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The chain of scientific authority

March 21st, 2011

Noted scientist Andrew Bolt assures us that exposure to radioactivity is beneficial. His source is creation scientist Ann Coulter, who in turn relies on all-round scientific expert Tom Bethell, whose Incorrect Guide to Science[1] rejects scientific correctness on radiation, evolution, climate change, DDT, AIDS and many other topics. As far as I know, none of these experts has ever studied any scientific subject at a level higher than high school, which guarantees that they haven’t been infected by the subversive influence of correctness in science (or, for that matter, any other topic).

(Hat tip, Tim Lambert, who points to one of those correct scientists, PZ Myers)

fn1. The full title says “Politically Incorrect”, but this is a bit redundant. No doubt politics are the reason for Bethells incorrectness on science, but that’s true of all his incorrect opinions.

Categories: Boneheaded stupidity, Science Tags:
  1. Freelander
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:38 | #1

    Unfortunately, with people like Ann Coulter, even if she knew she was wrong after reading Tim Lambert or P Z Meyers posts, she would simply cry all the way to the bank, to quote Liberace.
    I wonder if people like her know they are wrong and whether they even care. Do they look at what they are doing as simply performance art?

    Interesting concept. Cardinal Pell, Ian Plimer, Lord Monckton – performance artists.

  2. Paul Lindsey
  3. Ikonoclast
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:48 | #3

    Clearly belief exists in inverse proportion to understanding. For so many people, it is clearly so much easier to believe the most preposterous assertions than to understand anything through empirical evidence and logical exposition.

  4. rog
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:50 | #4

    To put this into perspective, amongst others the American Nuclear Society is supportive of benefits of low level radiation therefore Bolt will be able to access plenty of expert opinion from “sceptics.” However the Academy of Sciences, UNSCEAR and others can find no evidence to support the theory.

  5. Freelander
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:52 | #5

    I think I might just put my head into the microwave…

  6. jquiggin
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:53 | #6

    @Paul Lindsey

    Did you notice that the source was the American Council on Science and Health? . I guess they are a little more reputable than Coulter, but not a source to be relied on.

  7. djm
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:13 | #7

    The study that found a hormetic effect from the Taiwan/Cobalt-60 accident used a bad methodology and was subsequently debunked (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17178625)

  8. djm
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:17 | #8

    Actually, there is some evidence for a hypersensitivity to low doses of radiation (though the effect is pretty marginal). See this deck of slides from a researcher from the DOE low dose radiation study program: http://www.tricity.wsu.edu/faculty/brooks/WSU%20Radiation%20Safety%20Seminar.ppt

  9. hc
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:20 | #9

    Without endorsing Bolt’s scientific illiteracy the hormesis thesis of toxicology is showing that damage functions for a wide range of so-called poisons are u-shaped. This does include radioactivity and even dioxins. Of course the concentrations over which damages fall are low but such things as mammograms are apparently health promoting.

  10. bill
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:31 | #10

    One has to wonder if the remarkable rash of ‘how I learned to stop worrying and love gamma rays’ and ‘only a a remarkably tiny number of people died as a result of Chernobyl (brackets directly end brackets)’ commentary that seems to have afflicted almost every comments thread on this issue might have anything to do with the systematic online astroturfing Monbiot’s been referring to.

    (You might also be amused to know that now’s the right time to be having the Uranium enrichment debate again, according to South Australia’s new minerals minister. Yes, Fukushima notwithstanding and on the same day that a report revealed that despite the minerals boom the actual number of jobs in the industry in SA has slumped from 12,500 in 2007 to 8000 now. Ah, so that’s how we’ll get them all back! Got to give SA Labor points for consistency; this shows him to be about as tone-deaf as the previous incumbent…)

  11. rog
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:31 | #11

    Importantly the nuclear industry, including foot soldiers and camp followers like Bolt, are saying that the media are creating a climate of fear etc etc. I would suggest that Bolt et al go to Japan and demonstrate their confidence by staying at Fukushima, drink the milk, eat the spinach and so on.

