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Physics/Follow up to radiation question


Hi Mr. Nelson, this will be my last question, I have troubled you enough with my crazy questions. I guess in my last correspondence, I really didn't ask the question, although I think you answered it in your first response concerning the Vaseline / uranium glass and safety. My concern, I'm sure unfounded, was that in the process of picking up the broken glass, would my son be in any danger if he had inhaled a tiny piece of the glass? Could there be any long term effects from alpha radiation? As stated, I'll wait for your response and make this my last question. Thanks for your responses, you have truly been a huge help.


Not in the slightest.  Uranium, until you enrich it significantly, is less radiotoxic than it is chemically toxic.  On top of that, it's a tiny fraction of the glass.  On top of that, the amounts that are possible to accidentally inhale are tiny.  On top of even that, uranium is (as stated before) a tiny fraction of that glass, even if you correctly identified it as uranium glass.  On top of all that, it's locked away in the glass and can't truly get inside the cells.  The fact that it technically contains traces of something which can emit a few alpha particles is blown waaaaay out of proportion, just based on the amount of time you spent asking the question.  Again, try to keep a sense of scale for these things.

I still don't recommend that anyone go snorting broken glass of any kind, of course.


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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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