American Elephants

Worried About Radiation? by The Elephant's Child

“A banana-equivalent dose is a concept used occasionally by nuclear power proponents to clarify the dangers of radiation by comparing exposure to radiation to the radiation generated by the common banana.

Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium -40 they contain.  The banana equivalent dose is the radiation exposure received by eating a single banana.”

Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That, one of the best science blogs ever, explains cosmic rays and radiation and worries over a “plume of radiation from Japan.”  Put your mind at ease, and understand all the radiation talk, and the excesses of the media.  Worth your time.


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The risk from things going out of control in the reactors at the power plant in Japan — assuming a Chernobyl-type accident is not in the cards — is mainly to the local population, and not from ionizing radiation per se, but from the dispersal of radioactive isotopes of elements that wreck havock within the human body — e.g., from fires in the ponds holding the spent fuel rod. We should not pooh-pooh these risks to those people.

The release of large amounts of radioactive iodine would increase the incidence of thyroid cancers, particularly in children (as happened as far as south-eastern France following Chernobyl). Fortunately, thyroid cancer is easier to detect and treat than many other types.

The other major risk is of radioactive cesium (Cs-137). Cs-137 brings about nervous, muscular and genetic changes. Strontium-90 causes bone cancer and tissue degeneration. Cattle, dairy milk, drinking water, vegetables, fruits and grains all pass on radioactivity to humans. (Fortunately for the United States, we import very few foods from Japan.)

If things go well, the release of these elements will be contained. But if they don’t, …


Comment by Subsidy Eye

If Anthony Watts says it, it’s probably not true. If you think his blog has good science, you’re in more trouble than you think, and the plume of radiation from Japan isn’t anywhere near the top of your list.

Did Watts ever retract the claim that Texas windfarms failed and caused the blackouts last winter? Has he ever fixed those false claims about DDT and malaria? Has he ever admitted Arctic ice is declining? You begin to see the trend — lots of errors, rare corrections.


Comment by Ed Darrell

First, you seem to misunderstand science. There is no consensus, and little certainty. I did a post on the scientific method a while back. It is about constant questioning. Anthony Watts’ website is one of the most respected scientific sites on the web. Early on, many thought that the wind farms had failed, for turbines are very susceptible to cold weather.

I have not read anything there about malaria, but literally millions of children have died of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa specifically because DDT was banned and they could not use it to spray the inside of their huts. Rachel Carson was wrong, and William Ruckleshaus was wrong in banning DDT, as was the WHO.

Arctic ice melts some every summer and grows again in the winter. It is a natural process. Arctic ice is not “declining,” satellite photos make it clear, for they can measure the changes. If you read the comments on any piece at Watts’ website, many by our most respected scientists, you will find that they are all over the map, ideas flowing. You simply misunderstand the nature of the scientific method. And the polar bears are just fine, by the way, and multiplying.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

First, you seem to misunderstand science.

Championship projection there, kid.

There is no consensus, and little certainty.

In science there is much consensus on many things, including all of those areas where Watts claims there is not. But of course, he’s not a scientist, he’s a broadcaster. I noted a few areas where he’s dead wrong on the science. In all of those areas, there is consensus, plus clear science that directs that consensus, and Watts doesn’t reflect it.

You should read about science sometime. I recommend Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman as a good starting place. It would do you good, and you’ll find it entertaining.

I did a post on the scientific method a while back.

Maybe I’ll look it up. You changed your mind since then? Or you were off the rails then, too? Encourage me, give me some reason to spend time on the post. Is there any value in it?

It is about constant questioning. Anthony Watts’ website is one of the most respected scientific sites on the web.

