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Crowdsourcing Radiation Monitoring In Japan

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the help-find-godzilla's-birthplace dept.

Japan 66

fysdt writes "A new open- and crowdsourced initiative to deploy more geiger counters all over Japan looks to be a go. Safecast, formerly RDTN.org, recently met and exceeded its $33,000 fund-raising goal on Kickstarter, which should help Safecast send between 100 and 600 geiger counters to the catastrophe-struck country. The data captured from the geiger counters will be fed into Safecast.org, which aggregates radiation readings from government, nonprofit, and other sources, as well as into Pachube, a global open-source network of sensors."

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66 comments

iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061332)

Why not just build a geiger counter into the iPhone, and let those sheeple be walking sensors for the rest of us.

There are better ways to spend your money (5, Insightful)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061362)

We're talking about their money and of course it's their choice how to spend it, but everyone please remember that the "catastrophe-struck country" is the fourth richest country in the world (even the third one, if we count individual EU states separately).

They don't need money, much less having stuff physically delivered there. If you really want hundreds of Geiger counters in Japan, don't buy them in the US and have them delivered to Japan, just send the money there and buy the thingy things directly in Japan (hint: they're probably manufactured in China anyway, think about the two alternatives on a world map).

And to the people that donated to this cause: that's your money but I assure you that there are way better ways to donate it. Like letting people that are actually experts on the subject [doctorswit...orders.org] decide which part(s) of the world need it more at any given time.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061428)

Fourth richest?
Is that why they are in debt?
http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110210-704337.html [wsj.com]
I know the religion debate is in another thread, but seriously... how can you equate wealth to puppy dogs and fairy tails?
Sure people work, and produce... but why project this to increase/decrease based on "feelings" and "faith"?
Fuck our world financial system is retarded. Yes... "Futures", legal gambling on the middle and lower class.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36064502)

1. Japan's debt is virtually all internal debt. Please look it up, if you don't know what it means
2. Japan has sold 100-year bonds in 1980-1990, or there about.
3. Japan's interest rate is near 0
4. Japan is one of the largest holders of US treasuries

Problem is when a nation starts to have external debt. They become dependent on non-local currency.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_external_debt

As you can see, Japan is doing very well with respect to its debt.

PS. The external debt is both, public and private debt. but only exports can pay for external debt. A nation with high external debt but no exports is screwed.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061432)

Huh? Aren't they the second richest country in the world?

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (3, Informative)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061464)

Huh? Aren't they the second richest country in the world?

No. The EU, the US and China all have a higher GDP than Japan, according to all the commonly used sources. You can start with a list of countries by GDP [wikimedia.org] or the same list using PPP GDP [wikimedia.org] if you prefer.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061584)

The EU isn't a country.

And China getting past Japan must be pretty recent.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061680)

Of course it is a country. It has a flag, an anthem, its own police and military forces, a parliament and a cabinet, a president, general elections, its own currency, its own borders, its own ambassadors, common foreign policy, an international legal personality, and, most importantly, since December 1, 2009, sovereign authority over all of its territories, overruling the local, errrr, "national" "governments", even the constitutions of member "states".

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (2)

captain_sweatpants (1997280) | more than 2 years ago | (#36063358)

Common foreign policy? I guess the Italians, Germans, and French all disagreeing on military action in Libya is just anti-EU propaganda then! Seriously though I think you overstate the predominance of the EU at this time. Economically having a single currency kind of makes them a country I suppose if you're talking about GDP. I think you'd have a hard time convincing Bulgarians and Germans that they lived in the same country though.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36065998)

Yep, common foreign policy.

I think you'll find that Massachusetts and Texas disagree on foreign policy as well. It doesn't matter.

The EU is now a single country, divided into states much like the US or Canada or Australia. Yes, they have local identities as well, and it's a very young federal nation that has yet to fully establish its national identity, but all that will come. I suspect it will go far more smoothly than it did for the US, after all, look what happened here in the 1860s.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

captain_sweatpants (1997280) | more than 2 years ago | (#36067672)

Texas and Massachusetts may disagree but they don't have independent armies they can send to the conflict zone! The national identity issue is probably the strongest argument against Europe being a country, since these are much, much more diverse and strongly developed in Europe than the former English colonies that federated. European states have evolved over thousands of years with their own histories, prejudices, languages, and institutions. Comparing Australia to the USA, the relatively short history of the former has led to a much more integrated federation where the difference between the states is almost completely superficial. Very hard to see that happening in Europe ever, let alone any time soon. All member countries will be loathe to dismantle and integrate their institutions. At least they're unlikely to start shooting at each other, since they've tried that unsuccessfully a whole bunch of times and hopefully learned something about it! Macro-economics wise I completely agree with you, but people in the various member countries will be living in vastly different worlds for a long while to come.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068256)

look what happened here in the 1860s.

