During WWII there was a substance available on Navy ships,
in tape form, that one could place by light switches or
other items one might want to locate in the dark (like a
flashlight). This tape somehow absorbed light during the
day, and at night gave off a faint glow, sufficient to be
seen in a dark room.
Is there anything like that available today - in either
paint or tape form - that one can use for such purposes in
Former slayer of dragons; practice now limited to sacred
In first part of the last century, the military used radium to make
glow-in-the-dark hands and numbers on government issue watches. The
workers who applied this paint were not told of any dangers and would
do things like lick the brushes before applying the paint to the
dials. Many, if not all of them came down with radiation poisoning
and the who incident became a famous test case about whether workers
could sue their employers for ruining their health.
One benefit of the radium though... The watches did not need to be
"charged" under light to stay luminous.
Many modern luminous paints require this "light charge" in order to
Google or Wikepedia "Radium Girls" for the complete story.
Personal Note - I remember my cousin showing us the radioactive dimes
he purchased from the tourist store at Oak Ridge, TN during the early
1960's. That couldn't have been good either...
To be fair it should be noted that few if any people realized the
I would suggest that it is very likely that the military applications
described by the OP were not the current products but were the radioactive
I can remember when consumer products (watches and clocks) had the
radioactive materials. The military surplus Geiger counters would react to
them. I also remember the X-Ray machines they had in shoe stores where they
zapped poor kids (myself included) with large quantities of X-Rays to see if
the shoes fit. We just did not know back then. Marie Curie likely died
due to exposure to radioactive materials.
I don't know what Wikipedia has, but while it is true there was a
problem with painting radium watch dials as described, the association
w/ the military is simply wrong. The usage was common and like many
things, the danger wasn't yet fully known/characterized, and general
standards weren't the same then as now.
"Luminous" and "fluorescent" aren't the same, either...
When I was a kid, you could buy shoes and check fit by putting feet in
x-ray machine. Also remember the radium dials. Could also buy chemistry
sets with real chemicals in them. Back then, stuff made in USA was far
worse than the worst stuff coming from China today. We're living in a
weenie world today ;)
"Made in the USA" really had nothing to do with it -- it was simply what
was standard practice of the time and generally things were "better" in
that sense in the US than in many other places at the same time then as
The typically hysterical reaction these days over the most minimal of
risks is, I'll agree, a "sign of the times".
Many years ago when I had a darkroom in my house, I used the following UGL paint
to mark off where the room light switch and various tools I needed were located:
The glow lasted long enough to accomplish the usual tasks one had to do in total
darkness before the safelight came into play.
Radium should not be considered as glow in the dark since it actually
gives out light and is radioactive. Do light bulbs glow in the dark?
Glow in the dark materials are those that absorb surrounding light and
give out this light through a glow. This process is similar to
photosynthesis and is what today's glow is all about.
I don't know why that shouldn't be "glow in the dark", it's what the
purpose of using radium salts in paints was all for.
Purified radium does show some luminescence, but it's pretty low level
comparatively and would require far more material by itself. The
radiation emitted by radium can also cause certain materials, called
"phosphors" to emit light. It was mixtures of radium salts and
appropriate phosphors which were widely used for clock dials and gauges
before the risks of radium exposure were understood.
Their products are actually one of three processes -- chemical reaction
yielding light, uv-light reactive phosporesence, and the visible-light
reactive photo-luminesence. The latter isn't to be confused w/
on 11/10/2007 3:03 AM Beachcomber said the following:
I remember little cheap toy rings that were advertised to be able to see
atoms in action when peering into the ring. I seem to remember they were
a prize offered by a cereal company when you sent in a coupon on the
box. I had one. What you saw was similar to pressing on your eyelid
for a few seconds and then then releasing the pressure with your eyelid
still closed and the little 'stars' would move about on your eyelid.
When I was a kid (circa 1950) Japan made the crap like China does
Our stuff was like Japan's stuff today (Ok, maybe not as reliable).
Some of Japan's turn-around is credited to American statistician Dr.
W.E.Deming who was invited there in 1951.
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