Watts’s site has a lot of traffic from ne’er-do-wells and cranks, but scientists don’t respect it. Science isn’t done democratically. As Einstein noted, the Nazis having collected 100 different papers from 100 different scientists did not mean Einstein was in error. “Were I wrong, they’d need only one,” Einstein said. Watts won a popular vote on the web. He didn’t get any office, he got no salary, and that doesn’t make his site “scientific,” nor accurate in any other way. There’s dreadfully little real science there, and an awful lot of pure wankery and hoax. He appears to have sucked you in on the hoaxes, though — you need to spend more time at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub learning about bogus science and bogus history, and how to tell it, clearly. [Alas, now you need a subscription to get to Bob Parks’ excellent article; perhaps you could look it up in a library.]

Early on, many thought that the wind farms had failed, for turbines are very susceptible to cold weather.

No one but readers of Watts’s blog might have thought that. ERCOT stated clearly that the culprit plants were four coal-fired plants, within less than 24-hours after the plants went down. At that time ERCOT denied any problems with wind power, a conclusion that has been verified by all subsequent investigations, official and unofficial.

Once again, Watts acted as the accountants, coming on to the battlefield after the event, and shooting all the wounded survivors. He’s never retracted his blog’s error.

In science, that’s a sin, you know?

I have not read anything there about malaria, but literally millions of children have died of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa specifically because DDT was banned and they could not use it to spray the inside of their huts.

Yeah, it’s pretty clear you’ve not read much on malaria. You should read Socrates Litsios’s The Tomorrow of Malaria. It’s not much available in the U.S., alas. You would do well to pick up a copy of Sonia Shah’s recent great work, The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Mankind for 500,000 Years.

The claim that the U.S. ban on DDT killed anyone in Africa is just an out and out lie. It’s historically wrong, scientifically wrong, medically wrong, legally wrong, and nasty besides.

WHO was forced to stop using DDT in 1965 because mosquitoes in Africa had become resistant and immune to the stuff. DDT no longer killed the mosquitoes. As a consequence, WHO had to abandon its very ambitious program to eradicate malaria from the world. (You can check out all of this stuff with links to original sources, here, in these series of posts.)

1965. Got that? That’s years before any nation banned DDT for any use.

The U.S. banned DDT from agricultural use, then on cotton almost exclusively, in 1972. Were your claim accurate, either mosquitoes from the Texas would have to migrate to Africa to spread malaria (and they don’t migrate), or the EPA’s ban would have had to travel back in time to 1965 at least, and take on superhuman powers of banning in nations where EPA has no authority.

There has never been a worldwide ban on DDT, not even under the 2001 Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs).

Whoever told you otherwise, lied to you. Do not trust that person.

[Now watch, Dear Readers: Instead of going after those who lied to The Elephant’s Child, The Elephant’s Child will rail at me. No good deed goes unpunished, no truth goes uncovered, at the American Elephant.]

Rachel Carson was wrong,

Complete fabrication. Whoever told you that lied badly to you. Check out the report on Rachel Carson’s book published by the President’s Science Advisory Council. That group, including a couple of Nobel winners, concluded Carson was correct on every science fact, but perhaps too lenient on DDT. They recommended immediate action to rein in DDT — Carson never did make such a recommendation.

It’s highly ironic: Rachel Carson in 1962 said that if abuse of DDT were allowed to continue, it would become completely useless to fight malaria. Instead, she said, disease fighters and others needed to use Integrated Pest Management methods to keep DDT viable as a pesticide.

By 1965, with no national or international controls on DDT abuse, DDT became practically useless to fight malaria. Though the fight went on, it was only partly as successful — until after 2000, when WHO and others organized a campaign to use Integrated Vector Management to fight malaria — the very methods Carson proposed to use 38 years earlier.

Using IVM, and still using DDT where tests showed it might help (because there was no ban on DDT), the malaria death rates have been reduced today to 25% of what they were at the peak of DDT use in 1959 and 1960. Today, malaria death totals are the lowest they have been in human history — largely achieved without DDT.

In fact, there is an odd correlation: As DDT use dropped, so did malaria deaths.

Today, fewer than 900,000 people die annually from malaria, and using Carson’s methods with renewed vigor, health leaders like the Gates Foundation are talking again about eradicating malaria.

