Science: Radioactive Scientist

With a license from the Atomic Energy Commission, a radiologist named Harris Levine began some dangerous tinkering at his New Jersey home. Using the radioactive isotope americium 241, he devised a technique for spotting counterfeit money. The trick was to contaminate the engraver's ink with a trace of a radiation-free isotope, boron 10, activate it with americium and then pick out the bills that did not properly respond to detectors.

Although the system failed to impress the U.S. Treasury, it has taught Levine a costly lesson. Last week, more than six years after he...

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