  12. bill
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:32 | #12

    Sorry, Monbiot link should be http://www.monbiot.com/2011/02/23/robot-wars/

  13. Freelander
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:47 | #13

    @hc

    An interesting question concerning the ‘u’ shape of the damage function for various toxins and radioactivity is whether once you have the positive ‘bump’ from the cell repair reaction, whether there is no further ‘bump’ when you add more small doses of other toxins.

    As P K Meyer explains it, I would hypothesize that “most likely mechanism [of] an upregulation of cellular defenses that overcompensates for the damage the agent is doing” only occurs for a body that is not already dealing with other toxins (or radiation). This, of course, could be tested empirically. If this is so, then once a small dose of radiation, for example, had triggered this up regulation, the body would, therefore, be more susceptible to any other toxins assaulting the body. To this extent, the greater susceptibility incurred as a result of even a small dose of ‘beneficial’ radiation might not be desirable.

    Of course, the preceding might be too subtle for a “FoxNews” audience or John Howard’s “common sense pub test”.

  14. paul walter
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:51 | #14

    Yes, Bill got it right as to astroturfing- the version Qiggin refers to is amusing because it has dropped an overt denial as to cigs, that its honeyed apologetics on other issues have more credibility.

  15. paul walter
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:55 | #15

    Yeah, I know. I spelt Quiggin’s name wrong- typo.
    If Bolt seriously believes a good dose of Strontium 90 does him good I’m all for it, I’ll try, too, provided he doesn’t catch cancer in the longish interim I’ll be employing to see how he goes with it.

  16. Alice
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:58 | #16

    I prefer my sources to come from people like Helen Caldicott who right state “Nuclear energy is a destroyer of worlds.” (and of lands and of lives – and not only that its unsustainable – we thought we were just plain scared but then we woke to a nightmare to find they have been storing decades of spent fuel rods near mamma bear reactor because its cheap and they havent git a clue what else to do with them and disposing of them is more than nuclear firms want to pay).

    Jeez – from justifiable rational fear to gob smacking horror – but this industry stinks to high heaven doesnt it? Nothing Andrew Bolt or other names who you know is going to change this.
    The best think we could ever have done after discovering nuclear fission is to send the lot into outer space along with all the idiots who recommend (have recommended) it.

    We knew it would be trouble in 1945.

  17. paul walter
    March 21st, 2011 at 17:08 | #17

    Alice am put in mind of the Rosenbergs and McCarthyism, with last.

  18. Alice
    March 21st, 2011 at 17:35 | #18

    @paul walter
    Did Mccarthyism die yet Paul??…..I have seen lots I would call McCarthyism. Bloody nusiance those zealots still around, still fighting for corporate vested interests, still robbing labour and transferring to capital (praise be the great entrepeneurs of our society for they create all jobs etc – trouble is they are coming up mighty short on the jobs numbers – but still we ignore our unemployed youth, and still we ignore unemployment and pretend its not happening – its all supposedly “free choice leisure” and all the while inflation is the media demon – except its not – unemployment is.

    The Phillips curve is alive and while – fight inflation and sacrifice unemployment but the latter is now dragging us down. Oh for a bit of deflation so we can shoot the central banks false enemy to pieces.

    There is no inflation. Inflation is not the threat.

    What happened to good old fashioned trust busting.?? I am over worshipping at the alter of the great entrepreneurs…

  19. March 21st, 2011 at 17:49 | #19

    Yes, they definitely got their talking points memo and are working them hard.

    Some fellow called Geoff Strong had a ripper in The Age online today: Hydro Dams Kill More People Than Nukular!

    Earlier it was directly above Ian Lowe’s piece about Five Reasons Nuclear Is Dead, but that one has dropped down the hole.

  20. Chumpai
    March 21st, 2011 at 17:52 | #20

    @ Freelander

    As PZ Myers states there’s probably an upreglation of cellular defenses, in my mind this is most likely DNA repair enzymes that repair mistakes during DNA replication or damage from other mutagens (mainly chemical and radiation). Assuming the radiation does increase these enzymes then people may overall get lower amounts of cancer due to the body being able to repair DNA damage that occurs during the normal course of life.

