By Nury Vittachi IANS | 3 months ago

After watching a Spider-Man movie, I realized that many of my financial investor friends must have been bitten by radioactive lemmings.


They came to mind recently when a reader forwarded me a clipping about a guy who slipped into his pocket an odd-looking bit of metal he found when cleaning a radioactive testing facility. Staff eventually noticed their Iridium 192 was missing and sounded the alarm, causing the man, whose name was Wang, to throw his find away.

This incident in Nanjing illustrates the joy of doing dangerous things in a democracy-free country, but has useful lessons for all of us.

1) When cleaning radioactive facilities, interesting pieces of metal may not be interesting in a good way. 2) If you have pocketed such an item, count body parts regularly. "Hmm, I seem to have grown another head. Could that be a sign of something?" 3) People running testing labs should tighten procedures if staff say things like: "I don't have the Iridium 192. I thought YOU had it."

Wang threw the sliver of metal into scrubland near his home and ran to a hospital because he felt strange, the Shanghai Daily reported. Lab staff decided that the only safe procedure was to look for it in shifts lasting just three minutes each, which is about the same as a normal civil service work shift in China anyway. "Hi, reporting for work, clocking in. Okay, I'm stepping into the scrubland... walking around a bit... Can't see it this way.... Can't see it that way.... Oh look, it's nearly the end of my shift, tidy up time... where do I pick up my cash?"

The Iridium 192 went missing on a Wednesday morning and was recovered on Saturday evening. Staff promised to "do their very best" not to lose any more in future. That's enormously comforting, you'll agree.

Wang became "unwell", a wire report said, which may be a polite way of saying they've lost count of his limbs, heads and the like.

At a coffee shop, I showed this story to my friend Stewey, who is thinking of moving to China for work. "Radiation isn't always bad for you," he countered. "Look at Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil and the Hulk, for instance." I was going to point out that these were comic books, but you have to respect people's beliefs. So instead I said there were different types of radiation. "If you are affected by that type, you have to fight crime." This silenced him.

He eventually said: "Cockroaches can survive nuclear wars." This was totally irrelevant but gave me a new level of respect for cockroach spray. Man, what is in those cans?

Stewey told me that after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Professor Takayuki Takahashi attached radiation meters to monkeys to gather data. Madness! Did he not see Rise of the Planet of the Apes?

Since hearing that, I have become convinced that a huddle of super-evolved apes are living at the Fukushima canteen drinking Suntory and organizing regular radioactive water leaks to keep humans away.

Meanwhile, the Chinese media reports that work at the Nanjing lab has "returned to normal". Now that's scary.

(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)

(Posted on 16-05-2014)