- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 29, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307959694
- ISBN-13: 978-0307959690
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know 1st Edition
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*Starred Review* “Virtually everything is radioactive, including us.” The opening line of this stellar book underscores the omnipresence of radiation, yet, as physician Gale and science writer Lax point out, most people know little about the topic. Fear of radiation is out of proportion to the actual risks. About one-half of our radiation exposure occurs naturally, background radiation that has both cosmic and terrestrial sources. The remainder is man-made, and 80 percent of it comes from medical testing and procedures. Consider that a CT scan of your head hurls roughly the same amount of radiation toward you as if you were standing four miles from the atomic blast in Hiroshima. Readers learn about radon, food irradiation, nuclear bombs, the connection between cancer and radiation, radioactive waste, and nuclear power plants (including the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents). Lifestyle choices can collide with radiation hazards. For example, tanning booths give off approximately 12 times as much ultraviolet A radiation as our sun. A fertilizer applied to tobacco crops contains polonium-210, which likens smoking cigarettes to “intentionally inhaling a small nuclear weapon into your lungs.” Gale and Lax objectively present the danger and value of radioactivity. In content and writing, Radiation absolutely glows. --Tony Miksanek
“Eric Lax [and Robert] Gale weigh up the risks and benefits of industrial, medical and natural radiation clearly, logically and with ample science. But it is Gale’s phenomenal frontline experience that gives this book edge.”
“[Lax and] Gale’s is an invaluable guide for negotiating an increasingly radioactive world—for scientists, patients of radiation-related medical procedures, and environmentalists alike.”
“Gale and Lax objectively present the danger and value of radioactivity. In content and writing, Radiation absolutely glows.”
“A well-written extension of the reach of reason in an area fraught with phobia and hysteria.”
“Gale and Lax aim to fill in the gaps in the public understanding of all things nuclear, and they are adept at doing so. Throughout the book they present a host of interesting facts and figures in humorous and accessible prose.”
“Everyone needs to read this book; it’s compact, easy to understand, rife with interesting revelations, and it cuts through a great deal of the noise surrounding the subject [of radiation].”
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Very informative book explaining almost anything a non-expert might want to know about radiation.
Written by one of the world's foremost experts on radiation.
The writing was often confusing or rambling. If you are writing a book about a complex, controversial, and often incorrectly represented topic (like this), it is critical that the writing, editing, examples, etc. be rock solid and crystal clear. Sadly, sometimes they weren't.
This isn't a page-turner; but it isn't a dry pedantic textbook either. It is readable, but you have to work at it.
"Radiation" is an even-handed, educational and accessible book on radiation. The book covers many forms of radiation like microwaves and radio waves which have insufficient energy to alter cells to the more energetic forms known as ionizing radiations that can alter the structure of atoms. Scientist, physician, and author of twenty-two medical books, Robert Peter Gale, has teamed up with accomplished author Eric Lax to produce a readable and interesting book on an often misunderstood topic, radiation. This enlightening 288-page book is composed by the following nine chapters: 1. Assessing the Risks, 2. Radiation from Discovery to Today, 3. The Nature of Radiation, 4. Radiation and Cancer, 5. Genetic Diseases, Birth Defects, and Irradiated Food, 6. Radiation and Medicine, 7. Bombs, 8. Nuclear Power and Radioactive Waste, and Summing Up.
1. A well-researched, well-written and even-handed book. Accessible for the masses.
2. An excellent educational tool that addresses a much misunderstood topic, radiation. "The specter of radiation is so frightening to many people that it eclipses reality."
3. Understanding the main differences between the two main type of radiation: ionizing (which can cause cancer) and nonionizing (generally little harm with the exception of ultraviolet radiations).
4. The main focus of the book is to reduce the gap between what we fear and what is real about radiation. Mission accomplished.
5. The book is full of interesting facts, "Radon-222 and related radionuclides are estimated to be the most common cause of lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers."
6. The book examines some of the cancers that ionizing radiations can cause: lung, breast, thyroid, and leukemia to name a few. "Cells in the bone marrow are especially sensitive to cancer-causing mutations from ionizing radiation."
