Citizen Science Meetup

Above: Citizens in Santa Cruz, Calif., collect water samples for the Our Radioactive Ocean project. (Credit: WHOI) Safecast has been fortunate to have meaningful outreach to the wider citizen science community in Japan and abroad. Last December we were invited to a meeting in Hong Kong of over 30 Asia-based citizen science groups, hosted by National Geographic. One outcome of this has been a good mutually supportive relationship between Safecast and Citizen Science.Asia , particularly through their Japan Ambassador Emu-Felicitas Miyashita. On Sunday, March 24, we’re joining forces to mark the 8th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster by highlighting a wide range of Japan-related citizen science activity. The event will feature presentations about several intriguing citizen science projects as well as hands-on time so attendees can familiarize themselves with the techniques these groups use. It’s free and open to the public and we hope everyone can attend. Title : Mizu, Mapping, Micro: Citizen Science in Japan Today Co-organized by Safecast and Citizen Science.Asia Date : Sunday, March 24, 2019 Time : 15:00 – 18:00  Location: Loftwork COOOP 10  Dogenzaka Pia 10F, 1-22-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo-to, Japan, 150-0043  MAP HERE SPEAKERS: — Azby Brown, Safecast — Emu Felicitas-Miyashita, Citizen Science.Asia  — Dr. Ken Buesseler, WHOI — Featured speaker. Dr. Buesseler is a marine radiochemist who leads the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been monitoring ocean radiation since before the Fukushima disaster, and established the “Our Radioactive Ocean” project which crowdsources ocean water sample collection to monitor post-Fukushima ocean radiation on the Pacific coast of North America.  See his recent article about the impact of citizen science at Scientific American. — Mr. Nagayama Kuniaki, Life is Small — 3d-printed Digital Microsope attachment for smartphones  — Mr. Sayama Kouichi,  Mizu to Midori no Kenkyuukai …

Launching into 2019

It’s February 1st here in Tokyo already and it’s hard to believe we’re already a month into 2019. Before we realize it the summer will be here and then we’ll be talking about plans for 2020 so before all that happens we thought we’d take a quick moment to recap and let you in on some of the news here at Safecast HQ. Last year fires broke out around Los Angeles including burning through the Santa Susana Field Laboratory sparking concern about the disbursement of radioactive materials from the lab. The power of the Safecast volunteer network was immediately evident as our existing Solarcast sensors in LA were able to give real time radiation and air quality reports around the city, and volunteers with mobile bGeigie sensors took it upon themselves to remap the areas around the fire and lab locations removing concern of any kind of official “cover up” by providing independent 3rd party data. This is a perfect example of what we are trying to build with Safecast. New for 2019 we’re excited to welcome Angela Eaton as our Americas Director! Based in San Francisco, she’ll be working closely with Pieter Franken (Japan Director), Sean Bonner (Global Director) and Joi Ito (Spiritual Advisor) on the task of figuring out the big picture questions like what Safecast will be doing tomorrow, and how to make that happen as well as more targeted issues of community, coverage and outreach in North, Central and South America. More from and about her soon, but we’re absolutely delighted to have her on the team. As mentioned the other day we’ve begun a new series of educational workshops in Japan. The more we talk about individuals being able to monitor their own environments and how anyone can take the steps to do that, the …

Safecast workshops in Aizu, Fukushima

Above: A young participant at the Aizu University workshop builds a kGeigie. In December, Safecast held two interesting workshops in Aizu, Fukushima. As we often point out, this kind of educational outreach, which first began as informally-organized workshops and discussions, has become an increasingly important part of Safecast’s activity. Because of this we’ve developed workshop “packages” than can be modified to suit various age ranges and group sizes. One is what we call our basic “citizen science” workshop, which has three modules: 1) Introduction to citizen science ideas and the Safecast project, 2) Basic hands-on introduction to radiation, and 3) building a simple kGeigie radiation detector. We initially developed this format for the Mori Kids Summer Science Workshops, and have gradually refined it. Our other primary workshop type teaches people how to build and use bGeigie Nanos. We’ve done dozens of these around the world with many age groups, and Safecast members outside of Japan have been able to orgnize their own as well. One of the Aizu workshops was held at the Nishiaizu Art Village , housed in an old converted school building in this small mountain town, where we also installed a Pointcast realtime radiation sensor. The other was held at University of Aizu, and was funded as part of a generous sponsorship program from CLSA through which Safecast will conduct educational activities at six Fukushima schools this year. Both were initiated by Jun Yamadera, a native of Aizu and CEO of software development company Eyes Japan, who has been a key Safecaster since 2011. The Aizu Unv. workshop was additionally organized by Prof. Michael Cohen of the Spatial Media Group, Computer Arts Lab. Safecast intern Philipp Heise was a big help on all aspects of these workshops, and posted an informative report on the Eyes Japan blog. Philipp …

