Joe Mirsky

Joe Mirsky
Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, U.S.
April 16
Joseph's Jewelry
I own a jewelry store in New Jersey (not the part of New Jersey they make jokes about). I send newsletters to my customers 3 times a year. The newsletters were an instant hit when I started them in 1997. I compiled them into a book, Ornamentally Incorrect, subtitled Have You Hugged Your Jeweler Today in 2008 and a second edition, Bijoux and Beyond in 2011. The third edition, Luxe et Veritas was published in 2013. It's not just jewelry stuff. I also write about consumer and middle class issues, money, economics, lighter side of life, and politics. The posts in this blog are articles from the book. You can see a further sample of my newslettering at


Joe Mirsky's Links

APRIL 26, 2012 11:24AM

It's a Spinthariscope, Kemo Sabe

Rate: 0 Flag

This is one of the 870 articles in my book Ornamentally Incorrect, third edition, Luxe et Veritas. The book title link will take you to Amazon where you can buy the book for $15.

It's a Spinthariscope, Kemo Sabe

See genuine atoms split to smithereens inside this Kix Atomic Bomb Ring. For just 15¢ plus a Kix cereal boxtop the Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring could have been yours in 1947.

The ring was advertised on the Lone Ranger radio show. Although it was also advertised in print, it came to be known as the Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring. (The contradiction of a 19th century cowboy selling a 20th century weapon was missed, maybe because the business end of the ring bomb looked like the Lone Ranger's silver bullet.)

The red tail fin on the bomb could be removed to expose a secret message compartment. Then you could go into a dark room and look through a lens at the back and see a shower of light flashes.

The light flashes were caused by particles emitted by a radioactive element hitting a screen coated with zinc sulfide. This is called a spinthariscope.

The spinthariscope was invented by English scientist Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) in 1903. Crookes was experimenting in the dark with radium bromide, observing how it made a screen coated with zinc sulfide glow, when he accidently spilled some of the very costly radium on the screen. When he examined the screen under a microscope to locate even the smallest speck, he saw flashes of light rather than a uniform glow.

Crookes then built a small device with a speck of radium bromide on the tip of a needle, a zinc sulfide screen behind it, and a lens in front, all inside a brass tube. He named it a spinthariscope, from the Greek word for scintillation.

On May 15, 1903, Crookes showed his spinthariscope at a gala affair at the British Royal Society. It was a hit, and soon became the must-have toy for toffs.

The Lone Ranger spinthariscope used polonium 210, really bad stuff (remember that Russian guy who was poisoned with it?). But the alpha particles it emits don't penetrate the skin and the glass lens on the ring blocks them. (The problem comes when you eat it.) It has a half-life of only 138 days, so all the old Lone Ranger rings are dead now.

You can buy spinthariscopes today that use thorium or americium.

Check out the other articles on the blog here

Copyright © 2013 Joseph Mirsky Jewelry Inc.


Lone Ranger Ring


Author tags:

spinthariscope, lone ranger

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Comments are now closed.