Finding Radium Inside a Pig (Jan, 1936)
Finding Radium Inside a Pig
RADIUM, used in hospital work inside tiny “needles,” may easily be mislaid; and a thousand dollars’ worth is almost invisible to the eye. Recently a tube disappeared from a hospital at Sioux Falls, S. D., and, though only 3/4″ x 1/16″, represented $3,000 value. A couple of scientists promptly improvised a radium finder from a glass flash and a strip of gold leaf and went over to the dumping ground. Strong indications of radioactivity â€”the leaf of gold in the homemade electroscope collapsingâ€”were found whenever a certain pig was approached. So the pig was converted into sausage material, and in its stomach was found the little radium capsuleâ€” to the surprise of the pig’s proprietor.
The principle of the electroscope is that when it is charged, the same electrical polarityâ€”whether positive or negativeâ€”is on the insulated metal rod through the stopper of sulphur, or other high insulator, and on the gold leaf attached to the rod. The gold leaf is repelled, and stands out at a high angle, until the electroscope is discharged. But if ultra-violet light, or radium rays, fall on the flask, the air inside it becomes ionized (electrified) and conductive; the charge immediately leaks off the rod and the leaf falls.