    However, why would upregulation of DNA repair enzymes cause you to be more susceptible to other forms of toxins? Take alcohol for example, alcohol is a toxin and you need alcohol dehydrogenase to break it down, why would an increase in other cellular defences decrease your alcohol dehydrogenase activity?

    Also to quibble with PZ Myers, he says “Radiation is always harmful” – this is an oversimplification. UV beta radiation for example may increase your risk of skin cancer but it also helps to generate vitamin D. :)

    Back to Bolt I think it was a clumsy post but I take that he is implying radiation coming from the actual plant (gamma, alpha, beta rays etc) won’t hurt any members of the public and I would say he is correct. However, the iodine-131 (half life of 8 days and emits beta particles during decay) is something you probably wouldn’t want to be exposed to (via ingestion) even in low doses. (Apologies if I’m insulting anyone’s IQ here) This is because most iodine-131 will be taken up by the thyroid and decay there potentially giving that organ a high specific dose even if your overall dose is low.

    Apologies for the long post JQ, I will try keep it shorter next time.

  21. Freelander
    March 21st, 2011 at 18:17 | #21

    @Chumpai

    It is not the up-regulation I am suggesting that would make you more susceptible. It is that the initial up-regulation benefit is a one off, which you have used up, and you have the toxin or effect of the radiation causing it in your body. If you add other toxins you have the original toxin or radiation plus the new toxins and you would therefore be already on the ‘u’ shaped damage curve, but without the benefit of the initial up-regulation. Ultimately, the question would be answered empirically. Theories, however well motivated, are simply pure speculation without empirical testing.

    Put it this way. If you have a dagger sticking out of you already, even if that was somehow beneficial in making your body’s reaction to it, you still might be less able to handle the blow you receive with a baseball bat.

  22. Alice
    March 21st, 2011 at 18:46 | #22

    @Megan
    Wait for it Megan – we are bound to hear it sooner or later..

    “you have more chance of dying by lightening strike than you have of a nuclear accident” OR “the chance of an attack by a great white is greater than risk of dying fromm a nuclear accident” (Bolt, Piers next? or will it be Barry the Bozo from bravenewblunders ?) so everyone get back to work, eat the spinach and drink the milk, we may lose a few hectacres o producing land for the unforseeable eternal future buts thats a small price to pay for your neon signs now.

    There is some really heavy censorship going on at Bravenewblunders (deletes, moderations and excessive use of the “unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted” button. Must be copping some pressure and decided increased regulation is in order)…
    Freedom is only granted there unless you are in complete agreement re the positives of the nuclear industry.

  23. Chumpai
    March 21st, 2011 at 19:26 | #23

    @Freelander

    Yes in terms of your dagger/baseball bat analogy there is a line of thought in the published cancer therapy literature that using low dose chemo in combination with low dose radiation may have a synergistic effect on killing cancer cells. (While hopefully less side effects on the rest of the body). So I think there may be some empirical evidence ;)

    I would also agree with you that you the up-regulation of DNA repair enzymes cannot be endlessly increased (my memory says there are negative feedback mechanisms to stop too much of a certain protein being produced). I think what you are saying is that if you add radiation you increase DNA protection mechanisms, but, if in addition to radiation you also add another mutagen (e.g. chemicals from smoking) then the repair enzymes can’t cope with all the extra damage? If that was your argument then we are in agreement.

  24. Stretch
    March 21st, 2011 at 19:55 | #24

    International expert, Andew Bolt, has reassured the people of Fukushima that he is safe and well in Melbourne.

  25. paul walter
    March 22nd, 2011 at 02:28 | #25

    I suppose some saw Media Watch and the shlockjocks last night?
    Tell me!
    Did I really see and hear what I saw and heard?

  26. Hermit
    March 22nd, 2011 at 07:20 | #26

    Attacking a well founded scientific theory seems to be a new form of McCarthyism if it challenges a preferred world view. In the currently fashionable model of political correctness climate change is ‘in’ while radiation hormesis is ‘out’. I think both theories have merit. On the latter I defer to the real experts on the subject
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis
    No doubt the long term health of the Fukushima repair crew will be monitored and analysed in conjunction with lifestyle factors and genetics. A decade hence it may well be some ill health can be attributed to exposure. So far the death toll seems to be radiation 0 tsunami 10,000+.

