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Japan Open Source Science

Crowdsourcing Radiation Monitoring In Japan 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the help-find-godzilla's-birthplace dept.
fysdt writes "A new open- and crowdsourced initiative to deploy more geiger counters all over Japan looks to be a go. Safecast, formerly RDTN.org, recently met and exceeded its $33,000 fund-raising goal on Kickstarter, which should help Safecast send between 100 and 600 geiger counters to the catastrophe-struck country. The data captured from the geiger counters will be fed into Safecast.org, which aggregates radiation readings from government, nonprofit, and other sources, as well as into Pachube, a global open-source network of sensors."
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Crowdsourcing Radiation Monitoring In Japan

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  • by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @05:01AM (#36061362) Journal

    We're talking about their money and of course it's their choice how to spend it, but everyone please remember that the "catastrophe-struck country" is the fourth richest country in the world (even the third one, if we count individual EU states separately).

    They don't need money, much less having stuff physically delivered there. If you really want hundreds of Geiger counters in Japan, don't buy them in the US and have them delivered to Japan, just send the money there and buy the thingy things directly in Japan (hint: they're probably manufactured in China anyway, think about the two alternatives on a world map).

    And to the people that donated to this cause: that's your money but I assure you that there are way better ways to donate it. Like letting people that are actually experts on the subject [doctorswit...orders.org] decide which part(s) of the world need it more at any given time.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Fourth richest?
      Is that why they are in debt?
      http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110210-704337.html [wsj.com]
      I know the religion debate is in another thread, but seriously... how can you equate wealth to puppy dogs and fairy tails?
      Sure people work, and produce... but why project this to increase/decrease based on "feelings" and "faith"?
      Fuck our world financial system is retarded. Yes... "Futures", legal gambling on the middle and lower class.
    • by loufoque (1400831)

      Huh? Aren't they the second richest country in the world?

      • by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @05:29AM (#36061464) Journal

        Huh? Aren't they the second richest country in the world?

        No. The EU, the US and China all have a higher GDP than Japan, according to all the commonly used sources. You can start with a list of countries by GDP [wikimedia.org] or the same list using PPP GDP [wikimedia.org] if you prefer.

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          The EU isn't a country.

          And China getting past Japan must be pretty recent.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Of course it is a country. It has a flag, an anthem, its own police and military forces, a parliament and a cabinet, a president, general elections, its own currency, its own borders, its own ambassadors, common foreign policy, an international legal personality, and, most importantly, since December 1, 2009, sovereign authority over all of its territories, overruling the local, errrr, "national" "governments", even the constitutions of member "states".

            • Common foreign policy? I guess the Italians, Germans, and French all disagreeing on military action in Libya is just anti-EU propaganda then! Seriously though I think you overstate the predominance of the EU at this time. Economically having a single currency kind of makes them a country I suppose if you're talking about GDP. I think you'd have a hard time convincing Bulgarians and Germans that they lived in the same country though.
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Huh? Aren't they the second richest country in the world?

          No. The EU, the US and China all have a higher GDP than Japan, according to all the commonly used sources. You can start with a list of countries by GDP [wikimedia.org] or the same list using PPP GDP [wikimedia.org] if you prefer.

          GDP is misleading on its own, you need to use the average product per person to see how well off people actually are in that country overall. China might have a higher GDP, but it's got a lot more people than Japan.

    • (even the third one, if we count individual EU states separately).

      I'd certainly hope we'd count individual EU 'states' seperately, as they are after all separate countries.

    • Just as a curiosity, why _wouldn't_ you count individual EU states separately? EU states are actual countries, you know?

      • Is the EU a country? (Score:5, Informative)

        by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @05:54AM (#36061566) Journal

        Just as a curiosity, why _wouldn't_ you count individual EU states separately? EU states are actual countries, you know?

        That's certainly true but AFAICT the EU itself is also in the process of slowly becoming a country (arguably it already is, since December 1, 2009 [wikimedia.org] when it acquired international legal personality independent of its member states). The power within it has been for decades constantly moved from inter-government negotiations between the individual members to EU-wide shared institutions (e.g. the European Commission and the Parliament).

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          AFAICT the EU itself is also in the process of slowly becoming a country (arguably it already is

          Slight correction: you're totally wrong.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Just as a curiosity, why _wouldn't_ you count individual EU states separately? EU states are actual countries, you know?

        You might be mixed up. What you're thinking of sounds more like sales, labor, and distribution regions. Think in terms of larger units big enough to have no one above them imposing taxes.... you know.... like General Electric

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Are they really? Because it's my impression that actual countries run their own affairs.

