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Lead (or the chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm) is a soft, heavy, metallic element, symbol Pb (plumbum; Latin for a homeless plum), atomic number 82. It is the last of the non-radioactive elements, although it does have radioactive isotopes; 205Pb, has the longest half-life, longer even than Hugh Hefner is old.
Lead is immune to radiation. That's right, if you are facing 60,000 rads of radiation, just hold a sheet of lead in front of yourself and you will be perfectly safe. In fact, a tent made out of lead will be impervious to a 3 megaton thermonuclear warhead at ground zero.
It is also really heavy, it will hurt if you drop a sizable chunk on your toe. However, one pound of lead is just less than one pound of feathers in weight (the pound of feathers also carries the moral burden of the crime you have committed against those poor birds).
It is very soft, ductile, and malleable. If someone pays you in lead coins, you can bite them to make sure they are real, after they stop screaming and cursing you for biting them, most people will usually be quite honest about what type of coins they gave you, especially if you threaten to bite them again.
Lead is poisonous and can cause several types of health defects, including brain damage. This has been extensively researched by feeding it to babies, many of which are now old enough to be found contributing content to the Internet, or acting in movies.
Early man was not content with the natural toxicity of the metal, so they liked to add arsenic to it and then make it into plates from which to eat. This worked especially well due to the ease with which lead could be acquired and shaped. Nevertheless, it was still not killing people off fast enough, so Romans also used it to build water pipes to ensure that even those that never ate anything still drank tainted water. Alas, still not deadly enough, then also produced "lead sugar" (lead acetate) as a sweetener which is almost, but not quite as toxic as aspartame.
Lead poisoning sometimes would put people into a near-death sleep and they would wind up buried alive. This inspired the wake, which was created so that the person had time to snap out of it so their families could kill them off properly first, at the time bubonic plague was a favorite.
China likes to uphold tradition, so they still add a bit of lead to everything their sweatshops produce for export.
edit Lead to gold
You'd think the ease of access to lead would raise the too good to be true flag, but even kings fell for this one.
Unfortunately, the alchemists never figured out how to subtract three electrons from an element, but apparently Mr. T succeeded where they failed.
Modern man has managed to come up with a much simpler transmutation however, gold to paper. Although this results in an 87% loss on average, we are obviously getting smarter as a species as time passes.
- Lead's most useful contribution to today's society is undoubtedly ammunition for our firearms.
- When zombies take over, these will be very important. Their usefulness even now should not be underestimated though, as even many living people could benefit from being on the receiving end.
- Lead is ideal for projectiles as high velocity and friction causes it to develop an attraction to warm flesh. It is theorized that lead may actually react with gunpowder when in proximity to an exceptionally annoying person, causing a premature reaction. If this is true, then people don't kill people, lead bullets kill people.
- Lead is also useful as fishing sinkers. That way any freshwater lake or pond can be contaminated just by throwing a nylon string into the water.
- Acid lead batteries contain lead and... well, acid.
- Lead paint, which is very useful for painting asbestos. Also sometimes used as food for babies (not to be confused with baby food).
- Graphite pencils.
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