Rachel Carson was correct in every science point — I challenge you to cite a single error from Silent Spring, by page number and accurate quote, not by rumor. You’ll see, if you bother to check, that your sources lied to you.

You need some new, honest friends, and new sources.

. . . and William Ruckleshaus was wrong in banning DDT, as was the WHO.

Ruckelshaus saved DDT for malaria use — his order specifically allowed manufacture to continue for export to fight malaria. His actions more than doubled the amount of DDT available to fight the disease — whoever told you he was at fault, lied to you. (Was it the same person, or do you have a whole pack of lying coyotes feeding you these falsehoods?)

So, Ruckelshaus sent MORE DDT to fight malaria, sadly at a time when DDT was not the best stuff to use as the pesticide in a campaign against the disease, but still, exactly the opposite of what you claimed.

WHO does not now have, and never has had, the power to ban any chemical in any nation, for any purpose. Moreover, WHO continued to use DDT from 1965 through today, though not where tests showed the mosquitoes would not be killed by it — no use throwing good money away.

Of course, your views on malaria and DDT here are the same as Anthony Watts’s – so you can see why I’m concerned that you’d cite him as good on science. He’s not.

Arctic ice melts some every summer and grows again in the winter. It is a natural process. Arctic ice is not “declining,” satellite photos make it clear, for they can measure the changes.

And the measurements show dramatic decline in Arctic ice in both area and volume, over the past 20 years, 30 years, and 40 years. Russians are planning to make the Arctic a major shipping route now that it’s clear of ice for so much of the year. Methane hydrates are melting in the Arctic Ocean much faster than anyone had estimated, contributing more to greenhouse gases.

Yes, there is more ice in winter than in summer, but those who watch the ice — say, at the National Snow and Ice Data Center — note that there is less ice created in the winters, less ice volume in the winters, and less ice coverage in the winters, coupled with greater melt in the summers. On the whole, Arctic ice is in serious decline, as is most ice around the world.

If you read the comments on any piece at Watts’ website, many by our most respected scientists,

Can you show us where “most respected scientists” post there? I mean, really respected, not just “popular among the Yahoos.”

. . . you will find that they are all over the map, ideas flowing.

You’ll find that Watts deletes posts from people who disagree with him, or those who he interprets as not promoting his own political agenda. For that reason, there is not so much debate there as there should be — it’s terribly one sided.

You simply misunderstand the nature of the scientific method. And the polar bears are just fine, by the way, and multiplying.

You misunderstand evidence, facts, science, and the truth. You’ve never worked in a science lab, have you? What you won’t find at Watts Up is a lot of lab veterans who know what they’re talking about and how science is done. You’ll find comedians and jokers like Christopher Monckton, a man who blithely insults Americans with regularity (but he does it with a British accent, so Wattsupians laugh, unaware they’ve been punked).

Watts says the polar bears are fine? That’s contrary to the research, once again — he’s contesting science, not reporting it. Check out the experts at the Polar Bear Specialist Group — they’ve been studying polar bears for more than 35 years. Watts has never asked them their opinion, nor does he invite nor tolerate their posts on his site.

Oy, have you ever studied science at all?


Comment by Ed Darrell

Look, if you have a quarrel with Anthony Watts, take it up with him, not me. I don’t know what Anthony has to say about polar bears, I don’t get my information there. I don’t know what he had to say about the Texas blackouts, which I know were not caused by wind farm failure, but since I don’t live in Texas, I don’t pay much attention. I do know that early on, people were saying that wind farms were to blame. So they turned out to be wrong. So? Go take it up with Anthony Watts.

I read a number of science websites. I am not a scientist, and do not pretend to be, though I had the normal amount of science in college. I am a skeptic on so called global warming, largely because I grew up very, very rural with a far closer relationship to the environment than most people ever have. That is certainly proving to be correct. Yes, I’ve read of the Polar Bear Specialist Group, and their measurements. Yes, I’ve visited the Snow and Ice Data Center. And no, I’ve never worked in a science lab.