        I left the world assembly on nationstates just because they wanted to force circumcision on my people. The EU is trying to do shit like stop people from being able to grow their own medicinal herbs. The EU is big business' bitch and the nations which looked at the USA and said "a union will solve all our problems" and then signed on are peopled with sheeple. Just like the nation which they emulated.

        • The EU is trying to do shit like stop people from being able to grow their own medicinal herbs.

          Bullshit. Please point me to the exact law, with page and line number to support that claim.

          What they are doing is trying to stop people from selling snake oil as medication. If it is sold as medication, it has to go through the same testing as any other medication... which shouldn't be a problem for the sellers if it works. Why do you think they are up in arms against that concept? Said legislation has sadly become necessary thanks to the (in)famous Dr Matthias Rath and his ilk. You will find that the very

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            If it is sold as medication, it has to go through the same testing as any other medication... which shouldn't be a problem for the sellers if it works.

            So who is going to pay for the testing for mint to be certified for relieving stomach upset, which it most certainly does? It's a stupid law and you are a stupid person for supporting it. There should simply be multiple grades of claim that you can make on your packaging, with one being official and anything else being just some blather on the package. Using the official logo inappropriately is a crime. But instead because of some stupid people following one unscrupulous character you are willing to throw o

            • So do you admit that your original point was total bullshit? Good, we're making some progress but you just moved the goalposts. Said law already has exceptions for known effective traditional medications... even for a few that are nothing but snake oil (oscillococcinum, homeopathy in general).

              Also, calling other people "stupid" when they point out your ignorance of the point at hand is ironic.

            • There should simply be multiple grades of claim that you can make on your packaging, with one being official and anything else being just some blather on the package. Using the official logo inappropriately is a crime.

              Like selling tested medication as medication and the non-tested stuff as "dietary supplement", and making it a crime to sell untested medication as medication? Hmm, congratulations, you just described that law you keep calling "stupid" even tho you obviously have no clue about it.

    • I agree that Japan's problem is not lack of money. However, Japan does have a serious problem in regards to appropriate allocation of resources in response to recent events, specifically when it comes to transparent measurement data of radiation (which is not unique to Japan). So, if you wanted to donate to Japan, this was a good way to do it.

      Personally, though, I see this developing into something like the fon [fon.com] network, with global participation only requiring you buy a compatible device. In times like t
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        There was an interview with an expert in radiation leaks on BBC Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago that discussed citizens sourcing their own data. Even if you give them calibrated instruments you have to account for people positioning them incorrectly or not getting them re-calibrated every year or two. It helps if you are sending out known good instruments like this project does, unlike the current situation where we have lots of data coming in but no way to even guess at its accuracy. There have been lots of

    • Removes the dependency upon the government...interpretation...of the numbers, though. That alone is worth the price of admission, for what you learn from Japan applies to your own nation, should you have a nuclear facility - or if the neighbors do.
    • by drolli (522659)

      Donate to the international red cross. i am sure they already spent some resources in Japan. If you donate then they can prepare for the next disaster.

  • Great... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fullback (968784) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @05:04AM (#36061376)

    except Google Earth had a network sites for monitoring set up throughout Japan within a few days of the Fukushima news - government sites, university sites, private companies with monitoring, individuals with geiger counters. This site is near my house: http://www.aist.go.jp/aist_e/taisaku/en/measurement/index.html [aist.go.jp]

    The radiation in Tokyo is less than the radiation in New York, so many places have stopped monitoring continuously now. According to most of the press, we should have been dead by now...

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Well I just arrived. So I agree. I'm looking for this entire country of living, but dead corpses. But I haven't seen anyone running up to go snack on my brains. Well except some idol's but everyone knows they already have weird fetishes.

      • by camperslo (704715)

        Excuse me for interrupting, but I think the "too much brain" threads are just down the hall :)

        It seems like most of the people have been kept pretty well out of the way of very high-dose radiation and short term effects. But there will be some with long term effects, developing breast or thyroid conditions, appearing in 10 or 20 years or more. Those hit will mostly be among those that are children now, females especially, that drank milk with Iodine 131 in it. The U.S. has had these things happen as a re

  • lying. That is what I predict. Because that's what they always do. Lying, covering up, lobbying, extorting - that's what they usually try. The reasons nuclear technology is having such acceptance problems has a lot to do with this. The mitsne ("planed failure mode") brouhaha is iconic for an industry with its head deeply in the sand (or did I get the exact nature of the damp place wrong?).

