Talk:2568: Spinthariscope

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Someone has already updated the Wikipedia page to mention this comic reference, before anyone here has gotten around to writing the explanation Barmar (talk) 19:56, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

But that was not welcome so it has been removed again. But here is the version with the update which has sparked no less than 26 other edits of the page in less than two days, after no one had made a change to the page since October last year... But at this moment there is no reference to the comic. --Kynde (talk) 14:21, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

I added an initial explanation, but I don't recognize the references to gallium and tritium (although I know what glowsticks are), so someone else should fill in about that. Barmar (talk) 20:13, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

Seems like there's something off with how the "ratio" is worded. It is a safe and legal toy, so the "actual safety and legality" is actually high-ish, right? 20:44, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

- If "actual safety" is a large number and "apparent safety" is a small number, then their ratio (actual divided by apparent) is a large number. If "sctual safety" is a small number and "apparent safety" is a large number, then their ratio is a small number. So the comic's wording is perfectly fine and logical, and the paragraph about products in the explanation is not needed. (It's also kind of, um, **untrue**, but I'm trying to be kind to whoever wrote it.) 21:44, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

If you take the amount of screaming in terror (high for the spin-thingie) and DIVIDE by the actual danger (low for the spin-thingie), then you get a ratio that in a rational world would always be close to 1 - the worse something is, the more (rational) people would want it banned. I think his point is that the ho-hum factor, the LACK of protests, for throwing a sharp heavy object high in the air toward a group of other children, divided by the actual danger from said sharp heavy object thrown high toward other children, results in a value on the opposite end of the spectrum. I was one of the kids who threw these things around without thinking, and nobody ever objected. Fortunately, I never saw any kid get killed by them, but that was pure luck. Point being, I don’t think the wording in the comic is wrong; the ‘correction’ is. 22:35, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
On second thought, there is something confusing about the wording of the comic: it conflates safety and legality as if they were the same thing, but the fact that they are NOT the same is the problem. 22:49, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
They're not the same, but they're correlated. While the government hasn't always been very dilligent about it, these days dangerous toys usually get banned. Barmar (talk) 22:57, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
But the comic don’t divide the large/low amount of screaming by the low/large amount of danger, but by the large/low amount of safety for spinthariscope/darts. Hence the formula of the comic results in a number close to 1 for both toys, and a regular toy (low amount of screaming divided by large amount of safety) results in a number closer to zero.
While False (talk) 22:57, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
You’re right. The comic is misworded, but not by saying “ratio” instead of “product” - it’s misworded by saying “actual safety” when it means “actual danger” thus giving the ratio a backward meaning. 23:17, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
Just so!
While False (talk) 23:28, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
I believe the ratio is apparent danger vs actual danger. So spinthariscope would be 10 apparent danger / 1 actual danger. And the lawn darts would be the opposite end of the spectrum: 1 apparent danger / 10 actual danger. 22:40, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
To me it appears that you are describing the “perceived danger to actual danger” ratio, while the comic mentions the “perceived danger to actual safety” ratio, which would be of no extreme value (high number divided by high number) for a spinthariscope. So I think that the current explanation, while cumbersome and against the convention of use of ratios, is mathematically true.
While False (talk) 22:57, 14 January 2022 (UTC)
I think it is perfectly clear what Randall intended to say. And even if it can be misunderstood I think there is no need to make a very big fuss out of that. I have tried to reword the explanation so it begins with stating the obvious intention, and then mentions at the end that it could be misunderstood. Feel free to improve my wording. --Kynde (talk) 14:13, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

Make your own Spinthariscope kiddies Steve (talk) 21:05, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory, which was marketed in the early 1950s & contains more energetic radioactive sources (i.e. uranium ores), might possibly be more dangerous. 21:28, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

The talk page for the Wikipedia article has an interesting exposition by an IP in 2010 of why these aren't dangerous and the various isotopes used. Yngvadottir (talk) 21:49, 14 January 2022 (UTC)

And with that simple strip, all existing spinthariscopes sold out. 01:01, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

I remember the (pre-'80s) lawn-darts in the 'leisure equipment box' that our Cub/Scout unit took to every annual camp and other suitable weekend activities (here in the UK). High-density plastic (possibly with a metal slug enclosed within the 'point', to add to the flights' directional stablisation, but maybe just plastic) and all points and edges rounded. Probably still dangerous if inadvertently thrown straight-enough upwards with enough force that gravity eventually brings it straight back down upon the unwary head of the thrower (or that of a fellow participant awaiting their turn), but we seemed to avoid that predicament. Things like the hefty hockey-sticks (field-hockey), cricket bats and even threadbare boxing gloves probably caused more injuries that needed treatment. But probably more by good luck than any legitimate physical reason. 03:09, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

I've just added info about decay chains, that there is beta and gamma radiation as well but at negligible doses. I wanted to give more information, but although I know some spinthariscopes use americium-241, I don't know the isotope of thorium used in others. Does anybody else know? Cosmogoblin (talk) 10:15, 15 January 2022 (UTC)

There's an error in this section - it states that alpha decay always leads to an unstable decay product, but in the case of Polonium 210 (which was used in some spinthariscopes), it decays by alpha emission directly into stable Lead 12:59, 3 February 2022 (UTC)

Even though I know what he's trying to say, it's seriously bothering me how he worded it. NoriMori (talk) 08:03, 17 January 2022 (UTC)

Re: the removed "US Logic" section, I disagree about it being off-topic, but mostly I think there was no reason to remove. If it were disconnected spam/advertising/vandalism, maybe. It was longer than necessary, but an honest commentary even if drifting a bit. 00:23, 21 January 2022 (UTC)

Anybody know how much you can buy a spinthariscope for?New editor (talk) 19:05, 25 January 2022 (UTC)