News of the World reports:
It has neem revealed that Litvinenko was poisoned with a massive overdose of the deadly polonium-210. A Whitehall source told the News of the World: "A few microbes would be fatal, but we think he had a TEASPOON’S worth—more than a billion times what was needed to kill him."
A few microbes? What the H*ll is a microbes worth of Po-210? And what's with the teaspoon's worth? A teaspoon is about 4.9 cm^3, Po-210 has a density of about 9.3 grams/cm^3, so we are talking about 9.3*4.9 ~ 45.6 grams of Po-210. At 140 watts/gram, that amounts to 6379 watts, or the equivalent of about 3.5 7" electric stove top burners at full power. Litvinenko should have fried, or at least burst into flames in an astonishing display of spontaneous combustion. Not to mention the boiling water in which the Polonium was dissolved, not to mention the fearsome blue glow. Now, maybe the Whitehall source is talking about an isotopic mixture with the Po-210 a small fraction thereof, but that isn't what is written.
Twelve years ago I let my subscription to Time magazine lapse after one too many utterly crap science articles. On the evidence of this current excrescence journalism hasn't improved much since. All that is required to do better is that the reporter have a little bit of curiosity and a capacity for basic arithmetic, two qualities that seem sadly out of fashion in the profession. And how the heck did AllahPundit let that one go by without comment? Something is very wrong with education in this country.
Update: How big is a microbe? The typical size range is about 1-10 microns, with some recently discovered giant microbes ranging up to 1mm, and some smaller microbes down to a few tenths of a micron. To be generous, say about 10 microns. So the equivalent mass of Polonium would be about .01 μg, which is about the LD50/30 dose. So that part of the article is not so far off. But I think the quote should have been elucidated by adding something along the lines of "a few microbe sized particles of Polonium".