There are so many comments at Watts site, many disagreeing, that I assume that you were deleted there? Your post here comes across as name-calling, rude, accusatory and disagreeable, which might get you deleted anywhere. It certainly doesn’t make me want to visit your website or read it. You are very ready to demonstrate your superiority by declaring that anyone who disagrees with you is a liar or stupid. Not how to win friends and influence people.

“May 16. 1926, Open water at the North Pole.” See Real Science for the Growth of Thick Ice Since 2008. “97 ships stuck in ice near St Petersburg: the eastern Gulf of Finland has not seen such thick ice since 1992. In some places the ice is more than a meter thick.”


Comment by The Elephant's Child

I have a problem with your use of junk science and crank science. You claimed to get it from Watts, I suggested that’s a bad idea and gave reasons why. You then proceeded to site several other misconceptions you carry, junk science and crank science, and I offered corrections.

I find it interesting that when I offer the facts, and they are contrary to your assertions, you find me contestable. Did I predict that?

You got some bad science. Don’t blame me. I wasn’t the one who told you those false claims. Your quarrel should be with whoever so willingly misinformed you, not me.

If you wish to be a skeptic about global warming, don’t gullibly accept any fool claim that it’s wrong. That’s not difficult.

Generally, if you wish to understand science, don’t start, and especially don’t end, at Watts’s site.

Don’t blame me if you ignore my advice and get suckered.


Comment by Ed Darrell

I have maybe 30 or more science websites that I visit fairly regularly. Watts is just one of them, and I don’t visit every day or only. I posted a brief piece of his on bananas, and in another piece a sensible article by a noted science writ, both on some facts about the Japanese nuclear plants. I have been appalled by the media coverage which has been over-dramatic and is scaring people, and probably setting back everyone’s nuclear program. As I understand it, Japanese preparations for earthquakes were remarkable, and that it was the tsunami that caused the problems. If there had been only an earthquake–even that big–the plants may well have been fine. I do not accept your accusation of junk or crank science. I will look into the malaria evidence –everything I have seen disagrees with your claims. I do not pretend to be a scientist, but I am a very good reader, and a pretty good researcher.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

I did check out my information on malaria with Dr Paul Reiter, who is the world’s foremost expert on Malaria. And looked at your website. I gather you are a lefty activist “debunker,”but suggesting that I’m dealing in”junk science” and “crank science” simply won’t hold up. Take your debunking off where someone will buy it. And calling Anthony Watts a “broadcaster” is unnecessarily snide. He is a meteorologist, and has done some important work through a group of volunteers in verifying the accuracy of the American temperature records. His website is an interesting compilation of current events in climate and science. Your “debunking” on science seems to be far more closely related to your politics than to any actual science.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

I’m glad you checked with an expert. I’m concerned you checked with a guy who decided that his contributions were not worthy of the IPCC, but that’s rather immaterial. Did Dr. Reiter jump on Rachel Carson and demand a fog of DDT to fight malaria? I doubt it.

I love the way you find one obscure guy in the field and label him “the world’s foremost expert on malaria,” though he is in a branch of the many sciences necessary to fight the disease, and appears to have no experience in the field actually fighting malaria.

But tell us — did he vouch for Junk Science, or did he stay within the bounds of reason?

Watts is a radio weather guy. Does he have a degree in meteorology? I don’t know. He doesn’t appear to me to know much about science studies, even in meteorology — having never published anything in the field despite his loud claims that he’s had something in the works for years.

Apart from that, Watts is a crank science and calumny supporter on malaria — Reiter so informed you, if he’s worth his salt. If you really want to know about malaria, and the crank science that has grown about “bringing back” DDT to poison the hell out of Africa (where your elephant symbol comes from, if you care to know), you could start here with a few of these articles:

When do you think Watts will publish any of his important work, so the world may benefit from it?

Your embracing junk science appears far more closely related to your politics than to any reading of real science you may do.