Check out the EU from 1900-1950 for comparison.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36068128)

You know, GDP doesn't show how rich a country is, unless you are just counting how much gold they could buy and put in one place. It's the GDP *PER*PERSON* (or per-capita income) that counts the most. If I had a small island with 1000 millionaires living there, it would probably be a much "richer" country than the US (in terms of lifestyle), even though the GDP would be much, much less.

Japan ranks as #28 out of 194 countries ranked by the 2010 CIA world fact-book in terms of GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power parity. (Although that adjustment is very suspicious to me because, f.e. Switzerland shouldn't be near the top given how expensive it is to live there compared to Japan, and the fact that income taxes are much less than in the usa.)

If you use nominal rates (which I think are more accurate in the case of Japan), then Japan ranks #20 out of 192 countries in the same survey.

But again, these are pre-tax numbers, and income taxes are less in Japan than the US or many other countries on the list, so people have more to spend than the ranking on the list indicates. Further, there is less of an extreme distribution in Japan than, for example China or the US. (i.e. there are few very poor people and few millionaires), meaning that not just the arithmetic mean, but the actual "average person" is relatively well off.

Also, as a side note, there are quite a lot of Geiger counters online now, run by universities and hobbyists. My guess is that this project either doesn't know about them, or simply wants to build a wider net. Anyway there aren't really any exciting results to see at this point... the exciting time is mostly over.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#36069626)

Huh? Aren't they the second richest country in the world?

No. The EU, the US and China all have a higher GDP than Japan, according to all the commonly used sources. You can start with a list of countries by GDP [wikimedia.org] or the same list using PPP GDP [wikimedia.org] if you prefer.

GDP is misleading on its own, you need to use the average product per person to see how well off people actually are in that country overall. China might have a higher GDP, but it's got a lot more people than Japan.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

mr_lizard13 (882373) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061480)

(even the third one, if we count individual EU states separately).

I'd certainly hope we'd count individual EU 'states' seperately, as they are after all separate countries.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

JohnnyBGod (1088549) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061496)

Just as a curiosity, why _wouldn't_ you count individual EU states separately? EU states are actual countries, you know?

Is the EU a country? (4, Informative)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061566)

Just as a curiosity, why _wouldn't_ you count individual EU states separately? EU states are actual countries, you know?

That's certainly true but AFAICT the EU itself is also in the process of slowly becoming a country (arguably it already is, since December 1, 2009 [wikimedia.org] when it acquired international legal personality independent of its member states). The power within it has been for decades constantly moved from inter-government negotiations between the individual members to EU-wide shared institutions (e.g. the European Commission and the Parliament).

Re:Is the EU a country? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#36069684)

AFAICT the EU itself is also in the process of slowly becoming a country (arguably it already is

Slight correction: you're totally wrong.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36062314)

Just as a curiosity, why _wouldn't_ you count individual EU states separately? EU states are actual countries, you know?

You might be mixed up. What you're thinking of sounds more like sales, labor, and distribution regions. Think in terms of larger units big enough to have no one above them imposing taxes.... you know.... like General Electric

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36062568)

Are they really? Because it's my impression that actual countries run their own affairs.

I left the world assembly on nationstates just because they wanted to force circumcision on my people. The EU is trying to do shit like stop people from being able to grow their own medicinal herbs. The EU is big business' bitch and the nations which looked at the USA and said "a union will solve all our problems" and then signed on are peopled with sheeple. Just like the nation which they emulated.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

EvilAlphonso (809413) | more than 2 years ago | (#36069354)

The EU is trying to do shit like stop people from being able to grow their own medicinal herbs.

Bullshit. Please point me to the exact law, with page and line number to support that claim.

What they are doing is trying to stop people from selling snake oil as medication. If it is sold as medication, it has to go through the same testing as any other medication... which shouldn't be a problem for the sellers if it works. Why do you think they are up in arms against that concept? Said legislation has sadly become necessary thanks to the (in)famous Dr Matthias Rath and his ilk. You will find that the very vocal anti "Codex Alimentarius" is considering him to be the best thing since slice bread and the return of Jeebus all wrapped into one. Never mind the blood he has on his hands, never mind that his claims don't survive any investigation.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070936)

If it is sold as medication, it has to go through the same testing as any other medication... which shouldn't be a problem for the sellers if it works.

