A little worse than losing your car keys

certainly doesn’t brighten my morning:
TBILISI, Georgia — In the 1970s, scientists in the former Soviet Union developed scores of powerful radioactive devices and dispatched them to the countryside for a project known cryptically as Gamma Kolos, or “Gamma Ears.” Its purpose: to deliberately expose plants to radiation and measure the effects.
Some of the tests were aimed at simulating farming conditions after a nuclear war. In rugged eastern Georgia, researchers bombarded wheat seed with radiation to see if the plants would grow better. All the experiments used a common source of radiation, a lead-shielded canister containing enough radioactive cesium 137, U.S. officials now say, to contaminate a small city.
The experiments stopped long ago, but last year’s terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon have kindled an intense interest in Gamma Kolos that revolves around a single question: Where’s the cesium now?
Unknown in the West until recently, the Soviet project is viewed as especially dangerous because its cesium devices could be easily exploited for terrorism: small, portable and possessing a potent core of cesium chloride in the form of pellets or, more frequently, a fine powder. Cesium 137, a silvery metal isotope used commonly in medical radiotherapy, emits powerful gamma radiation and has a half-life of three decades.

Link via Slate’s Today’s Papers