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Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

Jorgensen, Timothy J.

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ISBN 10: 0691165033 / ISBN 13: 9780691165035
Published by Princeton University Press
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Num Pages: 496 pages, 17 halftones. 8 line illus. BIC Classification: PDX; PDZ; PNRL; PSD. Category: (G) General (US: Trade); (U) Tertiary Education (US: College). Dimension: 229 x 152. . . 2016. Hardcover. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780691165035

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: New

About this title


More than ever before, radiation is a part of our modern daily lives. We own radiation-emitting phones, regularly get diagnostic x-rays, such as mammograms, and submit to full-body security scans at airports. We worry and debate about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safety of nuclear power plants. But how much do we really know about radiation? And what are its actual dangers? An accessible blend of narrative history and science, Strange Glow describes mankind's extraordinary, thorny relationship with radiation, including the hard-won lessons of how radiation helps and harms our health. Timothy Jorgensen explores how our knowledge of and experiences with radiation in the last century can lead us to smarter personal decisions about radiation exposures today.

Jorgensen introduces key figures in the story of radiation―from Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays, and pioneering radioactivity researchers Marie and Pierre Curie, to Thomas Edison and the victims of the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Tracing the most important events in the evolution of radiation, Jorgensen explains exactly what radiation is, how it produces certain health consequences, and how we can protect ourselves from harm. He also considers a range of practical scenarios such as the risks of radon in our basements, radiation levels in the fish we eat, questions about cell-phone use, and radiation's link to cancer. Jorgensen empowers us to make informed choices while offering a clearer understanding of broader societal issues.

Investigating radiation's benefits and risks, Strange Glow takes a remarkable look at how, for better or worse, radiation has transformed our society.

From the Author:

People like to get their learning in the form of stories. If you tell an engaging and compelling story, people will learn something from it and they will retain that knowledge. So that's what I attempt to do in Strange Glow. The book is the story of man's encounters with radiation, and how mankind has been transformed by the experience. The story is told with an emphasis on the human aspects, and it is told from a health-centric perspective. The goal is to integrate the technological aspects of radiation within the human experience and, thereby, remove some of the mystery and misunderstanding that surrounds radiation. Nevertheless, this is not a book about lessening your fear of radiation. Fear is a very subjective emotion, driven by many factors. The only thing that this book can achieve is to present the facts about radiation as objectively and evenhandedly as possible, leaving its readers to decide for themselves which aspects of radiation they should fear.
    Another purpose of this book is to dispel the myth that the subject of radiation risks is so complicated that it is beyond the capability of ordinary people to grasp, leaving as their only recourse reliance on radiation "experts." This is simply not true. Intelligent people, even those lacking any technical background, should be able to understand the fundamental principles that drive radiation risk and make their own decisions about how large a threat radiation poses to them individually and to society at large. This book seeks to convince people that they can be masters of their own radiation fate, and to empower them to make their own well-informed decisions about their personal radiation exposures.
     Lastly, this book is an experiment in risk communication. The open question is whether radiation risks can be characterized accurately and effectively without reliance on a lot of mathematics, tables, and graphs. These highly quantitative approaches have proved to be largely ineffective in communicating the essence of risk to the public. This book is devoid of graphs and tables and keeps the mathematics to a minimum. Instead, it tries to instill a sense of the magnitude of the threat through a historical scientific narrative about the people who encountered radiation of various types and dose levels, and the health consequences of those exposures. In this way, we can get an accurate sense of the level of the radiation hazard even without a detailed understanding of the underlying technology.
     If I have done my job well, all readers of this book will enjoy interesting stories of scientific discovery while, at the same time, learn a tremendous amount about radiation. They should also find their new understanding of radiation personally useful in many practical ways. I hope you will find it so.

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