Bringing the Text to Life
On September 13, 1987, two unemployed young men trying to make a living entered a partly demolished radiation clinic in Goianaia, Brazil, an 18-hour bus ride from Rio. They discovered and then dismantled a cancer therapy machine, the parts of which they peddled to various junk dealers. One junk dealer in particular purchased for 25 reals a stainless steel cylinder, about the size of a gallon paint can. Inside the cylinder was a cake of crumbly powder that emitted a mysterious blue light.
The dealer took the seemingly magical material home and distributed it to his family and friends. His 6-year-old niece rubbed the glowing dust on her body. One can just imagine her doing the bossa nova while she glowed in the sultry darkness of the tropic night. The dust, of course, was cesium-137, a highly radioactive substance. The lovely light was the result of the decay of the cesium atoms. Another product of the decay was a flux of invisible particles with the power to damage living cells.