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Physics/Radium Watch Dials


I wore a Mickey Mouse watch with radium painted hands and numbers for several years as a young boy in the early 1950's.  Should I be concerned about any long term effects?

Absolutely not.  I mean, did you eat the dial or something?  Given the thin layer of the paint and the tiny amount of actual radium necessary to make a phosphor glow, even if you ate the watch (radium and its decay products are charged-particle emitters, most of the energy in alpha particles, which can't even penetrate your skin) you wouldn't have been exposed to a fraction of the radiation emitted by many common medical tests.  That, and the exposure would be long-term.  Biologically, long-term radiation exposure isn't bad for you because your body adjusts to it...many studies show that it actually lowers disease and cancer rates impressively.  Short, hard doses over the scale of flashes up to days are the dangerous types of exposures.

In short, don't worry.


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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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