themadscientists

Japanese Crisis and Nuclear Particles in the Air and Foodchain

In physics, quantum physics, science on March 17, 2011 at 18:28

Patterns of wind from Japan across the Pacific

As I have touched upon in the preceding post, it is compounds like Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that pose the real danger to the general population down-wind of the Fukushima-plant. These gases or particles emit beta-radiation and energetic gamma-rays. The latter capable of penetrating clothes and walls if there is enough of it in the air.

Nuclear power and radioactivity has a big potential for death and destruction, so the media are sounding the the alarm. But lack of knowledge on what ionizing radiation is and how it may be harmful is leading to a lot of speculation that might cause unwarranted fear.

Things are not “just” radioactive, it depends on how much of it is in the air or water. For example there are tons and tons of highly radioactive particles from the cold war in the atmosphere. But there is a lot of air and water here on Earth, so it does not cause very much harm. Not to say that it is smart to fill up the biosphere with more though.

It might be interesting to see how radiation actually looks and operates, and how it is the driving force for nuclear energy. The first part of the video shows natural background radiation, and towards the middle you can see Radium-radiation. The radiation you can see in the second half of the video would be harmful to you if you got it into your lungs, but apart from that its not more dangerous than a good tan.

It is basically the same processes that you see here that drives a nuclear reactor, but at much higher intensities. Atoms with an uneven numbers of neutrons in comparison to the number of electrons, are unstable. And when they decay as we see here, they spit out a couple of particles and a photon or two. When these photons have high energies they can go trough walls and protective clothing and be dangerous to your cells.

Ionization can happen if you get alfa or beta radiation particles inside your body, or if you are hit by high-energy photon radiation from outside it.

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