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What if there is nothing to measure...

Why should you measure, when there is nothing to measure? This was the central question at the third meeting in our Making Sense pilot in measuring gamma radiation. The explanation of the RIVM environmental institute brought back memories of my secondary school physics lessons. And despite my interest in the subject, many of principles behind the various aspects of radiation are incomprehensible to me.

It is obvious that radiation can be measured very well, and RIVM is certainly doing so in The Netherlands. Still, just putting a piece of black tape on my (laptop) camera can also function as a simple nuclear measurement device (gammasense.org).

What sets it apart from measuring air quality or noise pollution is the question why I should need to measure radiation myself. As long as there are no nuclear incidents, as a citizen using simple tools you would measure, well... nothing. The background radiation levels in The Netherlands are very low. Hospitals are also very conservative when it comes to using X-rays, and you are less exposed to radiation here then in many other countries.

The urgency to measure radiation yourself becomes clear when a problem emerges. And such a problem would probably directly scale to a disaster. Where air quality may gradually worsen and measures can be taken to improve the local situation, measuring radiation is more a controlling act, that has a value for activists to put the topic on the agenda. But for citizens, it is of less use to strive for a reduction of radiation in the local environment, although it can support the lobby to shut down nuclear power plants.

At the Maastricht meeting, the specialists in the field showed all the measures and detailed procedures that exist in case of an incident. Within their very precise protocols, the irregular and not-so-exact data provided by citizens' measurements would not fit, hampering the collaboration.

There is a strong case for a more detailed measurement network for radiation, as the probability of an incident somewhere in Europe in the near future is real. Radiation can have long-term effects on agriculture and livestock farming. The more we know about the spread of radiation, the better we can avoid unneccesary exposure.

Recent blog posts

- Wednesday 07 February 2018

An active group of citizens makes great progress with sustainable mobility and connectedness in the area. Intern Hub Coumans about the pilot of the EU project MUV.

- Tuesday 06 February 2018

Waag Society supported the Spaarne Hospital hospital in organizing a hackathon, for an even more senior friendly hospital.

- Thursday 01 February 2018

Healthcare demands and solutions are changing rapidly. Open-source hardware will play an important role in the future.

- Tuesday 30 January 2018

Can we learn about ourselves by studying outer space? In ongoing research Waag Society is exploring human outer space activities.

- Friday 26 January 2018

Together with residents of Buitenveldert, we look for practical solutions to create a greener and healthier neighbourhood. On January 22nd we held the first meeting.