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November 29, 2006

Why you shouldn't eat polonium 210

Revere has an excellent two part series on why polonium-210 is dangerous to former KGB colonels and other living things. Part I: Atoms, isotopes, and radioactivity. Part II: How alpha particles kick your ass from the inside out.

Also at Effect Measure: Find out why your soda is full of benzene.

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Jesus. Water-soluble, inhalable, volatile at room temperature, kills in small microgram amounts. Insanely expensive.

Somebody was sending a message, and not at dissidents or reformers, but at governments. Iraq had primitive capabilities, but Russia has weaponized antibiotic-resistant anthrax by the barrel. There really are biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, even if only the very advanced militaries have them.

I would say this, the introduction of this material into England's borders was an act of war, but you don't go to war with nations of this capability

The strange thing is: Wouldn't the use of Polonium 210 be a sure tipoff that this assassination was carried out by Russian security services? It's not like you can pick up this stuff at your local gun show. It's as if they *want* the world to know who assassinated him. They might as well have shot him and left a note saying "Putin did it." Might have saved them some expense.

It's as if they *want* the world to know who assassinated him.

It's not "as if" -- the message is absolutely unambiguous.

They might as well have shot him

Now you're talking like Scott Evil. Putin is clearly more the Goldfinger type.

Damned nanny-state granola eaters! Who are they to tell angry RW white men what they can or can't eat? If I want to eat polonium, it's my party. I should be able to collect under the Takings clause because Big Government won't let me market my line of polonium-enriched snacks. And if Ayn Rand were still living, and hadn't died of lung cancer, it wouldn't be just non-smokers she'd denounce as Anti-Life, but polonium-abstainers, too. Take that, you abstemious Attila witch doctors!

Nice explanation there at effectmeasure.

Polonium’s an interesting substance. Discovered and christened by the Curies in the hope that the name might direct attention to Marie Curie’s native country which was being used as a doormat by some major European powers at the time. Fantastically toxic. Fantastically rare but ubiquitous. Tiny amounts cause the air around it to glow. So radioactive that even a tiny lump is hot. Combined with beryllium is (or was) used as a neutron generator in nuclear bombs. Practical quantities can only be generated in miniscule amounts in nuclear reactors, yet it’s common enough to kill cigarette smokers every day.

Google around a bit and you can find all sorts of radioactive strangeness:

Wikipedia on polonium
Answers.com on polonium
Argonne Lab health fact sheet on polonium
Radioactive decay series
Decay series explained
Thorium in gas camp stove mantles
Americium in smoke detectors
How ionizing radiation in smoke detectors works

Wouldn't the use of Polonium 210 be a sure tipoff that this assassination was carried out by Russian security services? It's not like you can pick up this stuff at your local gun show. It's as if they *want* the world to know who assassinated him.

You and Darcy are exactly right. There are apparently only 400 grams of this stuff known to exist in the world, and Russia has most of it. No-one can trace it back to exactly the individual responsible, but it's pretty much stamped "Made in Russia."

Polonium 210 as a terror weapon: Better">http://letterfromhere.blogspot.com/2006/11/polonium-210-as-terror-weapon.html">Better than anthrax? Let's face it, current and past superpowers have long had the capability to kill damn near everybody on the planet and it seems that every once in awhile some individual affiliated with one or the other just can't resist taking the toys out and playing with them, just a little.

Putin probably feels very modest, considering his predecessor Russian rulers. Hardly a notch on the charnel-house door.

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