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Chernobyl radiation killed 56

In a 1986 disaster that many were comparing to the third world war and that others have used to interrupt the progress in nuclear energy for at least 20 years, only 56 people were directly killed. A new 600-page report also estimates that the total number of indirect deaths caused by thyroid cancer - usually of the people who worked on the recovery of the plant after the disaster - will stay below 4,000.

There has been no measurable deterioration of the public health in the surrounding areas. Was the anti-nuclear reaction to the Chernobyl accident appropriate? The Reference Frame does not think so and encourages the developed countries to build new nuclear power plants.

The previous numbers were inflated because of miscalculations of exposition to radiation, and by attempts of various not-quite-honest countries to boost the financial assistance flowing to the area.

Compare the new numbers with the typical number of people that are killed by natural disasters such as the typhoon in Southern Japan today (100,000 people ordered to flee their homes), plane crash that has just killed 147 people in Indonesia, and, of course, Katrina that has killed thousands. (The French Quarter will be fine.) And these disasters represent a small fraction of the people who die under more prosaic circumstances.

Global warming destroyed Saturn's ring

According to a generalized global warming theory, Saturn's rings must be static for thousands of years. It turned out that the innermost ring, the D-ring, looks completely different than 25 years ago. It's dimmer and it may even disappear. Also, there are minivan-sized objects in the outermost A-ring. This short period of time - 25 years - in which things can change proves that the humans who drink Coke and their production of carbon dioxide must be behind these celestial developments, the generalized theory of truly global warming says.

More seriously, subtle things in the Universe, which includes Saturn's rings as well as Earth's climate, are simply changing. They're naturally changing, they have always been and they always will. Hurricanes and typhoons are naturally created all the time and the people are too weak to change these basic processes, and whoever does not like these laws of physics should try to find a better Universe to live in.

Kazaa will have filters

The company running the file-sharing network Kazaa will have to install filters that protect the copyrights, a judge has decided. It may be a fair decision; such filters won't prevent the users from any legal activities. Kazaa will appeal.

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reader nige said...

Dear Lumo,

The exaggeration of radiation effects is due to simplistic theory and experimentation on mice in the 1950s.

Until about 1955, a threshold model for cancer induction was widely accepted, based on some data for the exposures of radium - zinc sulphide dial painters from the 1920s.

Then people started experimenting with mice to find out the effects of cancer from nuclear testing and power.

The problem is, human beings since 1979 are known to have an elaborate DNA repair mechanism, largely based on protein P53.

Each piece of DNA at body temperature probably breaks a couple of times a minute and is fixed back together quickly. This is why people live longer than mice, which age faster since they lack the DNA repair mechanism. (Evolution hasn't bothered about DNA repair in mice because they are normally eaten by predators after a few months anyway.)

So mice don't have a radiation threshold for cancer induction. But this experimental finding was applied to humans in the 1950s, long before P53 was discovered.

A huge science-versus-politics crusade was started to demonise the few scientists who held out in favour of the threshold model.

Experimental data for populations exposed to different background radiation levels, carefully corrected for other environmental factors, show that you need to get above about 20 mSv of gamma rays per year to get any enhanced risk of cancer.

It is possible that alpha and beta radiation inside the body (from inhaling or eating fallout) has sufficiently high linear energy transfer to induce cancers regardless of dose. However, at least in Britain every building has alpha emitters in the smoke detectors (1 microcurie of Am-241 which emits alpha and very soft gamma rays). Nobody campaigns about smoke detectors or claims that everyone will be killed if one is burned, despite the fact that there are enough Am-241 atoms inside one to theoretically give everyone in the world cancer (if you use a crackpot theory that 'one alpha particle can cause 1 lung cancer').

The politics of the nuclear industry, which refuses (it seems to me) to state the scientific facts clearly and convincingly to the public, are absurd.

It's a bit like the Copenhagen Interpretation in QM. Just because it is (or rather was) backed by famous people like Bohr and Heisenberg, everyone is expected to subscribe to it to prove that they are not crackpots.

Best wishes,
Nigel

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