Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
To put it in other way, how can you verify what the "custom ready shiny instrument" is saying with more basic means?

If you trust that the manufacturer is not completely full of shit, you can read the specifications to see whether it is capable of doing what you want it to do.

If you're just looking at one on TV, you have no way to reassure yourself that it does what the newsies claim it does. Even if the manufacturer is honest (which he usually is), and even if the newsie understands the difference between a dosimeter a Geiger counter (which he usually doesn't), the TV format is not conducive to providing verifiable facts.

When I see something measuring radiation on TV, I tend to assume that it's a Geiger counter, because those are sufficiently useful that you want them around and sufficiently simple (and cheap) that they can be issued in bulk. They also make better TV than dosimeters, because Geiger counters go click-click-click, while dosimeters are quiet until they tell you to haul ass (and a newsie won't be allowed to come along if there's even a remote chance that the dosimeter will tell him to haul ass at some point during the show). Geiger counters measure Becquerel, however, and any conversion from Bq to Sv/h must necessarily rely on some pre-set assumptions about the distribution of radioactive atoms and the ratio between ambient and internal exposure.

As a practical matter, you use the Geiger counter to tell whether you are in one of four kinds of situation:

  1. Safe, so far.

  2. Leave as soon as practical.


  4. You'll be dead within the hour anyway. Might as well get the job done while you're here.

You don't need three significant figures to make that distinction.

Do you know other measurements that are comparatively hard to replicate independently?

Oh, lots. Particulate pollution levels and pollen readings, just off the top of my head.

What I can not recall off the top of my head is one that combines this level of obscurity with quite so strong vested interests.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 4th, 2011 at 11:46:23 PM EST
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