The science of nuclear energy
The science of nuclear energy

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The science of nuclear energy

1.2.6 Myths of radiation

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With the discovery of radium in the early part of this century, it was thought that it had great curative powers. Many spas were set up, like at Battle Creek, Michigan where Dr Kellogg had a radium room where people were treated with radioactive salts and blankets. Other spas were set up at Saratoga Springs, where they had radium mud baths, radium regular baths in California, in Arkansas. Radium was thought to have great beneficial effects.
So some clever entrepreneurs thought that if it’s possible to sell something that you could use in your home, maybe they could capture some of the profit that was made from people who were spending it in radium spas. And they advertised, why spend money for an expensive train trip to some health spa when you can buy one of our water jugs? And it will make your water just as radioactive as you’ll find at Saratoga Springs.
One of the more popular so-called radium spas for the home was this Revigator, made in 1912. Hundreds of thousands of these were sold, and it was made in a variety of shapes and sizes. It has radium ore on the inside of this crock. Now, we’ll put this Geiger counter sensor down inside. You’ll hear quite a loud response determining how much radium is in this crock.
They tried to sell their customers on the idea that more illness was caused by improper water than any other reason, largely because the radioactivity was lost in the water that we were drinking.
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Radium was discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie at the end of the nineteenth century and was one of the first radioactive elements to be identified.

While scientists endeavoured to understand the nature of radioactivity, some were quick to capitalise on its perceived properties. Radium was a brand new element unlike any that had been seen before and seemed to have near magical properties.

Many of these inventions seem bizarre to us today! We have come a long way in our understanding but misconceptions still swirl around radioactivity nowadays.

You’ll have a chance to consider the public perception of radioactivity in the next section.


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