Experiments in Radioactivity

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Richard Hull
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Experiments in Radioactivity

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jun 02, 2009 2:27 pm

Experiments in Radioactivity, R.A. Faire, Methuen Educational Limited, 1970.

Faire was the head of Harwell's, on site, isotope school in 1970. (For the non-Brits, Harwell was Great Britain's, Oak Ridge equivalent)

This is a rather rare tome, yet rather inexpensive when located. (My copy was $3.50 + $6.00 air shipping from Great Britain). It is a hardback of only 125 pages but chocked full of 40 cool experiments. The book is aimed at the high school and tech school study of radioactivity.

It's rather late publishing date means that the author is forced to immediately defend the introduction of radioactives into the schools. Fully, three quarters of his introduction is a justification for including the study of radioactivity into the school syllabus.

His first chapter is on "Using Radioisotopes safely". One of his positive points about introducing radioactives into the schools is that, due to the nature of the materials, the students will learn good, fastidious and precise laboratory techniques which will aid them in other science courses. He references the dangerous chemicals used in teaching high school chemistry as a opening to allow radioactives in. Little did Faire know that even these chemicals would be outlawed in many high schools and even first year college chemistry courses 40 years after he noted their common use in high schools.

The book tells how to make instruments! Transistorized circuits are given for a simple GM counter. Lots of pure hands on imperative in this little volume.

We make, spintharioscopes, spark counters, electroscopes and even a wall projection metering system using a dismantled Weston meter movement. With typical British aplomb, the author notes that, "One has to be fairly bold and take the movement out of a 50mm diameter Weston meter"...... Later we tend to use classroom grade, period instruments provided by the school such as GM counters, ratemeters, etc.

We make a thorium cow, separate a few isotopes and isotope label chemical experiments. We do silver electrolysis and some tagged biological experiments. All really cool stuff.

Many of the isotopes used which were commonly available then are, sadly, no longer in the public domain as usable loose isotopes. (I131, P32, S35, C14, etc).

In the U.S., Oak Ridge sold isotopes as water soluable carrier vapor depositions in bottles to which the student/experimenter added water, while British suppliers of the same period distributed their nuclides in tablet form with inert material forming the tablet in which the water soluable isotopic carrier chemical existed.

The book is a must have for any library claiming completeness in Atoms for Peace era classroom radiochemistry books.

As if to fire a volley in a parting shot in support of the modern useage of radioisotopes, the author placed, on the outside, back hard cover, a paraphrased note, ( harking back to old wartime paper shortage warnings on all books regarding the sub-standard nature of same used in the book). .......... "The paper of which this book is made has had its thickness checked by scanners using radioisotopes".

A nice little volume that is rather hard to locate in the States, yet when found, will not empty your wallet.

For the review of another great little experimenters book, go to.....

viewtopic.php?f=21&t=8128#p57544

There is a longer and more detailed review of this second book plus more pointed to in the review.


Richard Hull
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Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
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