Radium

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Radium, Ra, 88, is a radioactive alkali-earth metal, chemically similar to the other alkali-earths, including calcium and barium. Radium became famous in the early 1900s to 1930s, because it was thought to be a magic chemical that solved every problem, and created infinite energy. This isn't exactly true, but radium does have numerous interesting uses.

Radium only has a half-life of 1600 years(see more about half-lives on the Radioactivity page), meaning in about 5000 years almost all of it will have decayed into radon gas, however it is somewhat common because it is a decay product of uranium, so is found naturally in uranium ores.

After it's invention by Marie Curie in 1898, it became a popular subject in common talk, because radioactivity was a knew advance in science and wasn't known to be particularly dangerous at the time.

Radium was also the subject of many rumors, people thought radium-powered reactors could power humanity for the rest of time(which it can't), and radium was also thought to be a "health" product, being added to drinking water, facial products, and many other things, because radioactivity was thought to cure cancer due to it killing only reproducing cells, which cancer cells do much faster than normal ones, however this is wrong, and the harm inflicted on healthy cells makes you far more likely to get cancer in the first place.

There where several valid uses of radium, one being in a glow-in-the-dark paint, which was a mix of a radium compound and a phosphor which glowed when excited by radioactivity. This paint was heavily applied to watch hands and faces, other dials, switches, the military especially used it heavily on airplane gauges and controls. This paint would glow for about 40 years strait, no matter the conditions, and when it stopped glowing, it wasn't due to the decay of the radium, but to the shattering of crystals in the phosphor. Most times the phosphor can be re-applied and work just as well, even 50 years after it was originally made.

Radium lost popularity when under-aged female workers who painted watch hands and faces with radium paint contracted severe bone cancer from ingesting small amounts of radium. Because radium is chemically is similar to calcium, the body places it into bones, where it's radioactivity slowly destroys bone marrow responsible for making new blood cells, along with being weaker than calcium, so making bones extremely frail and prone to breaking.

These are my samples!

Baltimore Radium Watch

This is a vintage pocket watch from about 1930-50s made by Ingraham clocks, and is particularly precious to me because it goes right out and says "RADIUM" on the dial, and there's nothing I like more then something that states the presence of an element. Sadly when I got it it was, as you can tell by the picture, pretty beat up, and missing it's front glass which makes it very dangerous, some of the radium paint has already flaked off the dial and there's hardly any left on the hands.. Immediately after this picture it was carefully sealed in a plastic bag, never to be disturbed again.

Date added(year-month-day):20110912, sample number:66

Tags(Elements in sample):radium, radioactive

Westclox Radium

Westclox is a nice old clock company which, on numerous occasions, employed radium-luminous paint on the numbers of it's many clocks. This specific series named either Big Ben or Baby Ben is one of my favorite to collect, because they tend to be highly radioactive, and because we share a name. The clock face in the front is believed to be pre-1930s, and is varnished to assure radium doesn't get everywhere.

Date added(year-month-day):20110903, sample number:58

Tags(Elements in sample):radium, radioactive

Radium-Dial Watch

Radium, as you've probably heard, found most of it's use in luminous dials of clocks and watches, of which this is a prime example. Not only does it contain radium, but it contains a LOT of radium, as this little watch is more active then almost all my other watches. You can also tell it has more radium because the areas which used to glow are now burned brown from the radiation, if it had less radium it would look either pale green or white.

Date added(year-month-day):20110727, sample number:40

Tags(Elements in sample):radium, radioactive

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