Video: First Safecast mobile run

Here’s a short video explaining how our set up works: You can read a full account of the trip here. There’s also a much longer video (16 minutes) of raw footage of some of the equipment being assembled after the jump.

First Safecast mobile recon

Last week a team from Keio University took one of our geiger counters for a drive. That was a test run for our slightly more elaborate set up, the first test of which happened this weekend. Rather than taping the counter to the window and taking photos (a method which worked fine btw) we’ve developed a bit of a self contained kit we’re calling the bGeigie since it’s something like a little bento box. We dropped off sensor equipment to volunteers in effected areas and took some measurements at schools around Koriyama that we’re a bit concerned about (including one reading of over 50µSv/hr near a kindergarten playground). Admittedly we are not experts on radiation measurement, but here is what we are doing and what we found:

RDTN is now Safecast

We’re excited to announce that effective immediately we’re rebranding this project as Safecast. You may recall that this site was conceived and launched in only about 3 days. Since then the scope and goals have grown considerably and we decided the name should better reflect that. While we certainly started this thinking about radiation in Japan, it became obvious that a sensor network logging all kinds of data (weather, wind, precipitation, etc) could be very useful both in Japan and other areas of the world. There’s no question that what is happening in Japan right now is our primary focus, but we hope the work we are doing there will just be the first steps towards something larger. We think that Safecast reflects these motivations a little better.

Radiation infographic

This graphic is helpful in understanding much about radiation.

First mobile run: Keio team

We’ve been working with some people from Keio University and earlier this week they took one of our sensors (0008 to be specific) on a drive north through some areas that have had no radiation data reported at all. At this point each geiger counter we have has it’s own flickr account where photos of each reading are uploaded, and new uploads from any probe are aggregated at tweeted from @RDTNprobes. Our process is still evolving but with only 11 sensors out in the world right now we can iterate quickly. This, being our first longer trip in a car was very much an “it works, do it” model. As you can see the sensor was taped to the dashboard and photos were taken with an iPhone and uploaded regularly. This worked but was a little cumbersome. We’ve just finished something of a mobile reporting kit which consists of the geiger counter, a laptop, a GPS unit, mobile wifi and a camera all housed in a case. This should work a little smoother and we have our first run with that set up planned for this weekend. More on that very soon. Of course our Kickstarter campaign is still running, we’ve raised a little over 1/3rd of a goal, but if you wanted to help out and donate a few bucks there it would go a very long way to fund exactly this kind of thing. Thank you.

Quake during RDTN panel discussion in Tokyo

Earlier today at the New Context Conference 2011 Spring, RDTN co-founder Aaron Huslage was on a panel with Joi Ito, Jun Murai, Ray Ozzie and Dan Sythe talking about radiation detection and the efforts of the RDTN team. Halfway through his talk (about 0:29 in this clip) a 5.8 earthquake hit Honshu, Japan and was felt very strongly in the building where the conference was being held. It obviously wasn’t planned, but seemed fitting given the discussion. Everyone was fine, and Aaron recovered from the interruption flawlessly.

First RDTN sensor deployed

Yesterday Pieter gave out a probe set to Dave Kell. Dave is a volunteer driver and is going to go into the area north of Ichinoseki this weekend for 3 days to deliver relief goods for 2nd Harvest, American Club and other charities. He lived for 2 years in Iwate before living in Tokyo and knows the area well. He will use his iphone to take pictures of radiation readings and do the geo tagging/upload. Measurements will be auto posted into Flickr and Twitter. We have also asked him to try do measurement above soil.

A little of what we’ve been up to

All photos by Pieter Franken. Additionally our first probes are out in the field, tweeting updates to @RDTNprobes, and remember we’re raising funds for this project on Kickstarter!

Tokyo These Days

Editor’s Note: Joel M. holds a Ph.D. in Biology and currently resides in Tokyo, Japan. He has volunteered his time and insights to the blog. Right now things are quiet but fine. We are not having many rolling blackouts for now.  Actually, in this whole time, I only had one blackout for 2 hours. Supermarkets have most things,  There is more than enough food.  Just a few things like milk, eggs, bread may sell out in one store, but be available in another. Some bottled beverages, like Coke, may be in short supply, but it is because the bottle cap suppliers can’t manufacture enough right now. (For want of a nail…) Many people are telecommuting.  Good thing they got broadband available more or less everywhere in Japan 12 years ago and have been giving tax breaks for the last 3 years encouraging people to buy a laptop and work from home at least some of the time, so about 20% of people were set up and ready to go. Lots of lights are turned off, so it may seem more deserted than it is.  Inside has been about the same number of customers in some I go to, but of course on the whole business is way off. Aftershocks have progressed from being only 150 miles from Tokyo to being now less than 50, more or less, so I think the stress has clearly been transferred to plates near Tokyo.  People often go home at 5:00 instead of working late in the night because we know we could have another big quake and no one wants to get stuck downtown like the last time. I am continuing my LED campaign, swapping out an LED for people I know to show them what they are.  Every one I do cuts 150 kwh …

Background Information About Radiation and What It Does

What is Radiation? Radiation refers simply to energy moving through space or through matter. There are many different kinds of radiation:  radio waves, heat, visible light, ultraviolet rays, to name just a few. However, usually when people refer to ‘radiation’ they are referring specifically to “ionizing radiation”. This type of radiation has the ability to kick an electron out of a neutral atom or molecule. Now charged instead of neutral, the atom or molecule may behave differently in its local environment.  In addition, the freed electron, which has been given some energy by the incoming radiation, can ionize atoms and molecules as it passes through the material. While radio waves, heat, visible light, ultraviolet rays, and microwaves are examples of non-ionizing forms of radiation, x-rays and gamma-rays have the ability to ionize. Several types of particles emitted by radioactive atoms including alphas, betas and sometimes neutrons also ionize the material through which they travel. Where does Ionizing Radiation come from? 1.  Natural Radiation: The earth contains a large number of different radioactive atoms. Many of these atoms were created in supernova explosions billions of years ago and have been in existence since long before the earth condensed from a gaseous cloud into a solid mass. These atoms are unstable (radioactive) due to the particular forces at play inside the atomic nucleus1. To get to a lower energy configuration the nucleus ‘transmutes’ – it changes into a different nucleus by emitting a small particle (an alpha or beta particle, often accompanied by a gamma ray)2. For instance, Uranium is an extremely common element found in rocks and soil all over the world. All uranium is radioactive; the most common type of Uranium, 238U, has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, about the estimated age of the earth.  [So about half the 238U that was around at the beginning of the earth is …