32 Comments

  1. That’s why all my insulin syringes are irradiated. To kill the germs. Very efficient method of sterilization just need people to learn it isn’t a hazard.

  2. It is safer than chemical food sterilization but many people think it will turn us into Godzilla.

  3. The idea is to deliver enough energy to kill most of the (living) bacteria cells, without actually cooking the (dead) meat tissue. The problem is that there is no way to tell (just from the word) exactly what kind of “radiation” they are using. X-rays or gamma rays are most likely; particle accelerators would be far too expensive.
    In any case, the potential danger has nothing to do with the beef. Even if the beam does zap some of that DNA, those cells are dead, and aren’t about to infect anything. I would be more worried about potential mutations in the bacteria, if the dosage is not strong enough to kill it all.

  4. If you eat undercooked irradiated ground beef, you’re far less likely to die. However, all the screw-balls think it’s the exact opposite. Irony.

  5. Perhaps you’ll turn into a hideously deformed creature of super-human size and strength? Then again, that might only work with toxic waste…

  6. @ John: It looks like Godzilla but due to international copyright laws, it’s not. Still, we should run like it’s Godzilla.

  7. @ Bill – I can’t tell if that question is sarcastic, rhetorical, or serious. Assuming the latter: Microwaves have a much longer wavelength than sterilizing radiation. They won’t do much to kill the bacteria directly, but they will heat up the water molecules in the food, and if it all gets hot enough to denature the proteins, that will effectively sterilize the food. It’s also quite likely to render it inedible, but that’s beside the point.

  8. Isn’t it true that anybody who walks out into the sunshine is being irradiated? I’ve always been told that sunshine is antiseptic because of the sun’s rays.

  9. @Chak: The ultraviolet in sunlight will kill germs, but only on the very surface, so if ground beef was left out in the sun it would go bad, since there are plenty of germs on the inside.

  10. @ Bill – This leads right back to the linguistic inadequacy of the word “radiation”. Despite the fact that the word “nuke” is often used in the sense of “cook food in a microwave oven”, there is nothing “nuclear” about microwaves.

  11. I assume Bill forgot to include another <sarcasm> token, but stll: you can put just about anything in the beam from a high power particle accelerator, and it still won’t produce a (nuclear) explosion, unless the material consists of unstable isotopes (and is large enough to form a critical mass). On the other hand, putting a potato (or an egg) in an ordinary microwave over will produce a fairly messy (domestic) explosion.
    P.S. Thanks to MiB for the Gumby link. I was surprised to see how old (1956) the idea of nuking food products is.

  12. Not quite 1956, but I used my first microwave in 1964, at the World’s Fair.

    Along with a picture phone, both of which were predicted to be in our homes within a few years.

  13. Kilby, to avoid any further confusion, I do know how nuclear bombs are made.

    Well in principle, anyway. I can’t actually make one myself — but then I can’t make a birdhouse either.

    Well, to be totally honest, I can’t really make anything more complicated than a sandwich.

  14. “Isn’t it true that anybody who walks out into the sunshine is being irradiated?”

    Yes. So is anyone walking in the moonlight, or, in fact, any kind of lighting at all.

  15. Irradiated food and microwaved food are two different things. Microwaves are used to heat up and cook food. Ionizing radiation is used to kill bacteria in food without heating it up.

  16. Bill -but how many people – especially kids – kept their “nuclear” dime from the Fair and how many took them out of the holder and spent them? Based on this household – 100% spent them.

  17. One took a dime from their (or their dad’s) pocket and they put it in some machine and when it came out they put it in a blue plastic holder with the nuclear symbol on it. I don’t remember exactly what was done to it – so I just looked it up. They were irradiated – https://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/medalsmementoes/dimes.htm

    Most kids (myself included) eventually pulled out the dimes and spent them – although I think Robert still had his when he lived at home before we married and it is probably here – somewhere.

  18. So, they took your dime, which was 90% silver in 1964, irradiated it so the silver now had a half-life of 25 seconds, they put it in a Geiger counter, to prove it’s radioactive, then give it to you, at which point the silver has already begun to decay into cadmium, so you now have a worthless, fiat dime! And the very next year they stopped making silver dimes and quarters! It’s all a conspiracy to take silver away from the people!

  19. @ larK – One of the articles that my search for “irradiated dimes” turned up implied that the trick only worked with silver dimes, and was discontinued after clad coinage came out in the mid-60’s. However, there was another comment that claimed that the Geiger counter used to “prove” the radioactivity in the treated dime wasn’t selective enough, and might have been reporting normal background radiation as well. Nevertheless, as you mentioned, with the short half-life it is pretty clear that none of those dimes would be detectable now by the radioactivity.

  20. And they’re still mostly silver as only an infinitesimal quantity of regular silver was converted into radioactive silver; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been very healthy for the plastic casing, the visitors or the demonstrators.

  21. Just more proof that it was a government conspiracy: destroying the silver was not good enough, now they have to poison those who would rather have real money as opposed to fiat fake money…

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