Children’s Deadly Atomic Toy!
Particularly when it comes to children we lived in a health and safety obsessed world. They get stuffed into hi-viz smocks and hard hats and are velcro’ed together on school outings. Every surface has to be blitzed with wet-wipes in an effort to ruin their immune systems. They get smothered in so much Factor 900 sun cream to avoid skin cancer that rickets is now on a comeback tour!
Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to simpler times? Maybe the 1950’s. There is something about the 1950’s that just looks good. Movies from the era always seem sunny and happy, fashion was stylish and children were allowed to do things like play outside, eat mud and build backyard nuclear reactors – yay!
Welcome to the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
The dream of every budding evil genius back in the 50’s must have been the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab. Produced by the A. C. Gilbert Company of American inventor, businessman and magician Alfred Carlton Gilbert, this amazing atomic toy went on sale in 1950 for $49.50 (over $500 in todays terms).
Assembled in only a few minutes, the lab included everything a child would need to radiate the local neighbourhood, including:
- A Geiger Counter for chasing the cat
- A Cloud Chamber particle detector
- A Spinthariscope for visualising nuclear disintegrations
- A book titled ‘Prospecting for Uranium‘
- An Electroscope for measuring contamination
- And four glass jars containing Uranium ore!
This wonderful example of cutting edge children’s entertainment was capable of producing the full spectrum of atomic goodness including:
- Highly ionising Alpha Radiation
- The slightly less feisty Beta Radiation
- And even the ‘to-be-avoided-at-all-cost’ Gamma Radiation
Atomic Hide and Seek
The included activity book suggested a range of fun and educational games. Our favourite has to be ‘Atomic Hide and Seek’ using the Geiger Counter to track down radioactive samples hidden around the house. Oh, the hours of fun to be had!
“Hey Mom, who’d have thought radiation could do this!” shouts your beaming young scientist, proudly presenting his hairless, maroon faced younger brother. “Wow, yeah, who’d have thought” you admit as you inspect the shrivelled little ‘once-were-ears’ things sticking out from either side of his head like pieces of crispy bacon. “And you’ll never guess what Grandad does now when you turn the lights out!”
Marketed as being completely safe and harmless, it nonetheless came with the somewhat sinister warning that
“users should not take ore samples out of their jars, for they tend to flake and crumble and you would run the risk of having radioactive ore spread out in your laboratory. This would raise the level of your background count.”
Not to mention body count.
Sadly this amazing atomic toy was only on sale for two years before being withdrawn. But not on health and safety grounds, oh no! With only 5000 of them sold it just wasn’t a commercial success!