Against the Grain

Radiation and the Human Body

Radiation is a fearsome thing. It occurs naturally and very unnaturally, and is used both as a medical treatment and a terrifying weapon. Timothy Jorgensen traces the history of how scientists became aware of radiation’s dangers to the human body, from the so-called “Radium Girls”, factory workers who were poisoned painting watch dials, to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hydrogen bomb experiments in the Bikini Atoll, and Chernobyl and Fukushima. Rather than leaving things to experts, he believes that people should inform themselves about greater and lesser risks.


Timothy J. Jorgensen, Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation Princeton University Press, 2016

3 responses to “Radiation and the Human Body

  1. I was interested in hearing, why, considering all we have learned about the effects of radiation, we still produce bombs and nuclear reactors etc. It would seem that the detriments hugely outweigh the benefits.

  2. This was excellent and informative … the best way to learn science. Radiation is such a mystery people are so terrified of it – the best reaction is to find out about it and start from there.

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