The following is a post by contributing author bunnie, mirrored from the bunniestudios blog.
This past weekend marked the anniversary of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake that devastated Japan. I had not felt my blood so cold since I watched the twin towers fall almost a decade earlier. I still vividly remember the twisting knots I felt in my stomach as I watched the footage of a tsunami wiping out huge swathes of Japanese countryside. In a matter of hours, entire cities were washed off the map, leaving an eerie post-apocalyptic landscape of a few survivors weeping amongst twisted wreckage. Then, in the ensuing days, Fukushima Daiichi melted down, leaving in its wake one of the worst on-going radiation contamination crisis since Chernobyl.
I have good friends in Japan, and I visit often. I wanted to do something to help, but I didn’t know what I could do. I was connected by Joi Ito to Safecast, and I joined the effort to build an open sensor network that could aggregate trustable, source-neutral radiation monitoring data. Safecast itself has many talented and hard working volunteers who have done a remarkable job of achieving their goals by instrumenting Japan with radiation monitors and aggregating data through cleverly designed and rapidly deployable mobile monitoring capabilities.
I decided my tiny contribution to the effort would be to design a radiation monitor suitable for everyday civilian use. This is a preventative/preparedness measure, addressing the long-term issue of empowering a civilian population with few available options for power generation to self-monitor their environment. The problem with the current crop of radiation monitors is that they are basically laboratory instruments: accurate & reliable, but bulky, expensive, and difficult to use, requiring a degree in nuclear physics to understand exactly what the readings meant. Another problem with crises like these is that while radiation monitoring is important, it’s something that is typically neglected by the civilian population until it is too late. Continue reading »