So who is going to pay for the testing for mint to be certified for relieving stomach upset, which it most certainly does? It's a stupid law and you are a stupid person for supporting it. There should simply be multiple grades of claim that you can make on your packaging, with one being official and anything else being just some blather on the package. Using the official logo inappropriately is a crime. But instead because of some stupid people following one unscrupulous character you are willing to throw out thousands of years of wisdom in exchange for profits for big pharma.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

EvilAlphonso (809413) | more than 2 years ago | (#36071372)

So do you admit that your original point was total bullshit? Good, we're making some progress but you just moved the goalposts. Said law already has exceptions for known effective traditional medications... even for a few that are nothing but snake oil (oscillococcinum, homeopathy in general).

Also, calling other people "stupid" when they point out your ignorance of the point at hand is ironic.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

EvilAlphonso (809413) | more than 2 years ago | (#36071858)

There should simply be multiple grades of claim that you can make on your packaging, with one being official and anything else being just some blather on the package. Using the official logo inappropriately is a crime.

Like selling tested medication as medication and the non-tested stuff as "dietary supplement", and making it a crime to sell untested medication as medication? Hmm, congratulations, you just described that law you keep calling "stupid" even tho you obviously have no clue about it.

This is a better way to spend your money (2)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#36063580)

I agree that Japan's problem is not lack of money. However, Japan does have a serious problem in regards to appropriate allocation of resources in response to recent events, specifically when it comes to transparent measurement data of radiation (which is not unique to Japan). So, if you wanted to donate to Japan, this was a good way to do it.

Personally, though, I see this developing into something like the fon [fon.com] network, with global participation only requiring you buy a compatible device. In times like these, I think spending money to participate in such a network (regardless of where you live) would be a very good way to spend your money.

Re:This is a better way to spend your money (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070794)

There was an interview with an expert in radiation leaks on BBC Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago that discussed citizens sourcing their own data. Even if you give them calibrated instruments you have to account for people positioning them incorrectly or not getting them re-calibrated every year or two. It helps if you are sending out known good instruments like this project does, unlike the current situation where we have lots of data coming in but no way to even guess at its accuracy. There have been lots of cheap and open-source Geiger counter projects lately but they are all pretty much useless.

There is one other issue that rarely gets mentioned too. There are different types of radiation and depending on how a person comes into contact with them they can be more or less dangerous. Unless you have expensive equipment and know how to use it to measure soil, water, food and airborne levels of different types of radiation and different elements your data isn't going to be that useful anyway.

As for the official figures they are published regularly and shown on Japanese TV news programmes. I suppose you could argue that they are fiddled but it seems unlikely since journalists and academics can get hold of expensive calibrated equipment to take their own readings. Actually I believe they said that some of the data is from universities, so the conspiracy would have to be massive. They have been quite open about the high levels found around the plant itself too. You can't hide radiation.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#36064966)

Removes the dependency upon the government...interpretation...of the numbers, though. That alone is worth the price of admission, for what you learn from Japan applies to your own nation, should you have a nuclear facility - or if the neighbors do.

Re:There are better ways to spend your money (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36069438)

Donate to the international red cross. i am sure they already spent some resources in Japan. If you donate then they can prepare for the next disaster.

Geiger counters have limited use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061368)

Geiger counters cannot pick up short-range radioactivity, which mostly means alpha particles, nor localised hot spots. They cannot really show if there are some dust particles that could carry a high level of, for example, plutonium from a reactor fire deep into the lungs or digestive tract. By all means let us build up a fuller picture of background radiation exposure from cosmic rays and so on, but let's not imagine that Geiger counters will do anything to address the real issue with radiation, which is that it ticks so many boxes for irrational human fears.

Great... (3, Interesting)

fullback (968784) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061376)

except Google Earth had a network sites for monitoring set up throughout Japan within a few days of the Fukushima news - government sites, university sites, private companies with monitoring, individuals with geiger counters. This site is near my house: http://www.aist.go.jp/aist_e/taisaku/en/measurement/index.html [aist.go.jp]

The radiation in Tokyo is less than the radiation in New York, so many places have stopped monitoring continuously now. According to most of the press, we should have been dead by now...

Re:Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061412)

OMG... Zombies post on slashdot.

