Tag Archives: radiation

Yes, Apollo Flew Through the Van Allen Belts Going to the Moon

Conspiracists who believe the moon landings were faked like to claim the astronauts could not have survived the trip because of exposure to radiation from the Van Allen radiation belt (http://tinyurl.com/p7khram).

Of course, they are wrong. Again.

Related: Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory

Investigation: Sosatec Wellbalancer (Debunking a quack product)

I just love when this kind of woo quackery gets totally exposed as a fraud. In this case it’s a bogus product called Sosatec Wellbalancer. This video features Richard Saunders of the Australian Skeptics.

Enjoy 🙂


By Good Thinking Society via YouTube

Sosatec Bionics Ltd sell pendants and products (“Wellbalancers”) to protect against what they claim is harmful radiation emitted by mobile phones and WiFi – claims which are highly questionable. The scaremongering around mobile phone radiation provokes unfounded health fears in the general public. We witnessed David Bendall (CEO and founder of Sosatec) supposedly demonstrating the effects of his product, using physical demonstrations which we felt were, at best, misleading.

We have reported Sosatec’s claims to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Read Sosatec’s full response and find out more at http://goodthinkingsociety.org/good-t…

Microwave phobia

Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

In order to avoid falling for whatever absurd nonsense happen to be in the offing, you not only need to have some good critical thinking skills, you also need a basic knowledge of the sciences.

Do-Not-Microwave-Head-230x300This is especially critical given the penchant that pseudoscience hacks have for using scientific-sounding terms in bogus ways.  Given that said hacks are quite good at sounding convincing, and can throw around random vocabulary words with the best of ’em, if you don’t understand the basic laws of science, as well as a few solid definitions, you’re going to fall for whatever tripe they’re offering.

Take, for example, the article from Prevent Disease that I’ve now seen several times on social media, called “12 Facts About Microwaves That Should Forever Terminate Their Use.”

This piece, written by one Marco Torres, is so full of false statements and specious science that it’s hard to know where to start.  Here’s a sample, picked more or less at random:

Microwaves are a source of electromagnetic energy (a form of nonionizing form of radiation) electronically generated. When penetrating the aliments, they trigger an inner rotation of the water molecules inside the food. This rotation triggers a friction between the molecules and the result is a rapid growth in temperature.

Okay, he starts out well.  Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that is electronically generated.microwave-1960s_250px  But so is the light from a light bulb.  And I don’t know what an “inner rotation of the water molecules” even means — since microwaves are good at making water molecules (and also fat molecules) spin, maybe this was just a slip.  But the water molecules are not experiencing “friction” — they’re simply moving.  Because that’s what an increase in temperature means.  The faster molecules move, the higher the temperature, whether that temperature increase is caused by a microwave, a conventional oven, or just sitting out in the sun.

Then, though, we start hearing about all the bad things this can cause:

Microwaves use super-fast particles to literally radiate the contents of water inside food and bring it to boil. Not only has microwave use been linked to causing infertility in men, but it also denatures many of the essential proteins in the food making them virtually indigestible.

genitals 02“Super-fast” — sure, given that all electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light.  And what’s the alternative to “literally radiating” the food?  Figuratively radiating it?

And there is no connection between using microwaves and infertility, as long as you keep your genitalia outside of the microwave oven.  So guys — if you’re microwaving your lunch while naked, don’t accidentally shut your junk in the door and then turn the oven on.

Then we have this unintentionally funny statement  .  .  .

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Hey, Where’s the Fukushima Plume?

Mike RothschildBy Mike Rothschild via Skeptoid

After I started writing about the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it quickly became clear that there was a huge amount of fearmongering about it. Garbage anti-science pieces like “At the very least your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over” and “28 Signs the West Coast is Being Absolutely Fried by Fukushima Radiation” were needlessly scaring the crap out of those who didn’t have the training, knowledge, or common sense filter needed to see through them.

fukushima bread 02_200pxThe result was that people became afraid that radiation was melting all life in the Pacific Ocean, that cancer was slamming the West Coast, that fish were inedible, that the beach was a death zone, that Japan would be obliterated, that half of America would have to be evacuated, that giant marine animals were washing ashore, that the ocean was broken, that life as we knew it was over, and on and on.

And all of that horror was before “the plume” reached the West Coast.

The radiation leak from Fukushima actually has two components. One was the initial leak from the incident itself, which hit the US fairly quickly. The other was the much slower moving “plume” of radioactive water, the extent of which only became clear last year after Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted that 300 tons of runoff was leaking into the Pacific every day, with no way to stop it.

