Don’t Try This at Home

So here’s a fun fact.  If you close your eyes and hold a radioactive substance up to your eyelid, you’ll see tiny flashes of light.  Pretty cool, huh?  According to Uncertainty, a book about the history of quantum mechanics, Pierre and Marie Curie were the first to observe this phenomenon, using a previously undiscovered element that they named radium.

These flashes of light, along with other experiments and observations, helped the Curies figure out what exactly radiation is and why it happens.  By studying and handling radioactive substances, the Curies also helped us determine the true structure of the atom, with its tightly packed nucleus and cloud of surrounding electrons.

They eventually won the Nobel Prize for their work, but their achievement came with a price.  Marie died from radiation exposure, and Pierre probably would have too if he hadn’t died in a street accident first.  It’s thanks in part to the Curies that we now know how dangerous radiation can be.  So don’t try this at home!

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