Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Selling/Radio Activity


I saw this strange little object at a flea-market, and bought it for not much money because the only thing I knew about it was that it was made from uranium glass.

It reminded me of a cat's-eye reflector, and - as it turned out - I was not far wrong.

In case you don't know, some glass manufacturers used to put a small amount of uranium oxide into ordinary glass, just to get that distinctive yellow-green colouring, and made many different types of objects from it, including drinking glasses. The other thing I knew about uranium glass is that it shines brilliantly under U.V. light.

Once locked into the glass, the uranium was pretty safe, but it's manufacture was banned for health reasons - the actual casting, blowing and handling of uranium oxide was not good for the factory workers.

I put it onto eBay, with a question about what it could be, suggesting that I thought it may have had a WW2 purpose. I was not far wrong about that either.

Pretty soon, an expert got back to me with the information, plus a bit of a warning.

Thousands of these things were made in Britain during the 1940s, and they were arranged in tight rows either side of runway strips. Incoming aircraft would be fitted with high-intensity Ultra-Violet lamps on the noses, and these would be switched on during the final approach, picking out the runway in brilliant, spooky green lights at the last minute before touch-down, which would only fluoresce with each aircraft as it passed overhead.

At the end of the war, they were all dug out and safely destroyed - because they contained about 10 times as much uranium oxide as would normally be used, for maximum efficiency. Well, all except this one, it seems.

The sender of this message said that if he were to own it, he would store it in a lead box and only take it out for demonstration purposes, handling it as little as possible and keeping it as far away from anything alive as possible as well.

I moved it away from the computer desk after I read the message.

I have since sold it and included the same warnings to the purchaser by letter, so now it is out of the house.

I did shine a U.V. light on it just the once, and those rows of lights on the runways must have been very pretty indeed.

31 comments:

  1. It's amazing what you could get away with in those days. For instance the Victory-V Lozenges I used to devour by the handful as a youngster I just discovered on Wikipedia actually contained a mixture of cannabis and chloroform. No wonder I was always labelled as daydreaming and not being attention in class.

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    1. Radox foot-baths used to be actually radio-active! These were the days when they thought that it was a panacea. I wish they still put cocaine into Coca-Cola.

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    2. Didn't know about Radox but like Coke the clue is in the name. Fukushima beach would be a good place for a 1950's health resort complex.

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    3. I use Bikini Atoll for illuminated midnight swims. And I always thought it was the plankton which made me glow with health.

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    4. Somebody should produce a holiday guide for the radioactively inclined. There's enough out there.

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  2. Maybe that's why you've been having palpitations lately Tom ?!! Did you make a profit on it ? XXXX

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  3. I would never have thought to do that - buy the item or put it on ebay. It made for an interesting read and I assume you made some money off it. A win-win. Not a lot of those around.

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    1. See above - I view eBay as a gambling outlet.

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  4. I occasionally glow in the dark; could this be because I ate too many Flying Saucers as a child?

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    1. Wanking is the cause of that. It's a well-known fact.

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  5. Cro Magnon, I also ate lots of Flying Saucers. But obviously not as many as you. It's just my nose that sometimes glows in the dark.

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    1. Not only did I eat them, but I was abducted by them had sexual experiments done on me inside them before I ate them.

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    2. Luxury! We used to be abducted by them, perform sexual experiments on THEM before they performed sexual experiments on us, before we ate them and then regurgitated them and sold them on ebay.

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    3. I bet they glowed without UV, once you had smeared them with your sexual experimentation.

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    4. Sorry - I got a little carried away with that one. Consider the comment retracted (but not deleted).

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  6. I wouldn't have thought to put it on ebay and ask for information about it. Clever you!

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    Replies
    1. Clever me for getting rid of it. It now lives in Soho, London.

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    2. So, you didn't sell it to Mexico then?

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    3. You obviously haven't heard The News.

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    4. Just did. Apparently they are looking for the culprits with geiger counters, or just in the dark when they glow.

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  7. What intrigues me is why you bought it in the first place. Aren't men funny - they never cease to amaze me.

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    1. I'm with you there Pat. Fascinating stuff about the runway lights though - thanks Tom.

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    2. Breaking news: Men's brains are wired front to back, women's are wired side to side.

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    3. Interesting idea. I can feel a painting coming on.

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  8. gosh you lead such a varied life! its like the stick that goes on homer simpson in the opening credits

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