Re:Great... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#36063754)

Well I just arrived. So I agree. I'm looking for this entire country of living, but dead corpses. But I haven't seen anyone running up to go snack on my brains. Well except some idol's but everyone knows they already have weird fetishes.

Re:Great... (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070526)

Excuse me for interrupting, but I think the "too much brain" threads are just down the hall :)

It seems like most of the people have been kept pretty well out of the way of very high-dose radiation and short term effects. But there will be some with long term effects, developing breast or thyroid conditions, appearing in 10 or 20 years or more. Those hit will mostly be among those that are children now, females especially, that drank milk with Iodine 131 in it. The U.S. has had these things happen as a result of above-ground testing in Nevada long ago. It looks like the U.S. is now showing some impact from Chernobyl.

See the curves on pages 18 and 46 of report (listed as 25 and 53 of pdf) to follow increases in Breast and Thyroid cancer in the California central valley. Studies for other regions look much the same. Most other cancers except for melanoma are declining.

http://www.ccrcal.org/PDF/Regional_Registries/Reg2AnnualReport.pdf [ccrcal.org]

A good paper on Chernobyl (pdf)
http://www.strahlentelex.de/Yablokov%20Chernobyl%20book.pdf [strahlentelex.de]

Here's a calculator that estimates the added risk Americans born before 1972 face from the testing in Nevada (does not include other more recent sources)
Try being a woman born in 1956 drinking lots of milk and living in South Dakota.

https://ntsi131.nci.nih.gov/default.asp [nih.gov]

These links relate to the relatively brief Iodine 131 exposure that has already happened. The effects of the longer life isotopes are harder to see but will be with us for a very very long time, The alpha emitters from thing like CS 137 aren't even picked up by the common crowdsourced equipment, but are a problem when inside the body.

Hmmm, they're telling fishermen in Japan it is safe to fish 30 km out, but the exposure in an hour goes slightly beyond the normal limit for a whole year.
That seems a bit much.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/09_03.html [nhk.or.jp]

And again the nuclear industry will be caught... (0)

rmstar (114746) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061380)

lying. That is what I predict. Because that's what they always do. Lying, covering up, lobbying, extorting - that's what they usually try. The reasons nuclear technology is having such acceptance problems has a lot to do with this. The mitsne ("planed failure mode") brouhaha is iconic for an industry with its head deeply in the sand (or did I get the exact nature of the damp place wrong?).

The nuclear industry has a completely authoritarian, reckless and corrupt management. I would not be surprised if they decided to lobby to outlaw Geiger counters Japan fairly soon.

Re:And again the nuclear industry will be caught.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061424)

How can you cover up something you can easily measure yourself with a $200 device?

Re:And again the nuclear industry will be caught.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061550)

Please STFU and die.

Re:And again the nuclear industry will be caught.. (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 2 years ago | (#36062116)

Are you one of those Greenpeace Hippies?

Seek facts not propaganda.

Re:And again the nuclear industry will be caught.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36068162)

Ok, usually I don't insult people - but seriously, are you stupid? Are you an expert on the Japanese nuclear political situation? Somehow I doubt it.

The culture in Japan is not to go off half-cocked and release news that hasn't been 100% vetted, as that would be irresponsible, so TEPCO and the government have been slow to release news until they are sure - that's pretty normal here in Japan though.

There's no evidence that anyone has been lying about anything. Also... you can buy geiger counters anywhere in Japan, especially Akihabara, and lots of universities and hobbyists have them and even post results online. It would be pretty hard for the government to cover anything up, much less the freaking power company. This isn't a communist state you know. geez.

Re:And again the nuclear industry will be caught.. (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 2 years ago | (#36074954)

It would be pretty hard for the government to cover anything up, much less the freaking power company. This isn't a communist state you know. geez.

That is sarcasm, right? I mean, yeah, it's not a communist country, but claiming that because of it the government and the power company cannot cover up stuff, or at least try, is pretty abysmally stupid. In particular because they are known to have done that quite a lot.

Seems like the problem is the solution. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061406)

The Japanese need to advertise for aspiring super heros and send them to the reactor where they can get their superpowers.
(Bitten by radioactive spiders etc.)
  Once a sufficient quantity of super heros have been made, they can use them to clean up the damage and fix the reactors.
The Japanese just need to ensure that the intentions of the super heros are pure else they will create super villeins.

Re:Seems like the problem is the solution. (2)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#36064800)

A person who is only allowed to work on his lord/employer's land would qualify as a villein [wikipedia.org] even if his intentions are pure.