    The nuclear industry has a completely authoritarian, reckless and corrupt management. I would not be surprised if they d

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How can you cover up something you can easily measure yourself with a $200 device?

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Are you one of those Greenpeace Hippies?

      Seek facts not propaganda.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Japanese need to advertise for aspiring super heros and send them to the reactor where they can get their superpowers.
    (Bitten by radioactive spiders etc.)
      Once a sufficient quantity of super heros have been made, they can use them to clean up the damage and fix the reactors.
    The Japanese just need to ensure that the intentions of the super heros are pure else they will create super villeins.

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      A person who is only allowed to work on his lord/employer's land would qualify as a villein [wikipedia.org] even if his intentions are pure.

  • Problematic data (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08, 2011 @05:29AM (#36061466)

    Measuring radiation correctly is an expert task ! Without knowing the origin of the radiation, it's type and energy, the use of Geiger Counter is pretty much useless. One can get random numbers by using the wrong apparatus on the wrong radiation. In some case, the Geiger counter will over-react on the wrong radiation (e.g. x-rays), other radiation (e.g alphas) will not even enter the device. By having thousand of non-specialist running around with Geiger Counters, you will collect mainly garbage. But apparently that's what everyone (especially governments) want to do today. Collect data. Store it. Use it. Even if wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      You are making the wrong, stupid, bullshit complaints.

      If the radiation detector is built with the proper non-removable shield then they will only be able to measure useful types of radiation. But more seriously, they need to clean the probe, they need to take into account standing radiation sources.

      Masses of asses COULD collect this data with no training, but it would take a more advanced counter which gave directions similar to an AED, and which had a GPS and an accelerometer in it so you can tell if it's

      • by khallow (566160)

        It's hard not to get that creepy feeling in your stomach at times like this...

        Keep in mind that nuclear plants throughout the US, EU, etc still monitor radiation as does the US military. If there ever is an issue from some nuclear plant accident, it'd be noticed even without the EPA directly involved.

      • by Wdi (142463)

        Why are posts of people demonstrably without knowledge rated "insightful" ?

        "If the radiation detector is built with the proper non-removable shield then they will only be able to measure useful types of radiation"

        Sorry, but such a shielding does not exist (in handheld devices, if you are willing to literally invest in a ton of electromagnets, this is a different matter).

        In order to measure alpha particles, there must be the smallest possible amount of matter between the outside world and the detector. Your

        • The fission products that are a problem during this kind of accident are almost completely dominated by beta and gamma emitters. At least during the first few hundred years. Also, after a alpha or beta decay there is very frequently a subsequent gamma that is much easier to detect. The isotope that emitted it can be determined by the energy spectrum ( but a Geiger tube will not do that very well ). Furthermore, since most of the transuranic alpha emitters do not exist in nature, it is quite feasible to dete

      • by imsabbel (611519)

        >If the radiation detector is built with the proper non-removable shield then they will only be able to measure useful types of radiation. But more seriously, they need to clean the probe, they need to take into account standing radiation sources.

        You dont know shit, surprising as this might seem considering that you are talking out of your ass.

      • by sjames (1099)

        France has already recommended that its people not eat certain foods due to fallout.

        Based on a ludicrously low threshold level of 10 microsieverts (100 bananas) that is exceeded daily

        by background radiation in many exotic faraway places like Colorado.

      • Yes. We should DEFINITELY start doing this in the US. After all the EPA just concluded that the radiation levels are so low now that they can't even detect it. That sounds like the perfect time to redouble our measuring.

        *The local university here just dramatically scaled back their measuring program as well since they can't really see anything anymore either.*

        It's funny how in the same day Slashdot can be all up in arms about the "Anti-Science" Texan school board. And then act like even more paranoid a

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Clearly the EPA needs to increase their radiation measuring. The fact that they cannot detect any is proof positive that they aren't trying hard enough.

  • by Wdi (142463) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @06:37AM (#36061740)

    Measuring radiation is not as simple as measuring a temperature (and even that is something nobody wants to entrust an amateur with for the purpose of weather forecasts, etc.).

    Depending on sample geometry, distance to sample, even atmospheric conditions for alpha/beta radiation, not to forget cleanliness of the counter, measurements can easily be different by a factor of 1000 or more (!) if you just hand a counter to a lay person and ask him/her to determine some radiation level out in the nature.

    Without calibration, test sample verification, standard equipment, and very precise instructions on sample preparation and measurement conditions, the collected data is absolutely worthless.

