Wednesday, August 6, 2008
U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory
"A.C. Gilbert was a man of true inspiration, often compared to Walt Disney for his creative genius. [...] Interested in the joy of science more than remuneration, Gilbert created the Atomic Energy Lab U-238 -- with the help of MIT's able faculty. The toy was made to de-mystify the perils of nuclear energy and to encourage the understanding of chemistry, physics and nuclear science -- ultimately helping kids (and adults) become more open to the possibilities these disciplines offer."
The set originally sold for $49.50 and contained the following:
U-239 Geiger radiation counter;
Electroscope to measure radioactivity of different substances;
Spinthariscope to watch "live" radioactive disintegration;
Wilson Cloud Chamber to see paths of electrons & alpha particles at 10k mps;
Three very low-level radioactive sources (Alpha, Beta, Gamma);
Four samples of Uranium-bearing ores;
Nuclear Spheres (used to visual build models of molecules);
The book "Prospecting for Uranium";
The "Gilbert Atomic Energy Manual";
The comic book "Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom";
Three "Winchester" Batteries (size "C").
"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 long-term impact of being raised by the kind of nerds who would give their kid an Atomic Energy Lab."