Recently I went to a local outfitter of camping gear to look for Coleman Lantern Mantles. As I was scanning the shelves a cherubic faced clerk came up to me and asked if I needed help. I said I was looking for lantern mantles.

When we arrived to the endcap where they were hanging, I asked him if they were still making radioactive mantles. He looked at me as though I were a bit of a loon. When I pressed the question, he balked and summoned his manager.

The manager, another youngster who was much more of an alpha male, scoffed at my question and tried to assure me that such a thing was absurd. Why in the world would mantles be radioactive? I tried to assure the youngster that, yes indeed, mantles were radioactive at one time because they contained thorium. At this point the manager was becoming visibly annoyed at his time lost addressing the questions of an obvious crackpot.

I recognized the patronizing tone he took and turned and left the store. As a child of cold war science, I have witnessed mantles sitting in a cloud chamber with ionized cloud streamers zipping every whichway from the innocent looking woven bag. Today, schools are terrified of chemicals and radiation science. Mr Manager missed out on a real experience by being born into the post-cold war world of bland science education.

So, my GM counter sits in my office clicking from the occasional background radiation piercing the GM tube. Eventually I’ll find a source to give it something more interesting to detect.