OMG! If I’d found this gem glowing underneath the aluminum Christmas tree when I was a kid, I’d have sprained something in my geekly excitement. I think I’d sprain something now… my wallet. This kit sold for a rather steep-at-the-time $50 and goes for 100 times that now. But I’d still be tempted. I think that’s just about the most inspired atomic age objet d’art I’ve ever seen. Joseph Cornell, David Lynch, the Fluxus artists, William Gibson, and the Coraline box makers, all working together, couldn’t do anything more aesthetically/culturally/temporally resonant than that.

The set came with four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106), a gamma source (Zn-65?), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a geiger counter, a manual, a comic book (Dagwood Splits the Atom) and a government manual “Prospecting for Uranium.”

Other Gilbert sets (e.g., the No. 11 Atomic Energy set) continued to carry the spinthariscope, the ore and the manual. In addition, the Geiger counter could be purchased separately.

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab (1950-1951) [via Boing Boing]

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • Coyote

    …you tumors…

    …year after year!

    • rahere

      There’s Po-210 in that thar cloud chamber…
      Back in those Happy Days, the boffins had only been playing with these things for a year or so, and really didn’t have much grasp of the risks.

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