Problematic data (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061466)

Measuring radiation correctly is an expert task ! Without knowing the origin of the radiation, it's type and energy, the use of Geiger Counter is pretty much useless. One can get random numbers by using the wrong apparatus on the wrong radiation. In some case, the Geiger counter will over-react on the wrong radiation (e.g. x-rays), other radiation (e.g alphas) will not even enter the device. By having thousand of non-specialist running around with Geiger Counters, you will collect mainly garbage. But apparently that's what everyone (especially governments) want to do today. Collect data. Store it. Use it. Even if wrong.

Re:Problematic data (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36062246)

You are making the wrong, stupid, bullshit complaints.

If the radiation detector is built with the proper non-removable shield then they will only be able to measure useful types of radiation. But more seriously, they need to clean the probe, they need to take into account standing radiation sources.

Masses of asses COULD collect this data with no training, but it would take a more advanced counter which gave directions similar to an AED, and which had a GPS and an accelerometer in it so you can tell if it's being used correctly. And it would require a supply of plastic baggies for covering the probe, which could be changed weekly.

On the other hand, we are talking about the Japanese, here. These are people who are capable of washing and separating their recyclables. Perhaps with some minimal training they could do a very good job of gathering this information.

What this made ME think was that we need to do this in the USA, since The EPA will no longer conduct Fukushima-related radiation monitoring [enenews.com]. They have literally shut down updates on the radiation monitoring pages so that you cannot tell how much fallout you're sucking down here in the USA. Germany just reported a spike. France has already recommended that its people not eat certain foods due to fallout.

It's hard not to get that creepy feeling in your stomach at times like this...

Re:Problematic data (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#36062800)

It's hard not to get that creepy feeling in your stomach at times like this...

Keep in mind that nuclear plants throughout the US, EU, etc still monitor radiation as does the US military. If there ever is an issue from some nuclear plant accident, it'd be noticed even without the EPA directly involved.

Re:Problematic data (2)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36063592)

Why are posts of people demonstrably without knowledge rated "insightful" ?

"If the radiation detector is built with the proper non-removable shield then they will only be able to measure useful types of radiation"

Sorry, but such a shielding does not exist (in handheld devices, if you are willing to literally invest in a ton of electromagnets, this is a different matter).

In order to measure alpha particles, there must be the smallest possible amount of matter between the outside world and the detector. Your naive proposal in a post below to wrap the counter into a plastic bag which is swapped regularly to keep things clean results effectively in a 100% alpha radiation shield around your detector.

The problem is that alpha radiation from inhaled aerosol particles is the most dangerous component of what a broken reactor emits, and thus this it what really needs to be determined. If the radiation is blocked by a plastic bag, or dead outer skin cells, it is pretty harmless. But if you inhale, or eat, an alpha emitter and it makes a cell in your lung or stomach lining go cancerous, this is a very different matter.

So you want to shield the counter, and only measure beta and gamma, you are making the data even more useless than original (see my explanation before). Not what I call an "insightful" post.

Re:Problematic data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36064852)

But if you inhale, or eat, an alpha emitter and it makes a cell in your lung or stomach lining go cancerous, this is a very different matter.

You do all the time - it's called radon. It is also called smoking (tobacco has significant amount of Polonium).

We have learned about radiation mostly from catastrophic accidents (ie. in nuclear physics, like particle accelerators) and from nuclear bombs. Then based on these observations for extremely high flux radiation exposures, in 1950s, the UN bodies came up with a very easy to understand linear model called LNT (Linear, no threshold).. Too bad we use it wrongly.

The LNT model is great at predicting what part of the population will have problems from nuclear bombs. It wrongly predicts that 2mSv/yr is different than 10mSv/yr - if it were, Denver would be a cluster for radiation induced cancers, yet it is not.

Workers at the manhattan project and later Los Alamos were exposed to significant plutonium dust in 1940-1950 as they physically machined parts for bombs. According to what is generally accepted as "known" by Greenpeace for plutonium, LNT and alpha radiation, they should all be dead, without exception, to 99% certainty. Yet, they are not.

Predictions by LNT for Chernobyl are all wrong too. We were suppose to see a spike of Leukemia cancer cases, as that cancer has shortest incubation period. No spike in diagnosis occurred.

LNT is basically wrong model to use for low-level radiation, that is less than about 400mSv/yr, but it is used even at 2mSv/yr, which is ridicules (there are much larger radiation variations just traveling from place to place)..

