Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."

20.3.11

Radiation Doses: Fact vs. Fiction

Score another one for the Blogosphere.  Randall Munroe of xkcd.com fame (one of the best comic strips ever for the scientifically inclined) trumps the New York Times with this excellent graphic comparing the levels of radiation we experience in our everyday lives:


Click the link for a full-sized view.

Two things Randall does that make this so compelling are:

1. He includes the temporal factor in his data (something the New York Times failed to do in their overly-hysterical chart declaring that everyone within a half-mile of Fukushima's Daiichi Power Plant is going to die), and ...

2. He shows the scale of routine daily activities (like eating a banana, 1 microsievert or 1 ┬ÁSv) to medical scans (a mammogram is 3 millisievert, 3mSv) to the minimum one-year dose clearly linked to an increased risk of cancer (100 millisievert, 100 mSv).  Spending an hour on the grounds of the Chernobyl Reactor in Ukraine in 2010 would likely give you a dose of 6 mSv, though it varies wildly; and two sites 50 km NW of Fukushima showed a daily dose of about 3.6 mSv (roughly our annual exposure from natural background radiation) -- but there are many areas closer to Fukushima with no measurable increase.

The bottom line is this: Radiation is a fundamental process in our universe.  It is prevalent in our daily lives, and -- with prudence -- can be used to benefit our lives.  So the next time you hear or read something that sounds alarmist in nature, dig a little deeper.  It may not be as bad as the talking heads would have you believe.

H/T to Charles Cameron at zenpundit.com and Cheryl Rofer at Phronesisaical.

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