[ExI] How dangerous is radiation?

spike spike66 at att.net
Tue Jul 8 16:28:31 UTC 2014

>... On Behalf Of Keith Henson
Subject: Re: [ExI] How dangerous is radiation?

On Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM,  BillK <pharos at gmail.com>> wrote:

>>... Another problem might be - what type and duration of radiation?
> Ionizing radiation includes alpha particles, beta particles and 
> neutrons, as well as mesons that constitute cosmic rays...

>...Good point.  Radiologists are reputed to have a lower rate of cancer,
but it's also thought that high energy physicist die at higher rates from
leukemia.  (That's what killed G.K. O'Neill.)...Keith

Ja.  We want a simple number to express safe levels of radiation, but as
BillK points out there are different kinds of radiation.  If you work in a
facility where there is any radiation, often they have witness badges, but
these need different sensors depending on what type of radiation is present.

A few years ago I did some test work at the cyclotron in Berkeley.  Before
they let us go up there, they made us take an all-day course in radiation
risks, then sign a waiver saying we knew the risks of going up there.  This
was almost a show-stopper for me, because the material they gave there
didn't make sense; it was self-contradictory on its face.  

They were trying to describe the risk in terms of activities most of us
understand.  Two risk-equivalents that stick in my mind is the risk of being
present in the rad-lab per day is equivalent to driving your car about 300
miles or riding a motorcycle 11 miles.  So I started asking questions of the
lecturer, being as I know those two pieces of information are contradictory.
By widely accepted standards, motorcycles are about 3 times more dangerous
per mile compared to cars if we are talking hospital-level injuries and
roughly ten times as dangerous per mile of fatality.  This literature
suggests motorcycles are nearly 30 times as dangerous as cars, so I started
asking questions.  The lecturer (from the Berkeley cyclotron) didn't know.
I almost called off the whole thing right there.  My customer insisted we go
forward, so we did.  (I didn't know at the time he had a boyfriend at

I saw other apparent contradictions.  There were guys who had worked up in
that lab for decades, and I saw no signs of health problems.  The local
squirrels looked perfectly healthy.  I see nothing analogous to a road-rash
injury in radiation.  Is there?  Can you get a mild radiation injury?  What
happens?  Would that be like getting radiation therapy in the oncology lab?

The most obvious one was simple: if you spend all day helping set up the
test, then get outta Dodge when they turn on the beam for ten minutes, isn't
that escaping the risk entirely?  Wouldn't that be analogous to a couple
fellers working on a motorcycle all day, then one of them rides it away
afterwards.  Only one takes any risk, ja?

But I digress.  I can imagine some radiation is healthy, working to pump up
the immune system.  Other kinds of radiation in other doses would break down
the immune system, or overwhelm it.



More information about the extropy-chat mailing list