Uranium:Twisting the Dragon's Tail on PBS

Twisting the Dragon's Tail

I am just now getting caught up on all the things I recorded on my DVR this summer and came across a great two part special on the history of Uranium called “Twisting the Dragon’s Tail”. It was very well written and shows not only the history of uranium but many of the applications in a way that might be very useful to my fellow chemistry teachers.

Dr. Derek Muller was the host, and I assume the creative force behind the show. It starts out in 1800s Europe and takes a nice tour around the planet to all of the really teachable important spots for Uranium. He visits Australian mineral deposits, Pitchblende mines, Marie Curies laboratory, New Mexico, and most interestingly he goes into the rooms where the Ukrainian doctors tried the teat the firefighters who battles the blazes at Chernobyl. He even visits with a family in Fukushima that has been displaced by the accident following the 2011 Tsunami.

During the whole show Dr. Muller takes a Thermo Fisher Geiger counter with him and shows how background radiation levels compare to these sights of higher than normal exposure. I recognize the instrument as the same one I have in my classroom.

I doubt that teachers would want to show the entire show to their class considering it is four hours long but I could see a great deal of possibilities in showing certain portions or even having students watch it on their own. I learned a great deal of historical information from it and was impressed. It is currently available for streaming on PBS.org and can be purchased on DVD or even at the Apple iTunes store for only $4.99!