The New York Times’ map of the Fukushima Plume projection. (click image for larger view)

The New York Times’ map of the Fukushima Plume projection. (click image for larger view)

There were generally two reactions to the news that a plume of radioactive water was heading straight toward the West Coast:

Scientists did science. They researched, they set up studies, they developed computer models, they wrote papers, they disseminated their findings, they adjusted their hypotheses accordingly. The aim was to determine when the plume would arrive, what danger it carried, and what the next steps should be.

Panicmongers mongered panic. They wrote long blog posts trumping up the unknown dangers, they spread false stories, they relied on dubious sources, they sold anti-nuclear products, they accused researchers and government officials of covering up the “real story” of how bad it was. The aim was to make money, abolish nuclear power, and spread fear.

What the researchers looking into the plume found was, at least to me, fairly comforting:

  1. Traces of Fukushima radioactivity would reach the West Coast of the US sometime in early 2014.
  2. Because of the natural dilution of a relatively small amount of water in the hugeness of the ocean, they would be just that – traces.
  3. However, there was no way to tell exactly when the radiation would arrive.
  4. Therefore, monitoring of the radiation levels in sea life and water should continue.
  5. While that’s happening, go about your business safe in the knowledge that you aren’t being fried.

So here we are, past early 2014. Almost halfway through the year, really. What’s the status of the plume?

For one thing, we still don’t know when the plume will hit, or if it actually has. The estimates are still a moving target.

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Gerson Therapy

Via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

Gerson therapy is the name given to a regimen that claims to be able to cure even severe cases of cancer. The regimen consists of a special diet, coffee enemas, and various supplements. The regimen is named after Max Gerson (1881-1959), a German physician who emigrated to the United States in 1936 and practiced medicine in New York.

In 1977, Gerson’s daughter, Charlotte, co-founded the Gerson Institute, which oversees The Baja Nutri Care Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. The clinic’s website has a very strange message on its front page for such a cheery, optimistic site: BNC reserves the right to refuse service to anyone, at anytime without notice for any reason. It is still illegal for a clinic to offer the Gerson treatment as a cancer cure in the U.S. Charlotte is not a medical doctor but she was given on-the-job training in her father’s clinic. She trains physicians in the Gerson method, lectures widely on the benefits of the therapy and the evil forces trying to suppress it, and has written a number of pamphlets centering on testimonials from various people who claim to have been cured of their cancer. She’s co-authored a book on the Gerson way and is joined in her endeavor by her son Howard Strauss. Howard has a degree in physics and has written a biography of his grandfather called Dr. Max Gerson: Healing the Hopeless. Mother and son believe that Howard’s wife was cured of cancer by Gerson therapy.*

Gerson says he started on the road to his regimen when his migraines went away after going on a vegetarian and salt-free diet. The diet in the regimen eventually came to include lots of juice from organic fruits and vegetables, and to exclude coffee, berries, nuts, dairy products, tap water; bottled, canned or processed foods; and cooking in aluminum pots and pans. SnakeOil-250pxThe supplements came to include linseed oil, acidophilus-pepsin capsules, potassium solution, laetrile, Lugol’s solution (iodine/potassium iodine), thyroid tablets, niacin, pancreatic enzymes, royal-jelly capsules, castor oil, ozone enemas, vaccines, and vitamin B12 mixed with liver.* The liver injections were removed from the regimen after it became clear that it was making some people sick.*

Who was Max Gerson and why would anyone with cancer follow his advice of massive quantities of vegetable juice and daily coffee enemas? The second question is easy to answer. The therapy appeals to those who believe a “natural” cure exists for cancer and most other diseases but special interests (known in some circles as “they”) have suppressed these cures. It appeals to cancer patients who are extremely fearful of or violently opposed to surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. It appeals to cancer patients who have been told that science-based medicine has no treatment for them and who are desperate to continue living. The first question requires a longer answer.

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Relax, cell phones and wifi won’t make you sick

by via Vox

SmartMeterInvasion_550x493_250pxLast month in Washington state, local residents protested the installation of smart meters on the grounds that the devices’ wireless signals could pose a health threat. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, parents’ health concerns about wireless internet (wifi) in schools prompted a government field test.

This is a growing trend. Small groups have protested the roll-out of smart meters in at least 17 states, and there are at least 30 international support groups for those who believe they suffer health effects from them and other devices. In West Virginia, there’s even a small community who’ve fled to a radiation-free zone to avoid the effects of wifi and cell phones.

