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Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

Timothy J. Jorgensen



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Princeton University Pres
15 August 2017
Mathematics & Sciences; History of science; Popular science; Nuclear chemistry, photochemistry & radiation; Molecular biology
More than ever before, radiation is a part of our modern daily lives. We own radiation-emitting phones, regularly get diagnostic x-rays, such as mammograms, and submit to full-body security scans at airports. We worry and debate about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safety of nuclear power plants. But how much do we really know about radiation? And what are its actual dangers?

An accessible blend of narrative history and science, Strange Glow describes mankind's extraordinary, thorny relationship with radiation, including the hard-won lessons of how radiation helps and harms our health. Timothy Jorgensen explores how our knowledge of and experiences with radiation in the last century can lead us to smarter personal decisions about radiation exposures today.

Jorgensen introduces key figures in the story of radiation - from Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays, and pioneering radioactivity researchers Marie and Pierre Curie, to Thomas Edison and the victims of the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Tracing the most important events in the evolution of radiation, Jorgensen explains exactly what radiation is, how it produces certain health consequences, and how we can protect ourselves from harm. He also considers a range of practical scenarios such as the risks of radon in our basements, radiation levels in the fish we eat, questions about cell-phone use, and radiation's link to cancer. Jorgensen empowers us to make informed choices while offering a clearer understanding of broader societal issues.

Investigating radiation's benefits and risks, Strange Glow takes a remarkable look at how, for better or worse, radiation has transformed our society.
By:   Timothy J. Jorgensen
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 152mm, 
Weight:   709g
ISBN:   9780691178349
ISBN 10:   0691178348
Pages:   512
Publication Date:   15 August 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified
PREFACE ix 1. Nuclear Jaguars 1 PART ONE: RADIATION 101: THE BASICS 2. Now You See It: Radiation Revealed 7 3. Seek and You Shall Find: Radioactivity Everywhere 38 4. Splitting Hairs: Atomic Particles and Nuclear Fission 51 PART TWO: THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF RADIATION 5. Painted into a Corner: Radiation and Occupational Illness 81 6. The Hippocratic Paradox: Radiation Cures Cancer 116 7. Location, Location, Location: Radiation Sickness 141 8. Snow Warning: Radioactive Fallout 164 9. After the Dust Settles: Measuring the Cancer Risk of Radiation 187 10. Breeding Season: Genetic Effects 206 11. Crystal Clear: The Target for Radiation Damage 234 PART THREE: WEIGHING THE RISKS AND BENEFITS OF RADIATION 12. Silent Spring: Radon in Homes 275 13. A Tale of Two Cities: Diagnostic Radiography 293 14. Sorry, Wrong Number: Cell Phones 310 15. Hot Tuna: Radioactivity in Food 326 16. Blue Moon: Nuclear Power Plant Accidents 346 17. The Things They Carried: Geopolitical Radiation Threats 374 Epilogue: N-Rays 397 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 407 NOTES AND CITATIONS 411 BIBLIOGRAPHY 453 INDEX 465

Timothy J. Jorgensen is associate professor of radiation medicine and director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program at Georgetown University. He lives with his family in Rockville, Maryland.

