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

Funniest Newspaper Correction is …. Drugroll, Please!

Typo correction on drugs instead of drums
Centralia, Illinois Daily Sentinel

In 2012 the editors of Centralia, Illinois’ Morning Sentinel learned the value of one little letter. Red-faced, the editors ran the following correction:

“Due to a typing error, Saturday’s story on local artist Jon Henninger mistakenly reported that Henninger’s band mate, Eric Lyday, was on drugs. The story should have read that Lyday was on drums.”

Click here to see how General Douglas MacArthur also learned what a difference one letter can make. 

Houston, We Have a Turd

Apollo 10 floating turd
The crew of Apollo 10, from the left, Eugene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford at the Kennedy Space Center. In the background is the Apollo 10 space vehicle on Launch Pad 39 B. Photo Credit: NASA
Fans of television’s The Big Bang Theory are familiar with the memorable episode where Howard’s space toilet, the Wolowitz Space Disposal System, went horribly wrong and threatened to turn into a waste distribution system. As it turns out, such a scenario was more closely grounded in fact, rather than comedic fiction.  Continue reading

The President with 5 Stars Also Had Wings

President Dwight Eisenhower first president with a pilot license
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you are looking for a poster child for “overachiever” you might consider Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This Kansas farm boy rose from modest beginnings to become one of only five Americans to achieve the five-star rank of General of the Army and the only one of those to become President of the United States. (see note below) Continue reading

When Scottish Independence Hung By a Spider’s Web

Robert the Bruce and the Spider

The winter of 1306 found Scotland’s Robert the Bruce on the verge of giving up. Having just been crowned King of Scots on March 25 (and again on March 27) of that year, his fortunes had turned. Instead of sitting on a throne in a castle, he was hiding in a cave on the Island of Rathlin off the coast of Ireland.  Continue reading

The Coin of the Realm — and Something Extra

Mongolia talking JFK 500 coin Palau holy water silver dollar
₮500 Mongolian coin (upper right) and the $1 Palau silver dollar (lower left)

Everyone likes money because of the value it has in itself. Coin collectors like certain kinds of money because of its rarity or historical value. Every once in a while currency comes around that is just plain fun.

In 2007 the nation of Mongolia chose to honor US President John F. Kennedy because of his role in the creation of the Peace Corps. The government produced a limited edition ₮500 coin (five hundred Tugrik is worth approximately 20¢ in US dollars) with JFK’s image and a tiny button that, when pressed, plays a recording of Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

The next year the Pacific island nation of Palau chose to honor the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes with a special edition silver dollar. Each of the dollars contains a tiny vial of holy water from Lourdes, France.