Category:
Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters

Isotopia—an atomic pantomime

In 1950, Muriel Howorth, who was a great believer in the benefits of atomic energy, wrote and staged a ballet/pantomime about the atom. It was titled Isotopia: An Exposition on Atomic Structure. This description from Time magazine, Oct 30, 1950:

Last week in Aldwych's Waldorf Hotel, Mrs. Howorth's high-minded Atomic Energy Association of Great Britain (membership: 300) celebrated its second anniversary with an atomic pantomime called Isotopia.

Before a select audience of 250 rapt ladies and a dozen faintly bored gentlemen, some 13 bosomy A.E. Associates in flowing evening gowns gyrated gracefully about a stage in earnest imitation of atomic forces at work. An ample electron in black lace wound her way around two matrons labeled "proton" and "neutron" while an elderly ginger-haired Geiger counter clicked out their radioactive effect on a pretty girl named Agriculture. At a climactic moment, a Mrs. Monica Davial raced across the stage in spirited representation of a rat eating radioactive cheese.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any pictures of the event. But you can read the entire pantomime over at atomicgardening.com.

Muriel Howorth, founder of the Atomic Energy Association of Great Britain

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 15, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Theater and Stage, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

A-Bomb Detergent

Wash away radioactive particles with Flobar!

Life - Nov 20, 1950



This ad later made its way into a 1982 piece by artist Winston Smith.

Trust Your Mechanic

Posted By: Alex - Thu Apr 29, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Advertising, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Baths, Showers and Other Cleansing Methods, 1950s

Little Mr. Tritium

The Japanese government recently created an animated character that definitely belongs in our ongoing series of strange spokesbeings. It was a "cute fish-like creature with rosy cheeks" that was intended to represent a radioactive hydrogen isotope. The government was hoping that this creature would help gain public support for its plan of releasing contaminated water from Fukushima into the sea.

While the government didn't give this creature a name, people have been calling it "Little Mr. Tritium".

More info: The Guardian



Posted By: Alex - Tue Apr 27, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Government, Corporate Mascots, Icons and Spokesbeings, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters

Nuclear submarines as oil tankers

Potentially mad scheme: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian navy was casting about for ways to raise revenue and came up with the idea of using Typhoon-class submarines as oil tankers. The Soviets had built six Typhoon-class nuclear subs which were, and still are, the largest submarines ever made. The main selling point of this idea was that the subs could travel under Arctic ice, eliminating the need for expensive ice-breakers. From wikipedia:

In the early 1990s, there were also proposals to rebuild some of the Typhoon-class submarines to submarine cargo vessels for shipping oil, gas and cargo under polar ice to Russia's far flung northern territories. The submarines could take up to 10,000 tonnes of cargo on-board and ship it under the polar ice to tankers waiting in the Barents Sea. These ships – after the considerable engineering required to develop technologies to transfer oil from drilling platforms to the submarines, and later, to the waiting tankers – would then deliver their cargo world-wide.

The idea was abandoned when someone over there decided that a nuclear sub filled with 10,000 tons of oil might pose some safety concerns.

More info: bellona.org

Posted By: Alex - Tue Mar 16, 2021 - Comments (7)
Category: Military, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Transportation, 1990s

Radioactive Spark Plugs

Firestone came out with radioactive spark plugs in 1940. The idea was that radioactive material (polonium) would improve the electrical conductivity of the spark plugs, resulting in better fuel combustion. More details from the Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum:

Other than the slightly improved performance when the plugs were first installed, their benefits were questionable. The short half-life of polonium-210 (138 days) meant that the enhanced performance was only temporary. It also put dealers in the uncomfortable position of having to decide what to do after unsold plugs sat on the shelf for extended periods. Furthermore, the inevitable accumulation of deposits on the surface of the plugs’ electrodes as the vehicle burned fuel would attenuate the alpha particles and prevent them from ionizing the gas.

Monrovia News-Post - Mar 27, 1941



Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 13, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1940s, Cars

Kent, the asbestos-filtered cigarette

In 1952, in response to growing concerns about the safety of cigarettes, the Lorillard Tobacco Company introduced Kent cigarettes, boasting that they contained a "Micronite filter" developed by "researchers in atomic energy plants".

Turned out that the key ingredient in the Micronite filter was asbestos. From wikipedia:

Kent widely touted its "famous micronite filter" and promised consumers the "greatest health protection in history". Sales of Kent skyrocketed, and it has been estimated that in Kent's first four years on the market, Lorillard sold some 13 billion Kent cigarettes. From March 1952 until at least May 1956, however, the Micronite filter in Kent cigarettes contained compressed carcinogenic blue asbestos within the crimped crepe paper. It has been suspected that many cases of mesothelioma have been caused specifically by smoking the original Kent cigarettes.

According to Mother Jones, the company is still battling lawsuits to this day.

Chicago Tribune - Apr 1, 1952

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 14, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Health, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Smoking and Tobacco, 1950s

The Cleve Cartmill Affair

Science-fiction author Cleve Cartmill is best known for his short story "Deadline," which appeared in the March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story isn't famous because it's a good story. Cartmill himself described it as a "stinker." It's famous because it contained specific details about how to make an atomic bomb — details which Cartmill somehow knew over a year before the existence of the bomb had been revealed by the U.S. government.