Comment by Ed Darrell

Here, track the radiation levels in the U.S. in real time, and get solid information on threats, or lack of threats, with real science sources:


Comment by Ed Darrell

Dr. Paul Reiter is widely known as the world’s premier expert on malaria. He is a professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and chief of its Insects and Infectious Diseases Unit and a specialist in the natural history and biology of mosquitoes. His CV is long and impressive. He dumped the IPCC as have many other notable scientists. You might read Lawrence Solomon”s The Deniers; the World Renowned Scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution and fraud. and learn just who some of the skeptics are. Solomon is a environmental activist and a lefty.

The IPCC has lost all credibility after they were found to have used papers from Greenpeace, information from mountain climbers, falsified the supposedly melting Himalayan glaciers, falsified claims about drought in Africa, and falsified the numbers of scientists whose work they use. They are still using Michael Mann’s fraudulent “hockey stick” graph. The IPCC was founded as a political organization, and has remained so. Their website admits that they do not do science and do not analyze climate.

I don’t think you have much room to suggest that other people are using junk science or crank science. You’ve lost all credibility here.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

You still haven’t said what Reiter told you about DDT and malaria. I suppose that tells us all we need to know — he confirmed Watts’s junk science on the issue.

Look, I’m sure Reiter is well known, but it’s a stretch unjustified by the data and his publications to crown him king of malaria. He’s an entomologist. As you know, malaria is a parasitic disease — shouldn’t the King of Malaria be a parasitologist? The whole point of DDT was to buy a few weeks with fewer mosquitoes so we could attack the parasites and clean them up — no parasites in humans, the mosquitoes don’t matter.

I read the sections that dealt with malaria in Solomon’s book, and I honestly don’t recall Reiter being named. I’ll recheck. In the meantime, you need to get on Sonia Shah’s book and get the facts, globally, about malaria. DDT is not the panacea, not even a panacea anymore.

Investigations found that the information GreenPeace had was from juried journals — no information problem, just a bad citation. There’s no harm in using data from mountain climbers when, as in this case, the data come from one of the world’s leading glaciologists, when the data are published, and the data are accurate. There was that nasty typographical error in the glacier section. The good news on that is that Himalayan glaciers should be around a couple hundred years longer than originally feared. The bad news is that since the IPCC report, all glacier loss worldwide has picked up, and those glaciers, feeding seven of the world’s greatest rivers and providing water to about 2 billion people, are still dying.

Here in the U.S., we’re losing glaciers in the lower 48. The glacier that graced the east side of Timpanogos from the time my great-great grandfathers got to Utah Valley until well after I left Utah in 1979, is gone. I was up in Glacier NP four years ago. Studies that contributed to the IPCC report suggest Glacier will have little ice left by 2030. Well, the glaciers look to leave 15 years earlier than that, now. The globe is warming, and the glaciers all around the world show it.

There were no “falsified numbers” in the hockey stick graph, as we know after two of the several investigations of the theft of documents from the computer in England. IPCC was founded to advise policy makers — it is inherently “political” in the sense that making policy is a political exercise. But there are only two kinds of politics: Good politics, and bad politics. Your citing of junk science, your false claims against IPCC studies, fall into the bad politics side.

I hope you’re old enough that your grandchildren are almost grown. Then they probably won’t have time to come to despise the absence of political will you show to do the right thing and act to save the planet.

Reiter, I see, is another guy who writes that we don’t need to worry about global warming, because, from his view, there are ‘a lot of variables’ in figuring how malaria spreads. That’s okay for malaria, but it doesn’t negate warming, and I doubt Reiter is full of hubris enough to think it does.

The good news on malaria is that warming probably won’t spread dramatically because of global warming. But unless we get a handle on fighting the disease, malaria could easily get out of control, and the added territory and time for malaria transmission created by global warming will compound the trouble. There are, as Dr. Reiter observes, a lot of factors in malaria transmission, and that means a lot of ways to fail in the fight against the disease. DDT is not a major factor to fight any of those failures anymore.


Comment by Ed Darrell

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