I was reading the book “What If?” by Randall Munroe and this part was very intriguing to me. He answered the question in the title and I was curious if his answer was realistic, and if not, which parts he got wrong.

This is the comic I'm talking about. I'm especially curious if Astatine is really that dangerous.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, pretty much. This guy is generally very good with his estimates. Astatine does not exist; if it would, then yes it would be that dangerous. $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2022 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ Astatine exists, just not for very long… $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 13, 2022 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ More reliable sources reckon there is a total amount of 45 milligrams in the earth's crust. The difference to "doesn't exist" is imo negligible. ;) ataridogdaze.com/science/As-Earth-crust.html Although if you had some magic to collect those 45 mg in your hand in one moment, you'de be indeed dead in the next. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Mar 14, 2022 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ While his general point about the lower-down radioactive elements is completely right, there are several uncharacteristic errors in the chapter (though it is broadly correct despite them.) He calls ammonia an element; he confuses two different stories about russian defectors being killed (the one killed with polonium was poisoned via tea, the umbrella incident used ricin). $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Mar 14, 2022 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ Is your question about the entire chapter (which is likely too broad as it would require a substantial amount of fact-checking), or just the astatine part? If it's the latter, could I encourage you to edit your question title & text to more clearly reflect that? Thanks. $\endgroup$ Mar 14, 2022 at 12:39


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