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Something for the weekend: they don’t make Xmas presents like they used to do!

It is about now – in the harsh light of post-Christmas, while we are still clearing up the shredded wrapping paper from the kids’ presents and looking for receipts for toys and gadgets that are already broken – that people starting complaining the kids of today are spoiled rotten… that the games and toys they play with are rubbish… and how we were so poor when we were growing up that we were grateful if we received a tangerine and a piece of coal for Christmas. Well, in the spirit on enlightenment, let me introduce you to the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab for the wannabe nuclear scientist in your family.

Only available from 1951–1952, this science kit for children included four types of uranium ore, a Geiger counter, a comic called Dagwood Spits the Atom and a coupon for ordering more radioactive materials. Why was it withdrawn after one year? Well, one of the four uranium ores included was Po-210 (Polonium) which, by mass, is 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. Polonium? That rings a bell. Oh, yes, wasn’t that the stuff the Russian secret services/aka Son-of-Smersh allegedly used to murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006? And isn’t there a suggestion (currently being investigated) that the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also died from Polonium poisoning?

Yes folks, radiation – the gift that keeps on giving – a present your children will never forget receiving. And, no batteries are needed – ever – not when you are dealing with substances that have a half-life of 24,000 years! Lawyers may like to ponder the product liability issues associated with reissuing such a toy today!