Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Heavy water

Four stories about George de Hevesy, author of the two-volume Adventures in Radioisotope Research whose delivery I am anxiously awaiting at the library, having no doubt erroneously and procrastinatorily and entirely self-deludingly persuaded myself it is essential to read before I can finish writing the opening scene of the new novel:
During his trying experiences at Manchester, Hevesy grew distinctly unhappy with the boardinghouse he stayed at (it couldn’t have helped that the place had been recommended by Rutherford). Perhaps his bouts of indigestion made him more picky than usual (Badash 1969). In any event, he became convinced that his landlady had a nasty habit of recycling food. His suggestion that she serve freshly prepared meat more than once a week was met with indignation - how could he, she insisted, accuse her of serving anything but the freshest of ingredients. But Hevesy wasn’t persuaded. At the next opportunity, the following Sunday, Hevesy secretly spiked the leftovers on his plate with radioactive material. A few days later, the electroscope he smuggled into the dining room revealed the presence of the tracer - radioactive hash! Confronted with the irrefutable evidence, all the landlady could do was exclaim "this is magic!" The first radiotracer investigation had successfully followed leftover meat from the Sunday meal to the kitchen meat grinder, into the hash pot, and back onto the dining room table. (Brecher and Brecher 1969, Myers 1979). To this day, it is doubtful if a successful radiotracer study has provided greater personal satisfaction!

1 comment:

  1. Yeesh. I was always loathe to leave my lunch in the communal fridge because I'd heard that occasionally nutty lab workers repeat this experiment.