[ RadSafe ] School Becquerel kits

Dan W McCarn hotgreenchile at gmail.com
Fri Apr 25 02:58:06 CDT 2008

Dan W. McCarn, Geologist; 3118 Pebble Lake Drive; Sugar Land, TX 77479; USA; Home: +1-281-903-7667 

Cell: +1-505-710-3600; Margaret: +1-505-307-1112; Valerie: +1-505-553-8783; Austria:  +43-676-725-6622

mccarn at unileoben.ac.at           HotGreenChile at gmail.com           UConcentrate at gmail.com <mailto:Dan.McCarn at shell.com> 

Hi Michael & Helen:

The one thing that Scientific American (SA) did for me back in the early 60s was to shape my view of the sciences overall; and that’s something that no textbook or group of textbooks can ever give, and I’m sure it did the same for you.  My workshop (fortunately) was inviolate; the soldering iron left in its cradle, the Ham radio somewhere in the 15 m band and the jig to cut a Brewster’s angle in glass tubing always a reminder.  I still remember a 60s SA cover about “frozen free radicals” (or was it in 1958?), and found the subject fascinating.  Reading those articles forced me quite early to place my textbooks “in context” to the scientific debate waged on those pages, and those were no “easy reads” for me.  Somewhere in those pages, my interest for biochemistry was never kindled; those papers were simply too difficult for me.  But physics reigned supreme!

There were a few extant, wayward projects – mainly ways of fishing for fish that didn’t involve a line, hook or net.  Well, one did involve a line, but no hook… 

Another set of books is brought to mind: George Gamow’s  “Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland” and “Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom”.  I have a copy in which I wrote my name in red crayon on the inside cover and jumbled a little crayon sketch of a house on the outside.   But those two little books did light a fire.

Sadly, for most kids today, when they study, they seem so focused on textbooks and internet, and the “supplemental” reading, outside the curriculum, seems never to be examined - all those subscriptions to Nature and SA wasted!  Homework piled so high that  it almost extinguishes the possibility for other interests and what work is done solved by the instant answers of the internet.  Kids can’t be kids anymore.  Neither of my two daughters has something that they can really call a “hobby”;  The baseball gloves are gathering dust.

As it is for mathematics, so it is also with my horses:  the quality of the trainer and the enthusiasm (and forgiveness) that they bring to a student is paramount.  Fortunately, I had a really great calculus professor whose sole interest in life was to teach me calculus (so I believed);  And I worked with my horses for 10 years under a couple of world-class trainers cranking-out 30+ hours a week on horse.  I solved most of my “scientific” questions out in the Lower Austrian countryside in the saddle; there I found the time for my mind to reflect.

Dan ii

From: Michael McCarty [mailto:MccartyM1 at michigan.gov] 
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2008 9:45 AM
To: Dan W McCarn; Helen A Bailly
Cc: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] School Becquerel kits


Helen and Dan


With a birth year of 1949 I have to share much of what Dan recalled, especially the two regular columns that used to be in Scientific American.


It is a sad day when it is a crime to provide the tools for scientific "dabbling" that cannot be confined by the boundaries of a curriculum.




Fortunately, there are many resources on the web that support the knowledge needed for home experiments.  Still certain supplies are required to actual perform the experiments, alas.




Michael J. McCarty
Physicist, MDEQ Radiological Laboratory


Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Waste and Hazardous Materials Division
Radiological Protection Section
Environmental Assessment Unit
815 Terminal Road
Lansing, MI  48906


phone:  517-335-8196
fax:  517-335-9551
e-mail:  mccartym1 at michigan.gov (Note new name as of Feb. 14th, 2008)





>>> "Bailly, Helen A" <Helen.Bailly at icp.doe.gov> 4/23/2008 1:16 PM >>>

Dan - 

Thanks for sharing your story - Your early exposure to the School
Becquerel Kits certainly was a great stimulus, but I imagine someone
with the curiosity, tenacity, and ingenuity you describe would have been
inspired by almost anything.

Qualities you come by honestly, not every Mom would be comfortable
transporting liquid nitrogen!

Life is short - Break the rules!  Forgive quickly!  Kiss slowly!  Love
truly! Laugh uncontrollably!... And never regret anything that made you


helen Bailly

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