Atomic Toys


BoingBoing recently posted on Gilbert’s Atomic Energy Lab, a cool little kit for 1950s kids to get down with physics and conduct scientific experiments. What wasn’t elaborated in the article were the specifics of the radioactive elements that came bundled with the kit:

The set came with four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106), a gamma source (Zn-65?), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a geiger counter, a manual, a comic book (Dagwood Splits the Atom) and a government manual “Prospecting for Uranium.”

Besides the Gilbert Kit, parents could also cultivate an interest in atomic science through the Atomic Energy Lab (with uranium & radium) and the Porter Atomic Energy Kit, which contained “uranium chemical” plus a radioactive screen consisting of “a small (ca. 1″) piece of heavy paper on which radium has been deposited”:

On a safety note, I wonder what the geiger counted for these elements? And look at the half-lives: Pb-210,  1/2 life, 20 yrs; Ru-106, 1/2 life, 371.8 days; Zn-65, 1/2 life, 243.66 days; U, 1/2 life,  4.47 billion years, and Ra, 1/2 life, 1600 years). Truly these sets are gifts that keep on giving!

Oak Ridge Associated Universities has an online collection of other “atomic toys,” models, and candy.