Reviews for Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

Winner of the 2017 PROSE Award in History of Science, Medicine & Technology, Association of American Publishers One of Physics World's Top Ten Books of the Year, 2016 One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016 #6 on The Telegraph's Top 50 Books of the Year 2016 One of Smithsonian Magazine's Best Science Books of 2016 Shortlisted for Physics World's Book of the Year 2016 Jorgensen walks readers through the history of humanity's interaction with radiation... [Strange Glow] is a solid, accessible work, but perhaps its most beneficial aspect is that Jorgensen equips readers with enough knowledge to make their own risk assessments, whether it is of a potential medical diagnostic test or a particular consumer decision. --Publishers Weekly Unbiased, comprehensible information on radiation risk is hard to come by...Strange Glowfills this gap. --Science Narrative science at its best ... a propulsive story, each piece building on the next in a series of progressive revelations... A seismic piece of scientific inquiry, top shelf in narrative style and illumination. --Kirkus, starred review The only antidote to irrational fear is knowledge, andStrange Glowimparts this in spades. --Independent Strange Glow isn't about lessening what is largely a sensible fear, but about removing some of the mystery and misunderstanding... This is a long overdue and successful attempt to rationalise an emotional subject by telling its story in very human terms. --Engineering & Technology News Strange Glow ... integrates detailed science and carefully illuminated medical statistics with the personal lives of scientists... The book's goal--'to present the facts about radiation as objectively and even-handedly as possible, leaving you to decide which aspects to fear'--is achieved with authority and style. --Andrew Robinson, Lancet This book can be enjoyed as a sort of scientific QI--a string of interesting facts you can't wait to share with anyone who can be persuaded to listen... Jorgensen proves that there's no excuse for convoluted writing, however difficult the subject. His conversational style makes even the most complex equations seem attractive. --William Cook, The Spectator [Strange Glow] is ... the story of human interaction with radiation--beginning with the one type that we can see (light) and continuing through radio waves, atomic blasts, cellphones, radon, microwave ovens, luggage scanners, the Fukushima accident, and on and on... Jorgensen avoids graphs and numbers, instead relying largely on entertaining--if alarming--anecdotes. --Nancy Szokan, Washington Post What I certainly did not expect was to get caught up in the stories of the scientists [in Strange Glow]... Jorgensen has written a compelling book about the history of radiation... [His] gift is that he make us care about the scientists. --Jacqueline Cutler, Newark Star-Ledger Strange Glow is a cracking good read, filled with fascinating stories about the people behind the science. --Literary Review Timothy Jorgensen is a scientist with a knack for narrative storytelling. --Ryan Stellabotte, Fordham News Strange Glow is clear, engaging and refreshingly willing to treat the reader as a thinking adult. --Japan Times Strange Glow is a fantastic, well-written book about the benefits and risks of radiation. Jorgenson uses common prose so that a wide range of readers can follow the discussions...The book includes extensive, useful, and lucid discussions on medical x-rays and radon gas. Readers also learn the facts regarding the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdowns and the problems they cause. [A] well-researched book. --Choice Informative, fast paced and entertaining... I guarantee you will be engaged and surprised. --Chemistry World Jorgensen's lucid writing and strong story-telling skills are demonstrated thoroughly in this book, making it a pleasure to read... In its simplicity and conciseness, it greatly contributes to removing some of the mystery and misunderstanding that surrounds radiation... I feel it will become a very useful resource to the general public as well as to radiation experts. --Jun Deng, Physics World A narrative history, which integrates detailed science and statistics with the personal lives of the pioneers. [Jorgensen's] goal--'to present the facts about radiation as objectively and even-handedly as possible, leaving you to decide which aspects to fear'--is achieved with authority and style. --Andrew Robinson, The Telegraph Jorgenson lays out the progression of mankind's understanding of radiation science over the past century, including the figures, breakthroughs and disasters that moved the field forward (for better or worse). An informative read that chronicles the history and science of humankind's 'ambivalent' relationship with this strange force. --Rachel Gross, Smithsonian [Jorgensen] ... has chosen another original but interesting and straightforward way of storytelling, devoid of scientific jargon, to achieve the aim of reaching the widest possible audience of readers, regardless to their technical background... Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation ... Will certainly be useful due to the striking and exciting style of its presentation. --R.M. Alexakhin, Radiation Protection Dosimetry

  • Commended for Choice 's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016 2016
  • Short-listed for Physics World 's Top Ten Books of the Year, 2016 2016
  • Short-listed for The Telegraph 's Top 50 Books of the Year 2016 2016
  • Winner of 2017 AIP Science Writing Award for Books, American Institute of Physics 2017
  • Winner of 2017 PROSE Award in History of Science, Medicine & Technology, Association of American Publishers 2017

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