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.
On May 5, 1955, Lawson was dubbed "Miss Cue" 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. 
The day before the test, [atomic physicist Ted] Taylor rode the elevator to the top of the tower to view his device and to catch a glimpse of the equipment display scattered across the desert below. Nearby, a technician worked to clear a conduit pipe; a rat had somehow managed to wedge itself inside, threatening to ruin the shot. A break in even one circuit, regardless of how minor, would scuttle the detonation.
While Taylor was waiting, he managed to locate a concave, parabolic mirror. After determining the point at which the light would converge, he attached a small wire. The next day, June 1, 1952, he would conduct an experiment of his own.
At 3:50 on June 1, the troops in the trenches were told to kneel and lean against the side of the trench nearest the tower. Five minutes later Scorpion/George ignited with a force of 15 kilotons.
At the Control Point, Ted Taylor aimed his parabolic mirror at the intensely bright, fissioning mass. At the end of the wire he had attached a Pall Mall. In a second or so the concentrated, focused light from the weapon ignited the tip of the cigarette. He had made the world’s first atomic cigarette lighter.
It would have been better if Taylor had first radioed the control tower, "Hey, you guys got a light?" and they radioed back, "Sure." Then detonated the bomb.
A 1955 DoD film demonstrated the concept, without using an actual atomic bomb:
Sep. 10 was the 50th anniversary of Project Rulison, which was an underground nuclear test conducted in Rulison, Colorado. Its purpose was to determine if a nuclear bomb, detonated underground, could be used to release natural gas.
The answer was, not really, because the bomb will radiate the gas, making it unusable.
"There was this great rumble, and we were lifted about six or seven inches off the ground," he recalls. "There were a whole bunch of tremors reverberating through the ground. People down below described seeing ripples flow through the earth, like a rock that had been tossed in a pond."
The idea of nuking hurricanes has been in the news lately. Which made me wonder: how soon after learning of the existence of atomic bombs did people start to speculate about dropping them into hurricanes?
The answer seems to be, immediately. I found the article below about nuking hurricanes, dated Aug 8, 1945 — a mere two days after the bombing of Hiroshima.
Interestingly, the article speculates that the idea may have been inspired by earlier legends about using cannons to dispel waterspouts:
Talk of bombing hurricanes stems from stories of waterspouts being dissipated in the South Seas with cannon or rifle shot, Norton said. He doubts the truth of these yarns.
A demonstration that what is possible may not be what is practical.
Developed by nuclear physicist William Davidson in 1950, a small amount of radioactive material at the core of the atomic golf ball allowed it to be found using a Geiger counter, should it be hit into the rough. But there were a few problems with the concept:
1: The Geiger counter needed to be pretty close to the ball (within 5 feet) to actually detect it.
2: Not many people own Geiger counters.
3: Even though a single ball didn't pose much of a radiation risk, a bunch of the balls stored together would be a problem. So, it wasn't possible for stores to stock and sell these.
One of the more bizarre consequences of the atmospheric nuclear tests of the 1950s was that, hundreds of miles away, radioactive blue snow began to fall.
Traveling salesman M.C. Myer was one of the first to report seeing this phenomenon in 1953, while driving through Shasta County, California:
He said the snow appeared phosphorescent and "glowed" when his lights struck it. When he stepped from his car to investigate the snow, his face "tingled" and his eyes "watered" upon approaching it, he said.
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.