Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Blog on the Blog Roll: ScienceWonk and Radiation Risks

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) is a non-profit group that is dedicated to providing rigorous, objective, evidence-based analysis and practical policy recommendations on national and international security issues connected to applied science and technology. It was founded in 1945 by many of the scientists who built the first atomic bombs.

Looking at their website, I see that FAS is mainly concerned with national security, and also with science education and basic science. In other words, FAS and I would might have never crossed paths. However, Cheryl Rofer of Nuclear Diner recommended a new FAS blog, ScienceWonk, to nuclear bloggers like myself. I have just added it to the blog roll.

ScienceWonk is written by Dr. Y, a certified health physicist with 30 years experience in nuclear power and related fields, including planning for radiological emergencies. Dr. Y writes about radiation risks and other risks. For example, one post is called Putting Radiation Risk in Perspective. This post includes a link to the irradiated gemstone scare stories of a few years ago. Another post about airport screening safety includes a discussion of low-dose effects. Here's a fine quote:

Science is a field that makes predictions that can be tested and falsified – any putative risk from exposure to 100 mrem is far too small to be detected via epidemiological studies of the affected populations and the hypothesis that this harm is taking place cannot be tested and cannot be falsified. As such, until our epidemiological tools improve, such speculations are intriguing but may not be scientific because of this lack of falsifiability – they represent a belief or even a philosophy rather than a scientific position.

I hope you will enjoy ScienceWonk.

Oh yes, and visit Nuclear Diner, too! It includes a discussion forum and a blog. Nuclear Diner is open to people in favor of nuclear power and those opposed to it. Cheryl Rofer is one of the founders of Nuclear Diner, and she's also the one who told me about the ScienceWonk blog.

Sunday on La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat, was done with the technique of pointillism. If you look at the dots, you see dots. You have to step back from the canvas to see the big picture. Dr. Y used it as an illustration in one of the ScienceWonk posts.


TheHealthPhysicist said...

Dr. Y fails to consider that virtually no one is exposed to 100 mrem. Virtually all of us are exposed to about 350 mrem or more. And guess what? We get cancer (about 42% incidence). Ionizing and UV radiation are the most ubiquitous sources of carcinogens we are all exposed to (obviously there are others). Epidemiology can't discern the effects of 100 mrem above the 350 mrem we typically get. But the overall dose response from the 350 mrem to where epidemiology can discern is linear. But even more importantly, we understand the underlying mechanisms, we don't have to depend simply on epidemiology.

TheHealthPhysicist said...

I noticed I meant to write "350 mrem/yr", not just "350 mrem". Since most cancers are diagnosed after age 60, this equates to over about 21 rem of dose. Of course there is no discernable difference between 21 rem and 21.1 rem.

Meredith Angwin said...

You assert that the dose response from 350 mrem a year to "where epidemiology can discern" is linear. Two problems here. First: You don't have any proof for that assertion. Second: you don't use the word "linear" the way it is ordinarily used. For you, a "linear response" can have quadratic terms.

Until you admit that linear (straight line) equations don't include x^2 terms, I don't think it is worth arguing with you about any of your other assertions.