funranium: (Default)
So, last night we were discussing bioassay techniques in my radiation safety class.

My fellow teacher, after explaining fecal dosimetry techniques, declared that no one, not the subject providing the sample, not the dosimetrist who has to process it, certainly not the rest of the lab staff, nor even the building neighbors like it when you have to do fecal samples.
I begged to disagree. I clearly remember an occasion that a world renowned health physicist loudly declared in my presence "I LOVE FECAL SAMPLES!"
There was then a three beat pause...
And he corrected himself, declaring somewhat less loudly, "I love the numbers I get from fecal samples."

Once again, I love making sure lessons hit home and stick for life with memorable vignettes like this to hang the information on. I'm just sad no one took video of my Rubbin' My Ass On Uranium dance to demonstrate proper dosimeter badge usage.
funranium: (Duck 'n' Cover)
More than a few friends sent this story from CNN my way with a modicum of panic and hope that I could explain things a bit more. 

Now that I am teaching radiation safety at a local community college in addition to my day job, it has been made very, very clear to me:
  1. What little the average person knows about radiation has mostly come from movies and 30 second news blurbs.
  2. The students that came to my class know how little they know and lay it squarely at the feet of shitty science-ignorant media reporting.
To a reporter acquaintance, I said to his shamed face "Science reporting would have had to have been informed reporting before it could have been slanted.  Most of what I read comes across as opinion piece at best.  This article definitely would have received an F if I got it as a student paper."

I think the highlight of inconsistency in this story is the statement in paragraph 2 "...authorities discovered the Uranium 238, known as yellowcake, in a garage..." versus the paragraph 13 "...will perform an expert analysis of the seized uranium to establish the enrichment percentage and the country of origin".  Paragraph 9  "...undercover policemen acquired less than one gram of the substance and sent it to the United States for analysis, which confirmed that it was uranium 238", if true means paragraph 13 is unnecessary and this whole story belongs in the Those Dumb Crooks section of the paper.

I Explain Why They're Idiots In More Detail )

It's hard enough to convey chemistry to people.  When you try to tell them that the entire Periodic Table of the Elements is only one axis on the Chart of the Nuclides (the axis of # of protons vs. the axis of # of neutrons) so you can build all the isotopes, their eyes go funny.

December 2012

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