Irradiated Dimes

If you happened to visit the American Museum of Atomic Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the 1950’s or early ’60’s, chances are you stood in line at their most popular exhibit – the dime irradiator.  The idea was simple, you would take a dime (which were 90% silver back then) from your pocket and drop it into the irradiator.

The irradiator contained a radioactive source of antimony and beryllium.  Gamma rays from the antimony would be absorbed by the beryllium, which would then emit a neutron.  The neutrons proceeded to bombard the dime and in the process changed some of the silver atoms from silver-109 into radioactive silver-110.  The now-radioactive dime would then drop into a chamber containing a Geiger counter, which would chirp excitedly due to the radioactivity.  After a few moment next to the Geiger counter the dime would finish its journey by popping out of the irradiator into the eager hands of a child.

You could purchase a handy plastic souvenir case at the gift shop, but either way you went home with a radioactive dime in your pocket.

This reminds me a bit of holding a grudge.  We’ve all been wronged in life by those around us.  I know I’ve done more than my fair share of wronging.  But the worst part about being offended is when it develops into a grudge.  As with the irradiated dime, forming a grudge seems to be a good idea at the time, but the longer you carry it around and the closer you hold it to your heart the more damage it does.

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