Wonderful World Of Radiation

TO WIT

January 23, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

Radiation is a doubled-edged sword: It can be our deadly enemy, as when it leaks out of a nuclear reactor and harms innocent people; yet it can also be our friend, as when it leaks out of a nuclear reactor and harms Donald Trump.

Another example: Dentists use radiation, in the form of X-rays, to determine which of our teeth are still real, so they can grind them into stumps and cover them with improved space-age materials costing thousands of dollars per ounce. Yet those very same X-rays, if we are overexposed to them, can cause us to look like Willie Nelson. I base this statement on my own dentist, Stanley Krugman. He is a fine person and a skilled professional, but he looks way too much like Willie Nelson for it to be a result of natural causes. When he works on my teeth, I'm always expecting him to burst into song:

" . . . darlin' won't you come back soon

And spit mouthwash in my spittoon."

I recently received another example of bad radiation from alert reader Laurie Belin, who sent me a United Press International article that should be of grave concern to all those individuals who use furniture. The article, which I am not making up, begins:

"Moscow -- A Russian businessman who died recently of mysterious causes was apparently killed by his chair, which was found after his death to be highly radioactive."

The article goes on to state:

"Investigators discovered that the deadly office chair was the source of 1.5 million times more radioactivity than normal background levels. . . . It was not known how the chair became dTC radioactive, but there have been other incidents in Moscow where ordinary household items and even foods have been found to be radioactive."

Your reaction to this article, as a compassionate human being, is: "How can I get a chair like that for certain people in my office."

No, seriously, your reaction is to be shocked, but also to be reassured by the belief that, while there might be radioactive chairs in Russia, there would never be any here.

I wish I shared your optimism. I wish I could tell you that when I contacted the American Chair Council, a representative informed that every chair sold in this country is subjected to a rigorous radiation-testing process. But I'm afraid I cannot tell you this, and do you want to know why? Because there is no American Chair Council. And even if there were, I am way too lazy to contact it.

So we have reason to be concerned. But we should not panic. We should simply make whatever lifestyle adjustments are necessary to reflect the fact that every single object we come into contact with could kill us, and then we should put it out of our minds. Perhaps it will help if we remember that radiation also benefits mankind in ways that were never before possible. I am referring, as you may already have guessed, to microwave grape racing.

I found out about microwave grape racing from Greg Jacobs, a student at my alma mater, Haverford College (official motto: "No, I Did Not Say 'Harvard'!"). Basically, here's how it works: You put a thin film of sunflower oil on the floor of your microwave oven, and then you line some grapes up against one side, with the holes pointing at the wall. Then you turn the microwave on full power, which heats the grapes' interiors until steam goes shooting out the holes, thus turning the grapes into little organic rocket engines that scoot across the lubricated oven floor.

Warning: The procedure described in the previous paragraph is not approved by the American Microwave Council (if there is such a thing) and could be hazardous to your health. On the other hand, your spatula could be giving off more radiation than Chernobyl, so what do you care?

My son, Rob, and I held some microwave grape races, after taking the standard precaution of making sure that my wife was not home. It was entertaining, although many of the grapes -- and I blame the Clinton administration -- lacked the Will to Win. Only a few grapes actually moved, and rarely in the right direction. The rest either spun in circles, or exploded right at the starting line. This was more fun to watch than, say, the Indianapolis 500, where you usually have to sit through many laps to see that kind of action.

Thus we see that radiation, if used wisely, can provide important benefits to humanity for many years to come. Although you, personally, might not see this come to pass, especially if you are touching this newspaper with your bare hands.

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