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The Worldwide Scavenger Hunt For Vintage, Low-Radiation Metals

The quest for precious metals has led scavengers to rip up old railways, raid sunken battleships, and disturb centuries-old artworks in the name of science.

While most people wouldn’t be too excited about anything that came out of a sewer, Phillip Barbeau, a professor of physics at Duke University, tells me enthusiastically about 3 tons of lead that was recently pulled from Boston’s waste system. The metal, once used to seal pipes, is one of his more promising potential sources of “low-background” lead for his experiments. It’s now sitting at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Low-background metals — most famously steel and lead — are valuable because they carry particularly low levels of radiation compared with most conventional materials. Used as shielding in advanced particle physics projects and for medical science devices like X-ray chambers, these metals won’t interfere with specialized, highly radiation-sensitive environments and tools.

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Behold: The World’s First Heavy Metal Cheese

A fromager discovered that playing Slayer to cheese makes it even more delicious.

Illustration by Jordan Bogash/GOOD.

THE GOOD NEWS:

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The Chameleonic Craft Of Darrell Thorne

Be the unicorn you want to see in the world.

Photo by Alphonse Guardino.

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The Hopeful Pragmatist

Peter Singer explains the effective altruism movement and why working on Wall Street may be better than joining the Peace Corps, philanthropically speaking.

All charity is not created equal. Or so say the adherents of a movement known as effective altruism, quickly gaining traction among millennials as a more practical view of charity. Decisions about how to allocate your contributions are based on quantifiable outcome, not emotion. Peter Singer, the Australian ethicist and author of The Most Good You Can Do (Yale University Press), is considered the father of effective altruism, having spent 40 years challenging the conventional wisdom behind our ethical choices. In 1975, his book, Animal Liberation, became the foundational text of the non-human rights movement, with copies a common site in the back pockets of campus intellectuals and punk rockers alike. The 69-year-old currently teaches ethics and philosophy at Princeton University and the University of Melbourne, and his work is more influential than ever. In addition to his teaching and writing, Singer advises large charitable organizations and billionaire donors like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on how to get the most good done for their philanthropic efforts. Here he explains a controversial idea: Why working at a bank might be better than joining the Peace Corps.

GOOD: How can we best understand effective altruism?

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