13, 2016 - Comments (3)
Category: PSA’s, Comics, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, Wimps, Milquetoasts and Cowards, 1940s

Atom Bomb Toys

Italian toy maker Brumm normally makes miniature models of fancy sports cars (Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, etc.). But in 2006, the company decided to release models of the "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They sold, at the time, for around $10 — but now go for around $36, if you can find any in stock.

When the company debuted them at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, the bomb models generated a lot of controversy. The media described them as "Atomic bombs for the children's bedroom," and critics said they were in poor taste.

The company defended itself, insisting that its intent was to "provide a small historical contribution so as not to forget what generated the worst catastrophe of the twentieth century” and that the bomb models were actually a protest "against the insanity of nuclear war."

Of course, these weren't the first atomic-weapon toys ever produced. See this earlier post: Make nuclear war in your own home.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Dec 09, 2015 - Comments (6)
Category: Toys, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Weapons

Atomic Armor for Children, 1951

Designed by Lee Pauwels of Los Angeles to protect his six-year-old son from harmful atomic rays given off by a nuclear explosion. He noted that the suit wouldn't protect his son from the concussion of the blast, "But authorities believe a person could survive the blast at much closer range if he were lying down and wearing the suit. Afterward he'd be able to leave the area that had become contaminated by harmful rays."

I wonder if this suit still survives somewhere, stored in someone's attic. Well, it must be around if even atomic rays couldn't harm it. This is the kind of thing that should be on display in the Smithsonian (if I were running it).

The Eugene Guard - Jan 1, 1952

Traverse City Record-Eagle - Dec 26, 1951

via USC Digital Library

via USC Digital Library

Posted By: Alex - Sat Nov 21, 2015 - Comments (7)
Category: Armageddon and Apocalypses, Fashion, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

The Atom Blanket

Tuck your kids into bed with the "Atom Blanket" and you know they'll be safe from surprise nuclear attacks!

Atom Blanket: An American blanket manufacturer is widely publicizing this lead-lined model ($49.50), said to shield wearers from atomic radiation, fire, and shock 10 miles from blast center. Civil-defense experts have not changed their view that basement shelters are more effective.

Source: Newsweek - Apr 26, 1954

Note: Although Newsweek claimed this blanket was widely publicized, I haven't been able to find any references to it in papers and magazines from the 1950s -- beyond the reference in Newsweek itself. Perhaps it was advertised in trade publications that have never been scanned and placed online.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Nov 11, 2015 - Comments (9)
Category: War, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

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