Let’s be blunt: measuring radiation levels in the environment is a tricky business, usually best left to the professionals. It’s easy to come up with data that will scare you for no good reason, and it’s a challenge to compare your data in useful ways to data collected by others.
What’s more, few of us will ever face the risk of being exposed to excessive amounts of radiation.
In this chapter, we are talking about atomic radiation, not the electromagnetic radiation covered earlier in this book. These are different phenomena with similar names. For a refresher, see the side bar on Demystifying Radiation in Chapter 4.
So, why are we going to teach you how to build your own Geiger counter with Arduino, and how to share your readings online with people around the world?
First, because it’s a fun and challenging thing to do. Second, because recent history shows that the professionals don’t always plan for everything, leaving gaps that makers can help fill. As we mentioned in the previous chapter, that’s what happened in March 2011, after northeastern Japan was hit by a 9.0 earthquake, followed minutes later by a 49-foot-high tsunami.
The twin disasters knocked out grid and backup electricity, respectively, to the Fukushima One (Fukushima Dai’ichi) nuclear power station in Futuba, located about 150 miles north of Tokyo. This shut down crucial cooling systems for the reactors, as well as pools in the reactor buildings holding ...