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Radiation

Nuclear weapons are a paradox. No one in their right mind wants to use one, but if they're to act as a deterrent, they need to be accessible. The trick is to make sure that access is only available to those with the proper authority. To prevent a real life General Jack D Ripper from starting World War III, Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Defense Technologies Division is developing a system that uses a nuclear weapon's own radiation to protect itself from tampering. Read More
It’s been a common trope in films since the 1950s; a madman with an atomic bomb holds a city for ransom while the authorities race to find it in time. If such a thing ever does come about, Sandia National Laboratories is working on taking the suspense out of the situation with its Mobile Imager of Neutrons for Emergency Responders (MINER) – a nuclear device detector capable of narrowing a search to within a city block without door-to-door sweeps. Read More
Dealing with highly infectious diseases like Ebola is often like a logic problem. Disinfecting rooms is hard enough, but what about protective suits? True, they greatly reduce the chances of infection, but getting them off can bring the risk straight back again if the suit isn't decontaminated first. Xenex has created protocols that conform to those of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its a line of robots that use UV lamps that to decontaminate hospital rooms and protective clothing exposed to the Ebola virus. Read More
A new study by a team of scientists from Italy, France, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrates that the Earth's magnetic field could change polarity in less than 100 years. The last magnetic reversal occurred some 786,000 years ago and was previously thought to have taken several thousand years but, if the researchers are right, the real time it may take for the flip to occur could actually be closer to the span of a human life. Read More
Ever since the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster, there has understandably been an upsurge in the sale of consumer radiation-detecting devices. Most of these gadgets are variations on the Geiger counter, in that they alert the user to the presence and level of radiation, but not the type of radiation – which is very important to know. Researchers at Oregon State University are hoping to address that situation by developing a handheld device that will additionally tell its users what type of radionuclide is creating the radiation, and whether it poses a risk. Read More
With the launch date of the Orion next-generation spacecraft approaching fast, NASA scientists have set out what they hope to learn from its maiden launch. The test flight, dubbed EFT-1 is the first of three proving missions set to trial many of the in-flight systems essential to the success of any manned mission to Mars, or beyond. Read More
Medical physicists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are latching on to advances in the computational speed of graphics processing units (GPUs) to drastically reduce the time required to calculate radiation therapy plans. The approach also increases the accuracy of calculations, allowing for faster, more precise, and more adaptable treatment of cancer patients. Read More
Turn on any old science fiction film and odds are that you'll see someone listening to the ominous chirping of a Geiger counter. It's very dramatic, but not very precise and, unfortunately, nuclear scientists and engineers of today are stuck with the same problem. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a faster, cheaper way for nuclear power plants to detect and map dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods using a camera that maps radiation in real time. Read More
The best advice for surviving a nuclear bomb is to be somewhere else when it goes off. If that doesn't work out for you, though, a recent study carried out at the USDOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) provides some simple guidance for maximizing your chances of survival. Read More
Put a polar bear and a biophotonics expert together in a chilly room and what do you get? Potentially, better insulation. When looking to uncover the secrets of the impressive insulation properties of polar bear fur, researchers at the University of Namur in Belgium and the University of Hassan I in Morocco found that radiation plays a larger role than conduction in the insulation of polar animals, such as penguins and polar bears, than previously believed. Read More
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