March 19th, 2011

My Widdle Bwain

Unbelievable Things

I read a microblog about why there has been so little looting in Japan after the earthquake. Maybe This article, talking about the huge humanitarian efforts being conducted by the Japanese mafia, may give some idea into the mentality of a group of people who realize that after a natural disaster of this magnitude, there are more important things than material wealth.

(Please note when I say "a group of people" I mean just that. People. Not Japanese people, or fill-in-the-blank people, but just people. Based on what I've seen, I believe most people in a crisis tend to band together to help each other out. It's in the nature of our herd animal beast. I also think all the folks who say the lack of looting shows the Japanese culture is "more evolved" are whack jobs who need more faith in humanity, and need to spend more time in rural communities where of course you help each other out because that's just what people do. And now I exit that soap box.)

On the other side of unbelievable things, someone at work yesterday said to me he was shocked that Japan would be so devastated by this tsunami. Don't they build breakwaters and protect the coastline? I pointed out that they do build breakwaters, but what exactly are they supposed to do -- build a 50 foot high breakwater down the entire length of the country? That's like building a breakwater down the entire West Coast, from Seattle to San Diego. (I wanna see the Environmental Impact Report on that idea...) His point was they should build more breakwaters in susceptible areas. I failed to get across my point that the entire coastline of Japan is prone to earthquakes and resulting tsunamis.

It'll be interesting to see in the coming weeks (until something else distracts the news cycle) as statements are issued by Japanese officials and are interpreted inappropriately by US news media. The one I saw today was a statmente that the breakwaters around the nuclear facility were too short. From the US perspective, that's an admission of negligence. From the Japanese perspective, it's a statement of fact to be used in analysis and rectification of the problem. One statement, two viewpoints.
My Widdle Bwain

Becasue Everything's More Clear When Expressed In Bananas

A banana equivalent dose (BED) is a concept to place in scale the dangers of radiation by comparing exposures to the radiation generated by a common banana.

This means, thanks to the wonders of the Internet (thank you, Internet, for providing me with this handy-dandy Becquerel to Curie converter, because a week ago I'd never heard of a becquerel, much less had any idea how to convert it to nanocuries), I've been able to determine that the dose of radioactive iodine of 170 becquerels detected in the Fukushima city water supply is equivalent to 12.4 bananas. Note: That's not the dosage one receives from eating 12.4 bananas; that's how much one is exposed to radiation by 12.4 bananas.

I've had some friends and relatives express concern that I'm not planning on canceling my trip to Japan planned for the end of May, about 8 weeks from now. While I appreciate the concern, from the numbers released from the Japanese government of readings taken yesterday it looks like if I were to go to Utsunomiya (a city I plan on visiting in two months) right now, I would be exposed to and additional 5.62 bananas while I'm there. It's sweet of people to worry, but given the half life of radioactive iodine is about 8 days, I suspect that I probably will not need to wear special clothing to handle the additional five and a half bananas' worth of exposure.

(The Japanese government, by the way, lists safe exposure at the 21.9 banana level. Personally, I'm a bit concerned with how lax the US government is on their standards, since I regularly see more than 30 bananas at a time in my local supermarket.)