When Military Intelligence learned about the story they freaked out, fearing a security breach, and launched an investigation. They questioned Cartmill, as well as Astounding editor John W. Campbell. But eventually they concluded that Cartmill had gained his info, as he insisted, from publicly available sources.

However, the rumor is that Military Intelligence bought up as many copies of that issue of the magazine as they could, to prevent its dissemination. Which makes that issue quite valuable. For instance, at Burnside Rare Books it's going for $400.

But if you simply want to read the issue (and Cartmill's story), you can do that at archive.org for free.

More info: lynceans.org, Wikipedia.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 10, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Science Fiction, 1940s

Radioactive Vending Machine Tokens

Sometimes vendors would like to sell relatively high-value items in vending machines. That is, merchandise worth more than a candy bar. Nowadays that's not a problem because there's technology that can scan paper currency or read credit cards, making larger transactions possible.

But back in the 1960s, vending machines relied on coins for payment, so selling high-value merchandise wasn't practical. Especially since the machines could only measure weight, shape, and size to determine if the coins were real — and these characteristics are easy to fake with low-value blanks.

The British printing company Thomas de la Rue devised a solution: radioactive vending machine tokens.

Its researchers realized it would be possible to create tokens made out of layers of radioactive materials such as uranium and carbon14. These tokens would emit unique radioactive signatures that could be measured by Geiger counters inside a vending machine. Such tokens wouldn't be easy to forge. The company patented this idea in 1967.

I'm not aware that any vending machines accepting radioactive tokens were ever put into to use.

I imagine they would have suffered from the same problem that plagued other efforts to put radiation to practical, everyday use — such as the radioactive golf balls we posted about a few months ago (the radiation made it possible to find the balls if lost). The radiation from one token (or golf ball) wasn't a health hazard, but if a bunch of them were stored together, then the radiation did become a problem.



Nashua Telegraph - Jan 11, 1967

Posted By: Alex - Sun Mar 08, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Inventions, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1960s

Linda Lawson, Miss Cue

From her Wikipedia page:

On May 5, 1955, Lawson was dubbed "Miss Cue"[4][5] in reference to a series of nuclear tests conducted by the US military under "Operation Teapot," and publicized as "Operation Cue" in a short film distributed by the US Federal Civil Defense Administration. [6]






Posted By: Paul - Sun Feb 16, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Death, Government, Corporate Mascots, Icons and Spokesbeings, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

Page 1 of 5 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›




weird universe thumbnail
Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Contact Us
Monthly Archives
May 2021 •  April 2021 •  March 2021 •  February 2021 •  January 2021

December 2020 •  November 2020 •  October 2020 •  September 2020 •  August 2020 •  July 2020 •  June 2020 •  May 2020 •  April 2020 •  March 2020 •  February 2020 •  January 2020

December 2019 •  November 2019 •  October 2019 •  September 2019 •  August 2019 •  July 2019 •  June 2019 •  May 2019 •  April 2019 •  March 2019 •  February 2019 •  January 2019

December 2018 •  November 2018 •  October 2018 •  September 2018 •  August 2018 •  July 2018 •  June 2018 •  May 2018 •  April 2018 •  March 2018 •  February 2018 •  January 2018

December 2017 •  November 2017 •  October 2017 •  September 2017 •  August 2017 •  July 2017 •  June 2017 •  May 2017 •  April 2017 •  March 2017 •  February 2017 •  January 2017

December 2016 •  November 2016 •  October 2016 •  September 2016 •  August 2016 •  July 2016 •  June 2016 •  May 2016 •  April 2016 •  March 2016 •  February 2016 •  January 2016

December 2015 •  November 2015 •  October 2015 •  September 2015 •  August 2015 •  July 2015 •  June 2015 •  May 2015 •  April 2015 •  March 2015 •  February 2015 •  January 2015

December 2014 •  November 2014 •  October 2014 •  September 2014 •  August 2014 •  July 2014 •  June 2014 •  May 2014 •  April 2014 •  March 2014 •  February 2014 •  January 2014

December 2013 •  November 2013 •  October 2013 •  September 2013 •  August 2013 •  July 2013 •  June 2013 •  May 2013 •  April 2013 •  March 2013 •  February 2013 •  January 2013

December 2012 •  November 2012 •  October 2012 •  September 2012 •  August 2012 •  July 2012 •  June 2012 •  May 2012 •  April 2012 •  March 2012 •  February 2012 •  January 2012

December 2011 •  November 2011 •  October 2011 •  September 2011 •  August 2011 •  July 2011 •  June 2011 •  May 2011 •  April 2011 •  March 2011 •  February 2011 •  January 2011

December 2010 •  November 2010 •  October 2010 •  September 2010 •  August 2010 •  July 2010 •  June 2010 •  May 2010 •  April 2010 •  March 2010 •  February 2010 •  January 2010

December 2009 •  November 2009 •  October 2009 •  September 2009 •  August 2009 •  July 2009 •  June 2009 •  May 2009 •  April 2009 •  March 2009 •  February 2009 •  January 2009

December 2008 •  November 2008 •  October 2008 •  September 2008 •  August 2008 •  July 2008 •