Safecast On Board For Blind Sailor’s Attempt To Cross The Pacific Ocean

In the last week of February, Mitsuhiro ‘Hiro’ Iwamoto will set out from San Diego with a bGeigie onboard. If all goes according to plan, he and crewmate Doug Smith will sail the ‘Dream Weaver,’ a 40-foot cutter, across the Pacific Ocean non-stop to Onahama in Fukushima prefecture. While an impressive feat in its own right, it becomes even more remarkable when considering that Hiro, the far more experienced sailor of the two, is completely blind. It’s also Hiro’s second try at crossing the Pacific after the first attempt in 2013 ended with his sailboat hitting a whale and sinking “I’ll be the “seeing-eye Doug” on the trip with Hiro being the ship captain,” wisecracks Doug.” For us, it’s a trip about inspiring others to overcome adversity in ways similar to how Hiro overcame becoming completely blind at the age of 16.” They call this two-month trip the Voyage of Inspiration, and on top of inspiring others to overcome adversity by achieving their dreams, Hiro and Doug hope to raise money and awareness for selected charities. The Fukushima Connection The reasons for choosing Onahama as a final destination are twofold. For one thing, it was the starting point of Hiro’s first attempt to cross the Pacific in a sailboat. The second is that the two men want to show continued support for the people of Japan and specifically for those in Onahama who are still struggling in the aftermath of the triple disaster in Tohoku, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown in March 2011. At the time the earthquake struck, Doug was on the 29th floor of Roppongi Hills in Tokyo and he still vividly recalls how the whole building swung back and forth. “The event itself impacted my family and me – like all others in …

Welcome in 2019 with Safecast in Shibuya!

Sunday, January 13th, 2019 – Safecast Shinnenkai (New Year’s Party) It’s time to welcome in 2019 with Safecast! The yearly Safecast shinnenkai (New Year’s party) is always a great get together. Staff, volunteers, advisors, family, and friends all get a chance to meet new people, reminisce about the past year, and talk what’s coming up for the next. This year’s shinnenkai will be no different. A lot’s been happening at Safecast: radiation and air quality measurements, brand new devices in the works, educational programs, Safecast Asia Network, international projects, and more on tap for 2019. Safecast’s master chef Jonathan Wilder will prepare his superb Middle-Eastern food, and there will be plenty of drinks. And, as a special added treat, there will be a live performance by jazz vocalist Lumiko and guitarist Bob Ward. It will be held on Sunday January 13th, starting at 5pm, on the 10th floor space at Loftwork in Shibuya Dogenzaka, same as in previous years. Visit our office, mingle with other volunteers and enjoy some great food and music! We hope to see everyone there! Schedule: 5:00pm – doors open – grab a drink! 5:30 – Safecast update 6:30 – Toast 7:30 – Mini Live performance by Lumiko (v) & Bob Ward (g) 9:00 – Close Contribution: 3000 yen (for food and drinks) or 2000 yen and bring your own drinks. Vegetarian/Vegan options available Location: Loftwork 10F, Dogenzaka 1-22-7, Shibuya 150-0043 (right above FabCafe) Map here

Woolsey Fire and the Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Above: Aerial photo from CBSLA showing the start of the fire at SSFL. We’ve received quite a few inquiries over the past several days regarding the potential consequences of the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, which has burned through part of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) site in Ventura County immediately south of Simi Valley. The SSFL site, which closed in 1996, housed ten nuclear reactors as well as rocket engine test facilities, and is highly contaminated with radioactive and toxic wastes remaining from decades of poor disposal practices and numerous accidents. The public is understandably concerned about the possibility that contaminants have been spread by the fire, which reached the site on Fri. Nov. 8th, but was reportedly no longer burning within it the following day. Safecast had no survey data from the immediate SSFL area prior to the fire, but we had a fair amount of data from nearby communities which showed it to be at normal background levels. Our realtime radiation and particulate sensors in the Southern California region, the closet of which is 30km (about 18 miles) away from SSFL, have shown no measurable increases in radiation. Safecast volunteers are on the way to the site, however, so hopefully we will have new data to share soon. Though CalFire indicates that the fire danger in the SSFL area has passed, many roads are still closed, making access difficult.  Official agencies, including the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC ) and the LA County Department of Public Health have issued statements saying that they have surveyed the site and detected no radiation above normal background levels. As of this writing, neither agency has provided actual measurement data or details about their methodology. One potential health concern would be from inhalation of radioactive material lofted …

