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RADIATION by Robert Peter Gale


What It Is, What You Need to Know

by Robert Peter Gale and Eric Lax

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-95969-0
Publisher: Knopf

A leading expert in nuclear medicine and in dealing with the aftermath of nuclear disasters offers a basis for assessing the risks associated with radiation.

With science writer Lax (Faith, Interrupted, 2011, etc.), renowned oncologist and hematologist Gale presents a primer on nuclear radiation. Writing for general readers, the author first establishes what nuclear radiation is, distinguishing the part that is man-made from that of natural origins and then what is harmful from what is not. He explains how radiation is measured and what normal background absorption rates are (per year, per person) in different parts of the world. He shows how man-made radiation has increased since nuclear weapons were developed. Surprisingly, the major component of this increase has not been weapons testing, but rather medical and nuclear diagnostics. Gale augments this discussion with a summary of what has been learned medically and scientifically from the nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as from atmospheric testing programs. Examining the half-lives of nuclear particles, the author shows how thyroid cancer and leukemia arise and how they can be treated. This background enables him to transition to the dangers of radiation in all its forms. He also discusses coal burning versus nuclear electric generation. Another surprise is just how unlikely it is for cancer-producing mutations to arise from atmospheric radiation. Gale ends with a helpful summary of his points.

A well-written extension of the reach of reason in an area fraught with phobia and hysteria.