Posts Tagged radiation


Posted by on Monday, 21 March, 2011



Conservative author Ann Coulter read an article ( Science Section of the New York Times) which, she says, shows how a certain  amount of nuclear radiation’s okay. Healthy, even.  She said most physicists are on board with this.

Which they’re not.

Coulter’s confusion (?)  isn’t hard to understand. Science is a slippery thing.

In an interview with Bill O’reilly, Ms Coulter says “It’s not me I’m citing, it’s a stunning number of physicists”. She said that there’s science going WAY back about how low doses of radiation may be a good thing.

What IS she talking about?


Ms Coulter is referring to a “scientific” idea known as hormesis. It is the brainchild of  Dr. Abraham Lessismore (Montgomery Junior College) who tried to poison some  geese which were despoiling his dock. Couldn’t get rid of them. Tried everything. Finally decided it was time to stop foolin’ around.

Lessismore, a graduate student in 1998, couldn’t afford the recommended 10 bags  of  Gretchen’s Goose Killer so he only bought one . “I figured it might not kill ALL a those sonna bitches but even two or three would make me happy.”

Lessismore spread the Goose Killer stuff  and watched the geese peck at it while he crouched behind his fake coyote to enjoy the dying paroxysms of these horrible creatures.

When they had finished eating the Goose Killer, they stood around. Lessismore, thought the fat one looked bad.

It wobbled.

Then it turned turned toward him, locked eyes,  and pooped.

Large one.

It  fluffed its wings, and waddled away.

After some time, it occurred to Lessismore that the poison hadn’t harmed the geese at all. If anything, the flock appeared sturdier than before. They had  more energy. The one with the growth on its neck? Was he imagining it? Each day, the growth appeared smaller. Eventually, the growth disappeared and that goose turned up leading a group of new hatchlings.

Undaunted by his failure to roust the geese, Dr. L turned to the scientific implications of what he had just witnessed. Giving the geese a reduced dose of a toxin didn’t result in reduced casualties and, instead, seemed to have some kind of curative effect. This, it seemed to Lessismore, could be a new scientific principle. Thus was born the idea of “Hormesis”.

(If you don’t believe my goose story, here’s another version of the thing.)


Are things that are bad  in large doses, good  in small doses? Sure. That’s why medicines have labels. A truck full of aspirin would probably give you a REAL headache, wouldn’t it?

Researchers such as Edward Calabrese   believe toxins in low doses stimulate some kind of protective reaction without doing real damage. The problem? The evidence is weak and confusing which isn’t surprising. There’s always a “signal to noise” issue when you’re measuring something very small.

And some of the researchers may be a little  “intense”. One wore a radioactive vest around for its health benefits . Enthusiasm amok.

Here’s the deal. There IS a lot of info about hormesis. If you google it, you get the impression that hormesis is the real deal.  In fact (and strangely) you don’t find much serious criticism. Not in the first 25 hits, anyway.  So I don’t blame Ann Coulter.

Not really.

Unfortunately, Googling isn’t always the best way to settle a scientific question. Sometimes you just need someone you trust and, yes, I do hope MISTER ScienceAintSoBad’s on your list.

The  basis for hormesis is pretty sketchy. Even if it is, ultimately, confirmed, it will only apply to some stuff.

What about radiation?

Let me put it this way, most physicist do NOT walk around wearing radioactive vests.

Trust me on that.

Airport Body Scanners: Good For Your Health

Posted by on Tuesday, 5 January, 2010

A Spur For Fitness?

Technology: The un-girdle.

After the attempted attack on flight 523, “body scanners” are finally getting some respect. Heathrow Airport will be using them and several hundred of them have been purchased for use in airports in and out of the US.

Good, right? Nobody want’s to get blown up.

Except for the radiation and the nudity. Overexposure on two fronts.

Let’s start with the nudity.

It doesn’t exactly make sense to say that photos like the one at the top of this article are obscene.

Proof? They’ve been run on the front pages of major newspapers and on family television stations in prime time. If you search for “body scanner” this photo shows up in Google with “strict search” on. So where’s the obscenity? Why the discomfort?

Well check out those love handles! Check out that saggy butt! No WONDER they’re throwing rocks at the scanners. I would be too.

This is the single greatest counterstrike against obesity since MacDonald’s decided against staying open all night.

I’m serious!

WEEKS before scheduled trips, travelers will be taking time off from work for exhausting river runs and torturous gym workouts. Lettuce and Tomato will be the new Big Mac.

THANK you L3 for saving our figures. And our hearts.


What about the radiation then?

According to Cnet News, there are two technologies in use. One of them uses low intensity radio waves. The other one uses backscatter radiation, an x-ray technology. And, yeah, the health benefits of x-rays are sometimes overstated.

But, according to Wikipedia, the backscatter technology amounts to .005 millirem of radiation. Since average background radiation is about 300 mrem per year, you would have to get exposed about 60,000 times by one of those backscatter doobies to get the equivalent of what you get in a year at the library. A traveler would have to make about 200 trips a day or about one departure every 3 minutes (assuming a 10 hour travel day) to achieve even that.

Imagine the air mile rewards.

So, weighing costs and benefits, for the price of some institutional indignity (and if you plan to do much flying, you might as well get over THAT), you’re gonna lose the flab and get there in one piece. But you will get enough radiation exposure to die .00003 seconds early.

Seems reasonable to MISTER ScienceAintSoBad. ScienceAintSoBadRating = 8 .

(Image above from From the Rapiscan Secure 1000(tm) Body Scanner manufactured by OSI Systems, Inc.)

Cancer Superweapons

Posted by on Tuesday, 10 November, 2009


RadiationTherapy: A Life Worth Living


It seems so somebody-else-but-not-me.

And yet.. you’re the one in the back-flapper gown.

Crappy, expensive, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and, potentially deadly, cancer is just a THING now. It CAN take you down but, mostly, it’s a bunch of medicine that you’re not gonna like; you’ll still get to see your grandkids.

At least I hope so.

The five year survival rate shows that the  Odds are now with you for most cancers.

This jibes with my own experience. MISTER ScienceAintSoBad knows several people – quite a few, actually – who have had cancer. One of them succumbed (too early) at ninety. The others? All here. All fine.

My sister’s husband, R – a fine dad and an unbelievable grandad – had a nasty oral cancer.

Things looked bad.

But R went to Israel and took advantage of some experimental stuff.

I don’t want to minimize it. It was rough.

But the cancer’s long gone and R’s doing great.

His taste buds and salivary glands, however, are good and fried. He REMEMBERS what it’s like to enjoy food.

That’s about it.

It’s a side-effect of the radiation.


Getting rid of cancer’s good. Reducing collateral damage is better.

New, more refined techniques, such as IMRT , which splits the high energy beam into hundreds of much smaller beams for finer control, and the Gamma Knife. which can even adjust to movements such as respiration or a beating heart are aimed at reducing the side effects of cancer survivors.

The newest weapons are a recognition that quality of life matters.