  27. Alice
    March 22nd, 2011 at 07:47 | #27

    @Stretch
    If I didnt read the name first Stretch’s joke is classic Freelander..and thats an honour.

  28. bill
    March 22nd, 2011 at 09:45 | #28

    For those that haven’t seen it the 2006 BEIR VII report from the US National Academy of Sciences reviewed all available studies and submissions on this matter and concluded? The higher the dose the higher the risk! And it’s turtles all the way down; they specifically rejected both the idea of a threshold benign – or even ‘beneficial’ – level, saying this was unsupported in the literature AND the reverse (some submissions argued that lower doses were disproportionately damaging.)

    Interesting to see Monbiot going waaaay out on the nuclear limb on this one too. If it were me I’d be inclined to wait until the smoke had actually stopped rising from the stricken reactors before proclaiming that everything was just fine as this was the worst that could happen. And then there’s the subsequent health of the genuinely heroic plant workers and inevitable corruption/incompetence investigations to consider…

    However, it does seem that nuclear advocates generally – at least of the type inclined to see the Fukushima disaster as a mere pothole on the road to perfection – are missing the part of the mind I’d refer to as ‘Healthy Self-Doubt’ which enables the thinker to STFU for a while if the evidence is apparently running against them. Ziggy Switkowski was more rational on 4 Corners last night!

  29. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:14 | #29

    Nice attack on the anti science behaviour of Andrew Bolt. He returns fire at the anti science behaviour of shock jock Kerry OBrien.

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/four_corners_gets_a_bad_case_of_nuclear_hysterics/

  30. Jeepers Creepers
    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:57 | #30

    Not really Terje.

    You seem to be suffering from Catallaxyitis

  31. rog
    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:59 | #31

    Did Bolt say that Fukushima had been out of control?

  32. jquiggin
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:18 | #32

    Give it up, Terje. You’re smart enough to know that Bolt is wrong on all counts, but unwilling to break ranks with the tribe. A very poor performance in my view.

  33. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:32 | #33

    JQ – I broadly agree with your repudiation of Coulter and Andrew Bolts reliance on her. But his article about 4 Corners makes similar valid criticisms of who others rely on for their science.

    I think Andrew Bolt got it wrong on his hydroelectric article as I imply in comments here:-

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/2011/03/22/dangerous-stuff-that-hydroelectric-power/

  34. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:35 | #34

    p.s. I’m smart enough to know that Bolt is not wrong on all things just as you are not wrong on all things. And both of you are wrong on many things.

  35. rog
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:52 | #35

    Bolt relies on the opinion of the WNA – hardly an unbiased opinion. The IAEA maintain that the situation remains very serious.

  36. Jeepers Creepers
    March 22nd, 2011 at 12:56 | #36

    Yes Terje,
    Kerry O’Brien does not organise what goes on in a Four Corners program.
    He introduces it and then may interview people to add to the program.

    Interviewing someone who challenges your understanding and letting him fully explain his position is not what ‘shock jocks’ do.

    you are wrong on this

  37. may
    March 22nd, 2011 at 13:00 | #37

    @bill

    job numbers have dropped in SA?

    they have dropped in WA as well.

  38. rog
    March 22nd, 2011 at 13:42 | #38

    Bolt calls the response to Fukushima ‘hysterical’ as the IAEA announce that radiation levels are currently x1600 @ 20kms from the centre and the French authority are warning that contamination by radiation will be an issue for decades.

    Hysterical is not the right term – angry, afraid, despairing, fearful, dismayed would closer. What a mess this cheap green nuclear has made!

  39. jquiggin
    March 22nd, 2011 at 14:49 | #39

    TerjeP, you’re equivocating on the meaning of “wrong”. In Bolt’s case you agree with his opinions on many things, but, as we both know, he routinely and recklessly gets his facts wrong. In my case, you think my opinions are wrong, but you can rarely point to factual errors, and when someone does, I correct them.