Why people are freaking out about wireless devices

The worries are driven by belief that in some people, the invisible waves of electromagnetic radiation emitted by our modern devices can cause all sorts of immediate health effects, like headaches, dizziness, and chest pains. This is most commonly referred to as electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

wifi ouch_200px(By the way, this is distinct from the worry that cell phones can cause long-term problems like cancer — which, according to our best data, is unlikely.)

But here’s the thing: no matter how reasonable the idea might seem, scientists have tested it for decades, and have found no evidence that the radiation produced by cell phones, wifi, or smart meters actually makes people sick.

“The question is relatively easy to address with experiments,” says James Rubin, a psychologist who’s tested the idea, “and the evidence says that EMF [electromagnetic frequencies] don’t cause symptoms.”

Clinical trials show wifi won’t make people sick

cell phone no_200pxThe most common way of testing whether electromagnetic signals cause health problems is pretty straightforward: Researchers put a purported sufferer in a room and secretly turn on and off a device that generates an electromagnetic field (say, a cell phone). The participant is then asked to identify when the symptoms surface. If the participant is correct more often then chance would dictate, that could suggest a link between the radiation and immediate health effects.

The dozens of these studies that have been conducted have uncovered zero people who can report symptoms reliably over time.

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I Started Chasing Radiation And Ended Up Following The Money

by Craig Good via Skeptoid

fukushima bread 02_200pxA recent YouTube video purports to show the San Francisco area being “fried” by radiation, radiation which the videographer somehow knows just had to come from Fukushima. That’s hitting close to home, as I live near San Francisco and really don’t want to sizzle. The “shocking” video is accompanied by all kinds of links, most of which are irrelevant to the claim that he found dangerous radiation. A few, though, were quite helpful.

Regular readers of the blog should have already read Mike Rothschild’s excellent posts on Fukushima scare-mongering. If you haven’t yet, please do so now. He covers the science well and I won’t be adding anything new on the Fukushima radiation itself.

The emailer who alerted Skeptoid to the video pointed out one of the first red flags: Someone who can’t focus a camera on a Geiger counter might not be operating the counter itself correctly. As a thread I found on Slashdot points out, these are instruments that need calibration and training just to be able to interpret. They aren’t like light meters.

I decided to first see if what this fellow was measuring was real. Before doing that, I had to investigate the instrument he was using. Following his helpful link took me to a web page describing this particular counter. Then I found Amazon storefront of General Electromagnetics and the red flags started really piling up. (Note that they also supply hardware for all your ghost-hunting needs.) The store was started  ”out of personal interest and concern for the possible dangers associated with overhead power lines, cellular phones, microwave ovens, police radar and all the electronic radiation which increasingly pollutes our modern environment…” Brian has covered these concerns well already, such as here and here.

That led me to Less EMF, where you can find, uh, you guessed it. At least it’s “sophisticated Polyester/Cotton blended with micro-fine stainless steel fibers for excellent radiation protection” rather than just tin foil.

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Fukushima vs Chernobyl vs Three Mile Island

Years after the disaster, some claim that Fukushima radiation is still going to cause widespread death.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid.com
Read Podcast transcript below of Listen here

In March of 2011, an undersea earthquake sent tsunamis thundering across Japan, killing nearly 20,000 people and creating the most expensive natural disaster in history. Among the casualities was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was almost completely submerged by the tsunamis; an unprecedented event. Power was lost (obviously), cooling systems stopped, and the net result was a complete meltdown of three of the plant’s reactor cores. It was a perfect storm of worst case scenarios. And now, even years afterward, some are calling it a worldwide radiation disaster, worse than even Chernobyl, that will produce a staggering death count for decades or even centuries. Today we’re going to evaluate these assertions and see if we can separate fact from fiction.

Fukushima_250pxWith the shocking end-of-the-world-scenario headlines — such as “Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Are Over” and “28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima” — either Fukushima was the worst environmental disaster ever, or some of the worst misinformation ever is being trumpeted. To find out which, we’ll put it into context with the two other best known nuclear disasters: the 1986 explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine, and the 1979 partial meltdown of a reactor at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania.

The most important technical point to understand about various reactor kinds is the moderator. The moderator is a substance that slows down the fast neutrons being shed by the radioactive uranium fuel, converts the kinetic energy into thermal energy, and turns them into slow, thermal neutrons. A thermal neutron is much more likely to strike another uranium nucleus. This allows a chain reaction, in which the fuel produces enough heat to power a conventional steam generator. Most nuclear reactors use water as the moderator. Put uranium fuel rods into water, in the proper configuration, and you’ll get a chain reaction.