PS. Fukishima radiation is virtually all beta-gamma, not alpha emitters. Iodine and Cesium. Regular Geiger counter with a beta window does the job just fine. But before people start their Geiger counters, they should know that these devices compound radiation amounts as they can produce their own ionizing radiation as side effect of measurement, especially if you leave them chronically on without due cause.

Re:Problematic data (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 2 years ago | (#36066596)

The fission products that are a problem during this kind of accident are almost completely dominated by beta and gamma emitters. At least during the first few hundred years. Also, after a alpha or beta decay there is very frequently a subsequent gamma that is much easier to detect. The isotope that emitted it can be determined by the energy spectrum ( but a Geiger tube will not do that very well ). Furthermore, since most of the transuranic alpha emitters do not exist in nature, it is quite feasible to detect them by chemical means using soil samples and so on. Neptunium, Plutonium, Americium and to some extent Curium will be responsible for the bulk of alphas, and since neither exist in nature there is no need to check for their radiation directly. Simply detecting their presence is sufficient.

Basically you are the one without practical knowledge. You know the theory, but it's not how these things are done in practice.

Re:Problematic data (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 2 years ago | (#36063648)

>If the radiation detector is built with the proper non-removable shield then they will only be able to measure useful types of radiation. But more seriously, they need to clean the probe, they need to take into account standing radiation sources.

You dont know shit, surprising as this might seem considering that you are talking out of your ass.

Re:Problematic data (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36064570)

France has already recommended that its people not eat certain foods due to fallout.

Based on a ludicrously low threshold level of 10 microsieverts (100 bananas) that is exceeded daily

by background radiation in many exotic faraway places like Colorado.

Re:Problematic data (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36065674)

Yes. We should DEFINITELY start doing this in the US. After all the EPA just concluded that the radiation levels are so low now that they can't even detect it. That sounds like the perfect time to redouble our measuring.

*The local university here just dramatically scaled back their measuring program as well since they can't really see anything anymore either.*

It's funny how in the same day Slashdot can be all up in arms about the "Anti-Science" Texan school board. And then act like even more paranoid anti-science conspiracy theorists within 4-5 hours.

Goes to show the problem runs far deeper than religious wackos.

Re:Problematic data (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#36068292)

Clearly the EPA needs to increase their radiation measuring. The fact that they cannot detect any is proof positive that they aren't trying hard enough.

Re: "wrong, stupid, bullshit" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067008)

Unfortunately, life is more complicated.

A Geiger Counter is calibrated on a single element. It will measure ONE radiation from one element correctly (well, if properly re-calibrated yearly).
It will measure radiation with similar energies more or less correct. And then it drifts away.

I will stand by my statement : Measuring radiation is an expert task.
I worked in radiation environments now for more then 15 years as a scientist.
But if I want to know the radiation levels around me, I call in the experts.

 

Re:Problematic data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36067320)

Ignorance is bliss, or is it...

Your entire comment is utter ignorance about radiation and the amount you get from everywhere around you. If you could comprehend the soup of radiation you are bathed in all the time, the amount from Fukushima would seem insanely ridiculous to be worried about.

It's hard not to get that creepy feeling in your stomach at times like this...

It is like panicking over a handful of tires in Japan being on fire and causing air pollution in New York while smoking a pack a day and living in a densely populated city where everyone needs to drive their cars to work..

The creepy feeling is called ignorance. My comparison is about correct and even includes a car analogy :P

Useful data data lacks, geiger counters don't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36063884)

Following the governmental propaganda, people don't realize that the biggest dose is not given by external radiation, but by internal contamination, because a particle in the body (lungs, bones, thyroid, ...) releases much more radiation (alpha, beta, and gamma), than the partial gamma radiation received from nearby fallout.
The dose rates given by the jap. and other governments are ONLY VALID IF YOU DON'T BREATHE AND EAT, people tend to forget that.

Measuring ambient radioactivity is really really not enough.
First, it heavily depends on the location and height of the sensor (fallout fixes on/in the floor, mainly), and can be biased.