7. There are many examples provided throughout the book. The two main examples are the Chernobyl reactor building and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. "The Chernobyl reactor building was destroyed by a steam explosion, and part of the Fukushima reactor building was destroyed by an explosion of highly flammable hydrogen gas.
8. How radioactivity interacts with humans (dose). "Scientists agree that above a certain dose (usually about 50 or 100 mSv) there is a linear relationship between radiation dose and cancer risk: the higher the dose, the greater the risk."
9. The authors seamlessly provide historical scientific context into the narrative. "In 1914 Rutherford would prove that gamma rays were a form of light similar to X-rays but with a far shorter wavelength and thus penetrated deeper than the other rays or particles."
10. The difference between fission and fusion. "The difference between fission and fusion is that fusion requires a great deal more energy to start the chain reaction, but fusion also yields vastly more energy--a hydrogen (fusion) bomb is roughly one thousand times more powerful than an atomic (fission) bomb."
11. Thought-provoking issues, "people concerned about global warming are often firmly opposed to nuclear energy, yet it is the only immediately available energy source able to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions, albeit with some inherent but potentially solvable problems."
12. Chemistry plays a pivotal role, "All elements with a higher number in the periodic table than thallium (atomic number 81) have radioactive isotopes, and all isotopes of elements from polonium (number 84) and higher are radioactive".
13. The authors did a good job of establishing what we know to a high degree of certainty in some areas and where lack convincing data. "Finally, we lack convincing data that early detection of thyroid cancer results in a health benefit."
14. Putting the number of deaths that can be attributed to radioactive releases in perspective. "radiation-induced genetic abnormalities are not passed from the affected persons to their children, as studies of exposed Japanese mothers and their children make clear."
15. Some of the well known causes of cancer, "But smoking a cigarette is, in some regards, like intentionally inhaling a small nuclear weapon into your lungs. Cigarette manufacturers have known about the presence of polonium-210 in tobacco since the 1960s." And some factors that don't cause cancer, "Nonionizing radiations, like those associated with microwaves and cell phones, are not convincingly associated with an increased cancer risk."
16. The difference between genetic disorders and birth defects. "Changes in the number of chromosomes are also important. For example, children with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome 21, whereas girls with Turner syndrome are missing one X-chromosome."
17. And what's not to love about evolution, "We may wonder why whales and dolphins living in water have their bone marrow stem cells in bone cavities. This is because they derive from terrestrial ancestors."
18. Interesting topic of food irradiation. "Food irradiation has the potential to save millions more lives than it harms, especially since it very probably does no harm."
19. Medical applications of radiation, "The conclusion that people at high risk for lung cancer should have screening radiological studies remains controversial but presently favors screening."
20. A look at nuclear weapons. "About 50 percent of the energy released by the A-bombs was blast energy, about 35 percent was thermal energy, and only about 15 percent was radiation, most of it neutrinos that did not contaminate the area."
21. An excellent summary chapter, an engaging Questions and Answers section.
22. Bibliography provided.
1. The book warranted more charts and diagrams within the narrative of the book.
2. Intended for the masses the book lacks depth.
3. The book needed more citations.
4. Free radicals is a fairly hot topic and warranted at the very least a citation.
In summary, I enjoyed reading this book. It's well-written, well-researched and it takes a complex topic such as radiation and makes it not only accessible but quite enjoyable to read. The authors treated the topic even handedly and really did a good job of educating the public of what to fear and what is real about radiation. The book lacks depth, warranted more citations and would have been better served with more diagrams as part of the main narrative of the book. That being said, this book achieved its main goal of closing the gap between fear and knowledge. I highly recommend it!
Further recommendations: "Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know" by Charles D. Ferguson, "Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Muller, Richard A." by Richard A. Muller, "Clean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It" by Osha Gray Davidson, "The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment" by Chris Martenson, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition" by Richard Rhodes, and "The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians" by Cynthia C. Kelly.