Radiophobia: How I learned to love radiation

Recently I wrote a book on radiophobia, the unreasoning fear of radiation. The Apple ebook is available at:

Most of the chapters are written at an easily accessible level though a few are somewhat more difficult. I chose the topic from personal interest, I wanted to know the answer myself. Originally I had hoped to write a 2500 word essay for a friend to put on his blog, but things got more complicated. After two years of learning, research and writing it was evident that the topic had spun itself into a book. If you have an interest, the Table of Contents and Prologue follow:

Table of Contents


1|    A Brief History of Radiophobia

2|     How I Learned to Love Radiation

3|    Exposure to the Radium Girls

4|    Fallout

5|    Daigo Fukuryu Maru

6|    A Bit of Background

7|    Ugly Facts

8|    The Life Span Study

9|    Low Dose Rate Radiation

10|    CT or not CT …

11|     More about CATs

12|    Radioiodine Therapy

13|    Radio-Contaminated Buildings

14|    Reactor Accidents

15|    Fukushima


You may not know it but you already love radiation. Radiation warms us, caresses us, soothes us. We pay the big bucks to get more, but oddly, if you get a show of hands, many people despise radiation, rating it somewhere between dysentery and cancer. 

Perhaps you just prefer certain radiations.

It may have been because I was born near Chalk River and the emanations penetrated my soul, but Nuclear Physics intrigues me, and has done for many years. If I was to characterize my nuclear knowledge I would say it was miles wide and an inch deep. So not an expert, but don’t use that to quickly dismiss what i say, there are situations  where knowing a little about a lot may be an advantage.

Another advantage, I have no dog in the fight, no funding to worry about, no previous research to uphold, no peers to upbraid me, no reputation to lose. I am almost a free agent with one particular bias, I think we must research and develop nuclear power for the benefit of mankind, the potential is far too great to throw nuclear into the dustbin of history. That said, I will try to be impartial and maintain a scientific objectivity.

One of my long term undertakings has been to explore ways to teach  science by interactive projects and computer programs. This project on radiophobia began as I was working through a unit on radiation and radioactivity. With a couple of sections to go,  I faltered and  came to a sudden halt. 

I had intended to write a page or two on the dangers of radiation but the research I was doing was coming to three contradictory conclusions all seemingly supported by observations and research. 

There were three competing hypotheses: 

  • the generally accepted Linear No Threshold hypothesis that advocates that radiation is dangerous at any level 
  • the upstart Radiation Threshold hypothesis that postulates that small amounts of radiation are not harmful, and 
  • the unorthodox Hormesis hypothesis that argues that small doses of radiation are actually beneficial.

Rather than tossing a three-sided coin I launched myself into this project. Here is the result.

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