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March 15, 2011

Tracking Radiation Levels in Tokyo: A Minorly Scary Photo

This is the pic that’s really  making the rounds today.  Although the set up is frightening, I think the photo helps to bring into focus the question of how great the radiation threat actually is.

Shortformblog posted the photo with the title: “Tracking radiation levels in Tokyo: A minorly scary photo.” The accompany photo credit reads:

Photo of the day: “A radiation detector marks 0.6 micro-sieverts, exceeding normal levels Tuesday, near Shibuya train station in Tokyo. Concern over possible radiation exposure has increased after a fourth reactor released radiation, Tuesday.”To compare – this level is higher than average, but only a tiny percentage of what’s happening at the plant. 1,000 micro-sieverts per hour equals one milli-sievert per hour. So this is high, but still minor. (Kyodo News/AP) source

My take:

The fear would be “more minorly” if the high zone on the meter had a long red line, instead of a green one, and the marking beneath the needle was green instead of red, and the woman in the background wasn’t wearing a mask (often seen in Tokyo due to everyday pollution).  Clever shot.

I guess the main issue, in this photo, and in Japan to this point is: what is the definition of “minorly.”

  • Anonymous

    This photo is a hoax.
    Look at the dominant pattern of noise in the background compared to the clean more crisp noise of the meter. This particular image is a photoshop.

  • shortformblog

    Hey there,

    I just threw an update in to explain the context. To put it simply, the level jumped, but not to the level where officials consider it dangerous to others. And it dipped back down just a few hours later.

    - Ernie @

  • Stan B.

    There is no “safe” level of radiation- no scientist on earth can foretell exactly how much radiation will result in cancer for any one given individual years down the line…

    But this photo is definitely more “minorly” scary than one taken with the reactor in question in the background.

    As for the “hoax photo,” it’s not unusual for darker areas in a digital photograph to exhibit more noise.

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