More important is the amount and activity of particles & gasses that are in suspension in the air.
Measuring these can only be done using calibrated air pumps and filters, coupled with detectors (ideally a gamma spectrometer)
example here : http://www.sangyo-rodo.metro.tokyo.jp/whats-new/measurement.html
graphic here : http://www.criirad.org/actualites/dossier2011/japon_bis/J3-Courbes.pdf

After the beginning of the chernobyl accident, many people were contaminated mainly by air and food.
In the area where I come from (in France) which some thousands of km away from Tchernobyl, the air contamination & dose was similar in 1986 as in Tokyo mid-march, as a consequence, many people that were born 1983-1987 have tyroid deficiencies (proving that it was early contamination, and not external gamma exposition)

As the air contamination is still ongoing, It would be really great to have simple & cheap air analysis capability, even without spectrometry, this data is today cruelly missing, and absolutely necessary for risk analysis.

A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (3, Informative)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061740)

Measuring radiation is not as simple as measuring a temperature (and even that is something nobody wants to entrust an amateur with for the purpose of weather forecasts, etc.).

Depending on sample geometry, distance to sample, even atmospheric conditions for alpha/beta radiation, not to forget cleanliness of the counter, measurements can easily be different by a factor of 1000 or more (!) if you just hand a counter to a lay person and ask him/her to determine some radiation level out in the nature.

Without calibration, test sample verification, standard equipment, and very precise instructions on sample preparation and measurement conditions, the collected data is absolutely worthless.

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061822)

So another FAIL idea on kickstarter? I am jack's complete lack of surprise.

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (4, Informative)

freaklabs (1359341) | more than 2 years ago | (#36061860)

Actually we're working with health physicists that were at Three Mile Island and geiger manufacturers. We also have two gamma spectrometers that we're using to identify isotopes and we're putting together data templates so that people who upload data can also mention the tube, conversion factor, CPM, orientation, etc. We're also collaborating with local universities who are also helping us collect data and will be using it in their research.

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (1)

Radworker (227548) | more than 2 years ago | (#36065236)

That is interesting. Considering that anything that operates in the GM range is not effective at measuring anything. It is good at detecting, yes but quantifying no. To do the work you need something that operates in the semi-proportional range like say an RO-2 dose-rate meter. You also need to take open shield/closed shield readings to help you identify beta/gamma levels. Alpha is an entirely different matter that a GM tube doesn't even see. To do the work properly you would need to take air samples from around the area and run them through a GELI counter or similar. As has been mentioned before, instruments like this need to be calibrated often and take training to handle correctly.

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36062588)

Without calibration, test sample verification, standard equipment, and very precise instructions on sample preparation and measurement conditions, the collected data is absolutely worthless.

Calibration: once every year is more than sufficient. Once every three years serves for most modern devices. Geometry, distance to sample: They are going to be measuring background radiation, so this is only relevant in that you need to move around and see if the reading changes. Atmospheric conditions: The whole fucking point is to measure atmospheric conditions, you idiot. Cleanliness: These are people who go to a housewares store and buy a special soft-bristled brush to wash out their plastic soda and tea bottles before they place them in a recycling container which is only for one type of plastic. They can handle cleaning the probe. They can probably also handle placing a new disposable plastic bag over the probe each week and washing it with soap or spraying it with a purpose-made cleaning solution once a month, utterly solving this issue. Just handing a counter to a lay person is solved through an hour or two of training, or a small pamphlet. I hear literacy rates are very high in Japan.

Why don't you stick that FUD up your nay-saying ass?

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (4, Informative)

Wdi (142463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36063022)

Using curse words does not prove any competence.

I do actually have radiochemistry training, and your arguments show that you do not have any significant domain expertise at all. But this has never stopped anybody from posting, or insulting people, has it?

Hand-held Geiger counters, as shown on the picture in the article, and this is what I presume will be distributed, are only useful for very limited scenarios, such as
a) It's ticking, I should not go any deeper into this reactor housing/nuclear explosion ground
b) It's ticking. I spilled something on the lab bench/I stepped into something and should decontaminate.
c) Measure something really well mixed, like Radon gas in basements, or clean analytical solutions (*not* anything from ponds or puddles, the radioactive isotopes are generally adsorbed to colloidal matter in these samples, and that brings all kinds of problems). For the latter, use a well-defined sample volume and measurement geometry for reproducible readings.

As for the diluted fallout from a reactor, that is very, very different from those scenarios. We are mostly talking about solid aerosol particles, in deposited form or drifting with the wind, which are very unevenly distributed, tend to accumulate in unexpected places, and generally stick to matter.

