Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Atom Blanket

Here's an oddity.   While skimming old Newsweeks, I found a photo from the AP in 1954 of an "atom blanket".

The photo is of a young boy huddling under a comforter with a low-resolution nuclear blast superimposed on the background.   (I'm not including it for copyright reasons, but believe me, you're not missing anything.)   The caption:
Atom Blanket: An American blanket manufacturer is widely publicizing this lead-lined model ($49.50), said to shield wearers from atomic radiation, fire, and shock 10 miles from blast center.   Civil-defense experts have not changed their view that basement shelters are more effective.
That's all - there's no attached article.

There must be more out there about this, but the caption doesn't even give the manufacturer's name, and I've been infuriatingly unable to find any further information.

Needless to say, this would be quite ineffective.   By my back-of-the-envelop calculation, a lead-lined blanket thick enough to block just half of the gamma radiation you were exposed to would weigh more than 500 kg.   And $49.50 works out to about $417 dollars in today's currency, so this thing was not cheap.

My guess is that the manufacturer was trying to cash in on the fear aroused by the CASTLE BRAVO disaster.   The nuclear test took place on March 1st, and the photo was published on April 26th.   (For those not familiar with it, CASTLE BRAVO was the United States' first test of a dry-fuel hydrogen bomb using lithium deuteride instead of cryogenic deuterium, and it substantially overshot its projected yield.   Fallout from the blast sickened dozens of Japanese fishermen and Marshallese islanders.   The test was a major shift in public understanding of radiation.)

If any reader knows anything more about this, please let me know.

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