Color Televisions Were All the Rage in the 1960s (They Were Also Radioactive)

iStock.com/CSA-Printstock
iStock.com/CSA-Printstock

A century ago, it wasn't unusual to have at least one dangerously radioactive object in your home. Radium was used to make a long list of everyday items—including toys, chocolate, watches, and cosmetics—before the risks were understood. By the 1950s and '60s, it was common knowledge that radioactive materials weren't something you wanted to be exposed to on a daily basis, and manufacturers (for the most part) were no longer adding them to their goods on purpose. But radiation did inadvertently show up in one of the hottest products of the age, and it was pumped into thousands of living rooms across America before the mistake was caught.

Testing in 1967 revealed that large-screen models of GE color televisions sets were emitting radiation that exceeded safe levels, according to a recent story by The Atlantic. After further investigation it was clear that the problem wasn't limited to GE: Radiation was detected in color models made by nearly every television company at the time, which meant as many as 112,000 sets were radioactive.

The radiation was thought to be linked to the high voltage required to power early color televisions, and according to health officials, it was about 10 to 100,000 times higher than the acceptable rate. In light of the alarming information, the surgeon general released a statement assuring consumers that the radiation levels likely weren't strong enough to hurt them—but there was a catch. Radiation escaped the television at a crescent-shaped angle that sloped downwards, meaning that people were relatively safe when they watched their sets at least six feet away from the screen. But viewers who preferred laying on the carpet beneath their set, or who put it on a high shelf, may have been placing themselves directly in the path of the radiation leakage.

It's unclear what long-term health effects radioactive color TVs had on their owners—if any—but they definitely left an impact on our collective psyche. Even today, kids are lectured for sitting too close to the television set, and though the reasons parents give vary ("it rots your brain," "it'll hurt your eyesight"), their concern may have roots in the radiation scare of the late 1960s.

In 1968, Congress passed the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act, which enabled the FDA to regulate radiation emissions in electronics. Television manufacturers made color sets safer by installing glass plates to block excess radiation, and radioactive TVs soon disappeared from stores.

The FDA still regulates radiation in electronics today, and as the technology evolved, the chances of getting a harmful X-ray blast from your television set have greatly diminished. That means the hazards of binge watching are mostly limited to eye strain, myopia, and the usual risks that come with sitting still all day.

[h/t The Atlantic]

BioLite Has Designed a Headlamp That Won't Irritate or Slip Off Your Head

BioLite
BioLite

Headlamps are convenient in theory. Instead of fumbling with a flashlight or your phone in the dark, you can strap one to your head and walk your dog, do some late-night grilling, or venture around your campsite hands-free.

But in reality, the awkward design—with a bulky light that digs into your skin and slides down your forehead—cancels out much of the product's appeal. Luckily, it doesn't have to be this way, as the folks at BioLite have demonstrated with their reinvented headlamp.

The BioLite HeadLamp 330, which debuted on Kickstarter in 2018 and is now available on Amazon, promises to make you forget you're even wearing it. Inspired by modern wearables, BioLite has retooled various elements of the clunky traditional design to make it as comfortable as it is functional.

A man wearing a red HeadLamp 330
BioLite

The ultra-thin light sits flat against your skull, which means you won't have any painful marks in the middle of your forehead when you take it off. The band itself is made from a moisture-wicking fabric that feels good on your skin, even when you're working up a sweat. And unlike conventional headlamps, BioLite has redistributed the power source to the back of the head in its design, balancing the weight and taking care of any slippage issues.

As is the case with other BioLite products, technology is an essential part of the design. The 330-lumen lamp projects light up to nearly 250 feet in front of you. There are variable lighting settings, too: You can opt for either a white spot or floodlight, both with dimming options, or a strobe light feature; there's also a red floodlight. It can run for three and a half hours at maximum brightness or 40 hours at minimum brightness, and when it needs to be recharged, you can just plug it into a micro-USB source like a solar panel or powerbank.

Get your own BioLite Headlamp for $49 on Amazon. It's available in in ember red, ocean teal, sunrise yellow, or midnight gray.

Teal headlamp.
BioLite

Bioengineering Student Is Building Custom Prosthetic Arms From LEGO Bricks

iStock.com/serts
iStock.com/serts

The custom LEGO designs built by 19-year-old David Aguilar aren't meant to sit on a shelf. For years he's been ignoring the instructions that come with LEGO sets to make functioning prosthetic arms for himself, and now he's sharing his creations online, Reuters reports.

Aguilar—who lives in Andorra, a small principality on the French-Spanish border—was born with a rare genetic condition that left him without a right forearm. He built his first artificial limb out of LEGO bricks at age 9, and hasn't looked back. Today Aguilar is pursuing an eduction in bioengineering at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Spain, and he's already on LEGO prosthetic No. 4.

After acquiring complex LEGO sets for things like airplanes and construction vehicles, Aguilar reconfigures them into arms and adds electric motors that allow him to move his fingers and bend his elbow. He documents his building process on YouTube under the name Hand Solo. Each arm he builds is named MK followed by the model number (MK I, MK II, etc.), a nod to the MK suits built by Tony Stark in the Iron Man series.

The LEGO prosthetics are more than conversation starters—they're also affordable compared to professionally made robotic limbs on the market. Aguilar tells Reuters his dream is to one day provide cheaper options to prosthetics-wearers like him.

[h/t Reuters]

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