So this is NOT
- atmospheric monitoring. Radon or other well-distributed radioactive gases are a very minor factor
- fixed and standardized geometry. The picture in the article shows somebody pointing a counter to the ground. This may or may not a location where the average concentration has been enhanced or diluted. And with gamma rays, the normal square distance law applies, so minimal distance variations have a large effect. For alpha and beta, the distance law has an even higher power, because the particles collide with air molecules, or water droplets in the air.
- Cleanliness is a very major factor, and not just for the case of somebody sticking a counter into a puddle. If you just put a counter onto a mast, a radioactive aerosol particle may or may not deposit on the surface of the counter - and then stick. If it sticks, it will overpower any other radiation background, just because it is so much closer to the counter, and give much exaggerated readings. If nothing happens to fall on the counter, it will underestimate the dangers- if a radioactive alpha or beta particle is drifting by within just a few centimeters, hardly anything will register because of the very limited range of this type of radiation. Air-borne aerosol contamination can only be measured reliably by sucking large, measured amounts of air through a well-defined filter, and then measuring the radiation of the filter. Simple hand-held devices are completely useless for this purpose, even if they are dusted of weekly.
- In any case, the most important task will likely be to identify hot spots *on the ground, or in water*, where major aerosol deposits have accumulated, probably aided by solution/evaporation processes, and then treat these, before they get airborne again.

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36065028)

Amen. People are completely clueless as to the amount of atoms required to get a given reading and thus how easily your detection device is contaminated. There is a reason to have a thin plastic cover over the detector window, and why this plastic cover needs to be changed VERY OFTEN, or it becomes useless. Heck, you even have to decontaminate the measuring device if you enter high level radiation area and then leave as stuff would get stuck to the actual device.

As you wrote, typical Geiger counters are great at measuring hot spots, or even background. But they are useless for measuring atmospheric contamination. And yes, air filter checks is what is done, and this is not done by lay public.

PS. At the physics lab, the only use for a Geiger counter is basically to check if a cesium sources are still good, and one case of trying to find which bottle is the misplaced Uranium sample - the label fell off. And yes, we had to open each sample bottle and point the counter right into the bottle but we found it ;)

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36091186)

I think it's really terrible to have such situation like Japan has now.

Re:A really, really bad idea (seriously!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36065048)

Measuring absolute values to any degree of accuracy is difficult, granted. Measuring relative increases compared to a locally established average background count is very easy, however, and also quite useful.

What bothers me (the zycronium fuel rod claddings) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36061952)

I've always been a big nuclear supporter of safe nuclear power, and, by safe, I mean ones where the core can reliably melt down to puddle with very minimal impact on the environment around. The thing that bothers me is that I used to believe our current nuclear plants could do this. I am no longer convinced. Indeed, I am openly concerned this is not the case.

In the four cases of partial core meltdowns we have now seen (the Three Mile Island reactor and the three Fukushima reactors), the zicronium fuel rod casings have shown themselves to be a major liability. In all cases, they reacted with the hot steam to produce hydrogen gas, which has then posed a non-insignificant threat to the containment structure. In the case of the Fukushima reactors, we saw this actually happened to unit 3, and on day 3 of Three Mile Island incident, there was significant concern that an accumulated hydrogen bubble would explode damaging the containment structure.

I realize that one in four (25%) is not yet enough samples to exactly pinpoint the probability of containment failure due to the explosion of accumulating hydrogen gas. However, combined with the fact this has been a major concern in all partial core meltdowns experienced so far, it is a figure we should all be concerned with. Containment failure due to hydrogen explosion is not an insignificant failure mode during meltdown, and I have yet to see it mitigated to any reasonably acceptable level.

So, to the nuclear industry out there. Zycronium cladding for the fuel rods is currently used in pretty much every installed reactor. I realize it was chosen due to its low neutron-capture cross-section, but, in operation, it has shown itself to be a significant liability during partial meltdown. It is time to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative that does not have this problem. Even if that means a degradation in performance. Until I see this happening, you have lost my support.

Wait, is'nt all this data in Pachube already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36064734)

Pachube's been doing this for weeks already, and it's truly crowdsourced in that it's not some kind of centralizing system of like Safecast seems to be bt one where any body with any radiation hardware can push and pull the data. http://blog.pachube.com/2011/05/crowdsourcing-open-data-evolving-into.html

Radiation detectors in cell phones (1)

Keith Henson (1588543) | more than 2 years ago | (#36070148)

30 years ago I proposed putting radiation sensors in watches. When cell phones became common, I asked why cell phones don't incorporate them.

I wonder if the current mess in Japan will bring cell phone radiation detectors to the market?

Or if it has already?
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