A Smile So Sharp It Will Split Atoms

German radioactive toothpaste quack medicine

From 1940 to 1945, if you wanted to acquire radioactive material in Germany, you didn’t have to engage in cloak-and-dagger shenanigans; you simply had to go to the nearest pharmacy and purchase a tube of Doramad toothpaste. 

Doramad was produced with small quantities of radioactive thorium. This wasn’t a manufacturing accident; it was an intentional marketing strategy. 

Translation: “Its radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums. The cells are loaded with new life energy, the bacteria are hindered in their destroying effect. This explains the excellent prophylaxis and healing process with gingival diseases. It gently polishes the dental enamel so it turns white and shiny. Prevents dental calculus. Wonderful lather and a new, pleasant, mild and refreshing taste. Can be applied sparingly.”

Aside from being the poster child of quack medicine, Doramad played an interesting role in the race to develop the atomic bomb. U.S. intelligence agents were alarmed to learn that unusually-large amounts of thorium were being bought up by Germany. This suggested that German research toward the atomic bomb had progressed further than previously had been thought. 

It was only as the war drew to a close that investigators learned the real reason for the thorium shipments. Savvy German entrepreneurs were decades ahead of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” proposal. They were stocking up on radioactive material so they could make money selling a ground-breaking product. Their marketing slogan was, “Use toothpaste with thorium! Have sparkling, brilliant teeth—radioactive brilliance!”

Read more about toothpaste and the race for the Bomb here

Was Tycho a Psycho? Weird Facts About One of History’s Greatest Astronomers

Tycho Brahe fun facts death nose drunk moose elk

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) was one of the greatest astronomers to ever live. He was also probably at least a little bit off his gourd, if history is to judge. The Danish astronomer who brought a new level of exactitude to astronomical observations and applied that specificity to the theories and observations of Copernicus and Ptolemy, guaranteed his place in history as one of the last “naked eye” astronomers, working without telescopes for his observations. Perhaps his genius as a man of science has helped him be remembered for something other than the following quirks: Continue reading

One Heartbeat Away — Two Different Times

William Rufus King Vice President
Vice President William Rufus King (1786-1853)

William Rufus King may have risen to the highest political office of any person from Alabama, but history has all but overlooked the man who had the singular distinction of twice being one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Born ten years into the independence of the United States, King was a bright young star in the Democratic Party. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons at the age of 21, where he served for two years. He was elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for North Carolina in 1811.

After a brief stint overseas as secretary to the US Minister to Russia, King returned to the United States in 1818 and settled in the newly-organized Alabama territory. The next year Alabama became a state, and it sent King to Washington, DC as one of its first two senators.

Although a junior senator from a brand new state, King quickly rose through the ranks. He left the Senate in 1844 to become US Minister to France. Upon his return to the US he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate and returned as senator in 1848.

President Zachary Taylor died on July 9, 1850. Two days later, King was elected as President pro tempore of the Senate. Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, since the Vice Presidency was vacant, King was next in line to the presidency — one heartbeat away.

King left the Senate at the end of 1852 and traveled to Cuba in hopes of  recovering from tuberculosis. While there, he was nominated to be the Democratic Vice Presidential running mate for Franklin Pierce — a position to which he was elected.

King was too ill to travel to Washington to be sworn in. By a special act of Congress, King was permitted to take the oath of office on March 24, 1853 near Matanzas, Cuba, once again putting him one heartbeat away from becoming President of the United States.

King was able to return to the United States, but his health could not hold out. Two days after returning home, William Rufus King died, having served as Vice President for 26 days.




Man Flu Really is More Severe

Man Flu is real

Women have long disparaged men for acting as if their flu symptoms are more severe than those experienced by women. As it turns out, the men have been right all along.

According to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, women possess a natural protection against the flu: estrogen. The female sex hormone has been shown to hamper the replication of many types of viruses, including influenza, HIV, Ebola, and hepatitis.

The difference in disease intensity between men and women is dramatic, with women showing a nearly 1,000-fold reduction in viral replications than their male counterparts.

The next time you see a man seeking sympathy because of the severity of his flu symptoms, consider offering kindness; he may actually have a legitimate complaint.

Here Is Your Motivation to Exercise and Eat Healthy

World's heaviest man 1,400 pounds Jon Brower Minnoch

Guinness World Records identifies Jon Brower Minnoch (1941-1983) as the heaviest person in medical history. Minnoch’s top weight in March 1978 was 1,400 pounds (635 kg).

A normal body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. Those with a BMI of 25-29.9 are considered overweight, and those over 30.0 are considered obese. With a height of 6 foot, one inch (185 cm), Minnoch’s BMI was 184.7. Continue reading

Welcome to the White House. Don’t Drink the Water

White House contaminated water poisoned Harrison Polk Taylor
A new study links the deaths of Presidents William Henry Harrison (upper left), Zachary Taylor (upper right), and James K. Polk (lower left) to contaminated White House water during the 19th century.

Three Presidents who died in the years between 1840 and 1850 have inspired the well-known tales regarding the cause of their deaths. We all know that William Henry Harrison’s one-hour-and-forty-five-minute inaugural address, delivered without a hat or coat during a snowstorm, resulted in the President catching pneumonia and dying just thirty days into his administration. Historians have long declared that Zachary Taylor’s consumption of cherries and iced milk in the hot days of Washington, DC summer led to his death from cholera shortly thereafter. It has long been accepted that James K. Polk worked himself so hard during his administration that he died just three months after leaving office.

As it turns out, none of these long-held facts may be true. There could have been a common killer for all three chief executives: the  White House itself. Continue reading

Radioactive Fallout? No Problem… Just Grab a Paper Towel

Civil Defense About Fallout Helpful Tips

The 1963 film About Fallout (watch the film here) produced by the Office of Civil Defense offers helpful advice to anyone who might be concerned about radioactive fallout after a nuclear attack.

Among the helpful tidbits are these gems:

  • When possible, rinse the fallout off your potatoes before consuming them.
  • How to open food packages that are covered in fallout dust:
    “If water for washing is in short supply, canned goods that may have been exposed to fallout may be handled safely with a piece of paper towel.”
  • “There is another widespread legend, the fear that fallout spells death to all life on earth. The plain fact is that even if a great number of nuclear weapons were exploded, the resulting fallout would cover only a small area of the world’s total land mass.”
  • “If there is a nuclear attack and you survive the initial explosion, you will have at least a half hour to get to a public or home fallout shelter.”
  • “If you’re among those compelled to travel throughout a fallout area on essential errands, there are certain rules to follow. Protect your body with boots and rubbers, gloves headgear and outer clothing that can be removed before you enter the shelter.”
  • “Recovery from radiation sickness is nothing new. Patients
    who are treated by x-rays routinely experience this sickness and get over it.”
  • “You can get over radiation sickness, just as you get over many others [sicknesses].”