Watching uranium emit radiation inside a cloud chamber is mesmerizing

Here's a really neat, classic experiment that's always fun to see. When you place uranium inside a cloud chamber, you can see it decay and emit bits of radiation. It's like seeing little alpha particle torpedoes shooting out in every direction, leaving a trail behind. » 3/06/15 9:47pm 3/06/15 9:47pm

Radiation Is Dangerous, But Awesome To Watch

Radon gas is a hazardous thing to have around the house. It hangs around a short time before shooting out alpha particles. With a cloud chamber, scientists show us exactly what that decay process looks like, and it's stunning. » 3/06/15 7:40am 3/06/15 7:40am

This Eerie Chandelier Is Controlled By A Geiger Counter

Artist Phillip Stearns' A Chandelier For One of Many Possible Endings is a custom light fixture containing 92 elements, each connected to a Geiger counter and each representing an electron in a Uranium atom. They light up in response to radiation, creating a haunting pattern. » 2/28/15 4:15pm 2/28/15 4:15pm

Ruined Fukushima Plant Leaking Radiation 70 Times Above Normal Levels

Fukushima is Japan's radiation nightmare that just won't go away. Ever since March 11, 2011, the damaged plant has been riddled with leaks and cleanup setbacks. Now Tepco, the operator of the damaged facility, says they've recorded spikes between 50-70 times above average readings in the gutters that pour water into a… » 2/22/15 5:01pm 2/22/15 5:01pm

In 1945, Scientists Calculated How Many Nukes Could Destroy The World

A newly declassified document obtained by a nuclear historian reveals that the Manhattan Project scientists who designed and detonated the first atomic bomb estimated that 10 to 100 enhanced "superbombs" would produce enough atmospheric radiation to wipe out the human race. » 12/17/14 10:20am 12/17/14 10:20am

This Real Physics Phenomenon Would Make The Perfect Fictional Bomb

Ever heard of Wigner energy? It caused the worst nuclear disaster in British history. That's because it works much better in fiction than in reality. » 11/18/14 8:00am 11/18/14 8:00am

A Drug that Turns Radioactive Elements into Harmless Chemicals

After the nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima, scientists around the world went into high gear, trying to figure out how we could respond next time. And for chemists at Berkeley Lab, that means trying to develop a pill that people could take to neutralize radioactive elements in the environment. » 10/31/14 5:30pm 10/31/14 5:30pm

What Causes The Hessdalen Lights?

Is Halloween complete without some mysterious lights in the sky? Learn the theory behind the Hessdalen Lights, and why the reality might be scarier than visiting UFOs. » 10/31/14 8:30am 10/31/14 8:30am

Drinking a Beer Can Save You From Radiation Poisoning

If you've been exposed to a certain type of radiation, you should waste no time getting decontaminated — by having a beer. This is a time-honored way of dealing with tritium contamination, from the early days of Los Alamos to today. » 10/21/14 12:40pm 10/21/14 12:40pm

The Victorians Used To Use Uranium To Make Glowing Glassware

We love artwork made with innovative materials — but sometimes, it can go too far. This Victorian-era glassware, made with uranium to make it glow, is definitely in that category. » 6/25/14 11:35am 6/25/14 11:35am

How We Deliberately Used Radiation to Eradicate a Species

Fortunately, they're not a very pleasant species. Screw worms enjoy laying eggs in the mucus membranes of mammals, and telling their friends to do the same. A little applied radiation really helped. Perhaps. » 6/24/14 11:00am 6/24/14 11:00am

Impact of Cosmic Rays on Cognitive Health

As part of investigations into the impact of long-duration space travel on squishy biological creatures, researchers at Johns Hopkins University blasted rats with high-speed particles. Shockingly, the irradiated rats failed to develop awesome superpowers, instead developing cognitive issues. Whoops. » 5/01/14 5:00am 5/01/14 5:00am

How Radiation in Smoke Detectors Keeps You Alive

Radiation so often gets a bad rap. Obviously, no one wants to swallow a chunk of uranium, but some radiation isn't just harmless, it can keep you alive. Hopefully, most of you are sitting not-too-far from a piece of decayed plutonium right now - your smoke detector. » 4/08/14 3:40pm 4/08/14 3:40pm

The Woods Around Chernobyl Aren't Decaying

Like a landscape of the undead, the woods outside Chernobyl are having trouble decomposing. The catastrophic meltdown and ensuing radiation blast of April 1986 has had long-term effects on the very soil and ground cover of the forested region, essentially leaving the dead trees and leaf litter unable to decompose. The… » 3/17/14 12:12pm 3/17/14 12:12pm

New study suggests humans could become radiation-resistant

In the event of a nuclear accident or blast, humans can be exposed to ionizing radiation that causes cancer and heart disease, among other problems. But now a group of scientists have bred a strain of bacteria that can repair its own radiation damage. This has implications for us, too. » 3/14/14 11:22am 3/14/14 11:22am

Early Nuclear Safety Posters Are Perky and Disturbing

These Radiation Protection posters were produced at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1940s, where the most of the work was done on the Manhattan Project. Before the Cold War was in full effect, these posters warned of dangers that would come to define a generation. » 1/09/14 3:18pm 1/09/14 3:18pm

Earth’s Mysterious Third Radiation Ring Driven By ‘Different Physics’

Earlier this year, NASA scientists discovered a “previously unknown surprise circling Earth” — an ephemeral third ring of radiation surrounding our planet. Now, some eight months later, UCLA scientists say they know what’s going on — and it’s unlike anything physicists have ever seen before. » 9/24/13 8:00am 9/24/13 8:00am

Why are plants attracted to radium?

A 1909 issue of Popular Science Monthly contains a piece about how plants react to radium. Since radium emits gamma radiation, which kills cells and mutates DNA, they don't generally respond well. So why are these plant roots curving towards it? » 7/12/13 8:20am 7/12/13 8:20am

Proposed 'deflector shield' could protect astronauts from radiation

As if Star Trek didn’t already provide enough futuristic inspiration, scientists from the UK are working on an actual deflector shield that could protect astronauts from dangerous levels of radiation. And it would work in a way that's very similar to how we're protected right here on Earth. » 6/27/13 3:20pm 6/27/13 3:20pm

Mechanic accused of inventing a death ray for Israel and/or the KKK

A mechanic who worked at General Electric in New York spent the past several years perfecting a deadly, truck-mounted radiation weapon. According to the FBI, he tried to sell it to some Jews in his area, whom he figured could hand it over to Israel. Failing that, he tried to sell it to some friends in the KKK. » 6/19/13 10:39am 6/19/13 10:39am