Safecast at the IAEA

Above: This image of Azby making a key point was tweeted by Sebastian Hueber, Head of Communications at Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate. Azby spent the first week of October this year in Vienna in order to participate in a major IAEA conference called CNREP2018 (International Symposium on Communicating Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies to the Public). This conference brought together approximately 400 experts, the majority of them female, from 74 member states and 13 international organizations, for five days of discussions. When we first accepted an invitation to present at the IAEA in 2014, we explained to the Safecast community that our end goal was to gain acceptance for citizen science-based data gathering like ours among the official nuclear regulatory and emergency preparedness communities. As we recounted on our blog at the time, we encountered skepticism and criticism from the assembled experts, but also found significant support. Since that time we’ve taken many opportunities to present at radiation safety, communication, and preparedness conferences. We tell the expert community about our growth and successes, identify our shared concerns, and continue to stress the need for clear policy guidelines stipulating the inclusion of citizen groups in planning and preparedness. The response to Azby’s presentation at CNREP2018 was a clear indication that experts at national and international agencies increasingly “get it.” The expert community as a whole recognizes that since the Fukushima accident in particular, a crisis of trust exists which is amplified by misinformation circulating within social media, and that this has clear safety implications. In the event of a future accident or incident, people are likely to be inundated with conflicting messages, some of them malicious, and will have difficulty knowing who to believe. At the conferences and meetings we attend, we describe our approach towards trust-building, in which public participation and openness …

Nano Assembly Manual Update

We’ve made a major update to the bGeigie Nano Assembly Manual, which is accessible at the same location as previously at GitHub: There haven’t been any major changes to the Nano itself, but the main board has undergone several small revisions since the last manual update, the current version being 1.1r5a. A few components had also developed minor variants as well which weren’t well represented. We also have a lot more experience teaching others how to build the Nano, and a better idea of what order things should be done and which steps required clearer explanation. We took new step-by-step photos which show the most current versions of everything. Like everything at Safecast this was a group effort, and a work in progress. Many thanks to Azby, Joe, Louise, and Victor.

Safecast at Soma Future Lab 2018

Above: Jessica gives kGeigie building advice to a pair of young participants.  Safecast recently held a series of workshops in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, as part of an event held at the Soma Amway House called “Soma Future Lab 2018.” The two-day event (August 22-23) was open to the public, and elementary and secondary school students and their parents/guardians were encouraged to attend. In addition to Safecast, there were performances by the Japanese comedian Nasubi and musician “hacto,” as well as a workshop run by paper plane expert Jun Tamba, and a presentation about spaceflight and research by Junichi Haruyama of JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Fukushima University and the Environment Ministry also had activities and displays.  For this event we used our innovative kGeigie kits, which allow even elementary school-age children to build and test a working geiger counter. We had a steady stream of children, parents, and grandparents participating. Joe, Pieter, our interns Franco and Victor, and Joe’s granddaughter Jessica got them all started on their way to being citizen scientists!   The Amway House in Soma is one of four community centers in Tohoku built by donations received in response to the March 2011 disasters. The Remember HOPE initiative has collected over 930 million yen as of June 2018, and a fifth Amway House community center is now being built in the city of Rikuzentakata. The goal is to provide places and opportunities for people in the area. Safecast began a cooperative project with Amway this year to provide sensors, workshops, and other assistance for local residents through the Amway Houses. We installed a Pointcast realtime radiation monitor at the Soma Amway House in March, and our participation in the Soma Future Lab 2018 event is a further step towards our engagement with these communities.  

Rebuttal of “Calibration of Safecast dose rate measurements,” by Cervone and Hultquist

From the outset, Safecast has hoped that our data would prove useful to researchers and decision makers as well as to the general public. As time has passed the number of academic papers that examines the Safecast project and the data it has produced has steadily increased, which is something we welcome. Some of these papers have been well-done and helpful, while others have fallen short. We’ve taken the unusual step of formulating a detailed rebuttal of “Calibration of Safecast dose rate measurements,” by Guido Cervone and Carolynne Hultquist, in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Volumes 190–191, October 2018, Pages 51-65. We think the paper is flawed and is based on several crucial misunderstandings. We’ve posted our critique on the Safecast Discussion, and a direct link to the thread can be found here. This way others can join in on what we hope will become a productive discussion with wider implications both radiation measurement in general and citizen science in particular. The Safecast Discussion is open for anyone to read, but it’s necessary to sign up in order to post comments.