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      So another FAIL idea on kickstarter? I am jack's complete lack of surprise.
    • by freaklabs (1359341) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @07:21AM (#36061860)
      Actually we're working with health physicists that were at Three Mile Island and geiger manufacturers. We also have two gamma spectrometers that we're using to identify isotopes and we're putting together data templates so that people who upload data can also mention the tube, conversion factor, CPM, orientation, etc. We're also collaborating with local universities who are also helping us collect data and will be using it in their research.
      • by Radworker (227548)

        That is interesting. Considering that anything that operates in the GM range is not effective at measuring anything. It is good at detecting, yes but quantifying no. To do the work you need something that operates in the semi-proportional range like say an RO-2 dose-rate meter. You also need to take open shield/closed shield readings to help you identify beta/gamma levels. Alpha is an entirely different matter that a GM tube doesn't even see. To do the work properly you would need to take air samples

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Without calibration, test sample verification, standard equipment, and very precise instructions on sample preparation and measurement conditions, the collected data is absolutely worthless.

      Calibration: once every year is more than sufficient. Once every three years serves for most modern devices. Geometry, distance to sample: They are going to be measuring background radiation, so this is only relevant in that you need to move around and see if the reading changes. Atmospheric conditions: The whole fucking point is to measure atmospheric conditions, you idiot. Cleanliness: These are people who go to a housewares store and buy a special soft-bristled brush to wash out their plastic soda and t

      • by Wdi (142463) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @09:45AM (#36063022)

        Using curse words does not prove any competence.

        I do actually have radiochemistry training, and your arguments show that you do not have any significant domain expertise at all. But this has never stopped anybody from posting, or insulting people, has it?

        Hand-held Geiger counters, as shown on the picture in the article, and this is what I presume will be distributed, are only useful for very limited scenarios, such as
        a) It's ticking, I should not go any deeper into this reactor housing/nuclear explosion ground
        b) It's ticking. I spilled something on the lab bench/I stepped into something and should decontaminate.
        c) Measure something really well mixed, like Radon gas in basements, or clean analytical solutions (*not* anything from ponds or puddles, the radioactive isotopes are generally adsorbed to colloidal matter in these samples, and that brings all kinds of problems). For the latter, use a well-defined sample volume and measurement geometry for reproducible readings.

        As for the diluted fallout from a reactor, that is very, very different from those scenarios. We are mostly talking about solid aerosol particles, in deposited form or drifting with the wind, which are very unevenly distributed, tend to accumulate in unexpected places, and generally stick to matter.

        So this is NOT
        - atmospheric monitoring. Radon or other well-distributed radioactive gases are a very minor factor
        - fixed and standardized geometry. The picture in the article shows somebody pointing a counter to the ground. This may or may not a location where the average concentration has been enhanced or diluted. And with gamma rays, the normal square distance law applies, so minimal distance variations have a large effect. For alpha and beta, the distance law has an even higher power, because the particles collide with air molecules, or water droplets in the air.
        - Cleanliness is a very major factor, and not just for the case of somebody sticking a counter into a puddle. If you just put a counter onto a mast, a radioactive aerosol particle may or may not deposit on the surface of the counter - and then stick. If it sticks, it will overpower any other radiation background, just because it is so much closer to the counter, and give much exaggerated readings. If nothing happens to fall on the counter, it will underestimate the dangers- if a radioactive alpha or beta particle is drifting by within just a few centimeters, hardly anything will register because of the very limited range of this type of radiation. Air-borne aerosol contamination can only be measured reliably by sucking large, measured amounts of air through a well-defined filter, and then measuring the radiation of the filter. Simple hand-held devices are completely useless for this purpose, even if they are dusted of weekly.
        - In any case, the most important task will likely be to identify hot spots *on the ground, or in water*, where major aerosol deposits have accumulated, probably aided by solution/evaporation processes, and then treat these, before they get airborne again.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Amen. People are completely clueless as to the amount of atoms required to get a given reading and thus how easily your detection device is contaminated. There is a reason to have a thin plastic cover over the detector window, and why this plastic cover needs to be changed VERY OFTEN, or it becomes useless. Heck, you even have to decontaminate the measuring device if you enter high level radiation area and then leave as stuff would get stuck to the actual device.

          As you wrote, typical Geiger counters are gre

  • 30 years ago I proposed putting radiation sensors in watches. When cell phones became common, I asked why cell phones don't incorporate them.

    I wonder if the current mess in Japan will bring cell phone radiation detectors to the market?

    Or if it has already?

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