Chernobyl, however, was a very different type of machine. It was what we call an atomic pile, the devices first designed during World War II to produce plutonium for atomic weapons. The atomic pile is literally a pile of graphite blocks, half a meter long and a quarter meter square, with a hole bored through the long axis. These graphite blocks were used as the moderator.

chernobyl_mapThe problem with building a reactor out of graphite blocks is that graphite burns. Contain burning graphite within a concrete structure, and it explodes. This is exactly what happened at Chernobyl, and it’s exactly why nobody would ever build a graphite-moderated reactor today; the whole reactor core was literally a bomb waiting to go off.

Three Mile Island and Fukushima were both water moderated reactors. This was one of the most significant safety improvements of the early 1950s. Fukushima’s basic design is one of the earliest, called a BWR (boiling water reactor). The moderating water, which is also the cooling water, is directly boiled and drives a steam generator. The reason the Fukushima accident happened is that all sources of power were destroyed by the tsunami, including backups, backups, and their backups; and without the pumps to keep the system circulating, the cooling water boiled completely away, and the fuel melted. For months, firehoses sprayed water into the open reactors to prevent open flames from pumping radioactive smoke into the atmosphere. This contaminated water was barely containable; it leaked into the ocean, and was stored in anything that could be used as a tank.

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Fukushima “Death Cloud” Kills hundreds on US Warship

H/T: (Skeptic Wars)

Video via Thunderf00t – YouTube.

Recently it has been widely covered in the media that ~70 members of the US 7th fleet are suing TEPCO (the company responsible for the Fukushima for THREE BILLION DOLLARS.

On paper they claim all sorts of cancer, however I can find no interview of anyone with cancer. Further the lawsuit doesn’t say what the claims are for. What I do find is interview after interview of people describing non-quantifiable symptoms that are wholly inconsistent with radiation poisoning.

The thing that bugs me the most here is radiation is being sold as the ‘invisible boogey man’ that causes all the ills that you cannot otherwise explain.

Sure radiation can cause some serious problems, but then again so can asbestos. But this does not mean you can blame any unaccounted for maladies on asbestos or radiation!

In Africa when anything goes wrong (crop failures etc), there are those only too happy to blame witches. The only thing different here is the boogey man is radiation.

Is the sea floor littered with dead animals due to radiation? No.

by via Deep Sea News

Fukushima_250pxRecently we at Deep-Sea News have tried to combat misinformation about the presence of high levels of Fukushima radiation and its impact on marine organisms on the west coast of the United States.  After doing thorough research, reading the scientific literature, and consulting with experts and colleagues, we have found no evidence of either.  In the comments of those posts and on Twitter, readers have asked us about the “evidence” of dead marine life covering 98% of ocean floor in the Pacific as directly attributed to Fukushima radiation.  After some searching I found the main “news” article that is referenced.

The Pacific Ocean appears to be dying, according to a new study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California recently discovered that the number of dead sea creatures blanketing the floor of the Pacific is higher than it has ever been in the 24 years that monitoring has taken place, a phenomenon that the data suggests is a direct consequence of nuclear fallout from Fukushima.

In spring 2012, the muddy seafloor at Station M was literally covered with the silvery bodies of dead salps (gelatinous midwater animals that feed on microscopic algae). This debris provided food for seafloor animals such as sea cucumbers. Image © 2012 MBARI

In spring 2012, the muddy seafloor at Station M was literally covered with the silvery bodies of dead salps (gelatinous midwater animals that feed on microscopic algae). This debris provided food for seafloor animals such as sea cucumbers. Image © 2012 MBARI

Before I discuss this “evidence” further, I want to provide a little background.  I am a deep-sea biologist and over the last several years my research has focused on the biodiversity of deep-sea communities off the California coast.  Like many others, I am also working toward understanding how deep-sea life will respond to increased anthropogenic impacts particularly climate change.  This resulted in a high profile publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.  I mention this background because 1. It explains why I view myself as an expert to comment on this and 2. it explains why I was confounded for a moment when I thought I had missed a paper in a journal I have published in, on a geographic region I study, and on a topic close to my own research.  And to boot from researchers at institution (MBARI) I was formerly employed with.

The reason I am unfamiliar with a study providing evidence of  “Dead sea creatures cover 98 percent of ocean floor off California coast; up from 1 percent before Fukushima” is because no such study exists.  Here are the details of the actual study.

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