  40. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 14:55 | #40

    Jeepers – giving air time to a bunch of unscientific cranks is no better than quoting an unscientific crank. Note that Bolt quoted Coulter but did not say if she was right / wrong / qualified or unqualified. If you think it is crap he has a comment section where you can say so.

  41. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:09 | #41

    <If you think it is crap he has a comment section where you can say so

    Not true, he has comments section where his moderators determine what is said.

  42. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:16 | #42

    Hermit :Attacking a well founded scientific theory seems to be a new form of McCarthyism if it challenges a preferred world view. In the currently fashionable model of political correctness climate change is ‘in’ while radiation hormesis is ‘out’. I think both theories have merit. On the latter I defer to the real experts on the subjecthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis

    Hermit, I suggest you read what the NAS say on hormesis: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=332

  43. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:17 | #43

    John – in general I find you to be sincere with the facts. I won’t say you are perfect and I often disagree with your judgment and perspective but you are usully sincere. I think Bolt is at times careless but I have seen nothing to suggest he is anything other than sincere also. At times he straight quotes others without much checking, but as with the Coulter quote he does not try and own the position. Generally when he is making an argument of his own he puts more effort into getting the details right.

    Your constant charge of tribalism is predictable but boring.

  44. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:19 | #44

    TerjeP :p.s. I’m smart enough to know that Bolt is not wrong on all things just as you are not wrong on all things. And both of you are wrong on many things.

    That is called hand waving. This empty two sentances can be rolled out for any generic situation where you have no sensible comment to make. Pure mindless word mash.

  45. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:24 | #45

    @TerjeP

    TerjeP, more words, same lack of substance. Here are some concrete examples to get your teeth into: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/politics/bolt/

  46. Hermit
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:32 | #46

    @jakerman
    Well I’m buggered then since I bought a short wavelength UV light from the stamp shop to look at scorpions, toadstools and bits of rock from Olympic Dam. Some lovely fluorescent colours but I think the real damage comes from the UV.

    Did we all remove our smoke alarms containing a speck of plutonium? (actually the derivative Am 241)

  47. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:43 | #47

    Jackerman – in spite of what you may believe Tim Lambert is not a neutral arbiter of the truth. He is a protagonist in many of these debates.

  48. jquiggin
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:45 | #48

    You can’t be “sincere” about facts, only right or wrong. If you’re consistently careless, and your errors always go in the direction of favoring your own case, and aren’t corrected when they are pointed out, you’re a liar.

  49. jquiggin
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:47 | #49

    @TerjeP
    Again, neutrality is not to the point here, except to someone with a tribal view of the truth. Facts are facts – Lambert gets them right, Bolt doesn’t and you still side with Bolt.

  50. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:51 | #50

    @Hermit
    No idea what your comment refers to,

    @TerjeP
    Same hand waving and same lack of concrete points to back your case. Let me emphais the empty nature of your defense of Bolt and attempt to liken his actions to those those of others (by avoiding concrete examples). I could may a show of diverting criticism of Gaddafi by using your last three posts and swaping his name with Bolt’s.

    “I’m smart enough to know that Gaddafi is not wrong on all things just as you are not wrong on all things. And both of you are wrong on many things.”

  51. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 15:55 | #51

    JQ – on which specific issue of fact have I wrongly sided with Bolt?

  52. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:04 | #52

    TerjeP :JQ – on which specific issue of fact have I wrongly sided with Bolt?

    You’ve specialised in avoiding concrete issues to try and smear critiques of Bolt into John and Lambert.

    Well done for saying noting in so many words, sorry that you were attempting to associate Bolts actions with everyone else, rather than facing up to Bolts fallacious reliance on Ann Coulter.

  53. Fran Barlow
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:28 | #53

    @TerjeP

    Blot’s pattern of misrepresentation is so consistent in its objects and so reckless with the data, his refusal to recant so solid, that it stretches credulity to conclude other than that he is simply lying for his tribe. Lying seems to be his default position. He has the old RW ALP machine motto — never resign never apologise.

    He misrepresents on big things and on small things and if the matter involves the Greens, then his trolling goes up a notch.

    And as others have said, he won’t permit challenges on his blog if he thinks the challenger just might expose his duplicity. I know that from personal experience. He decalred some years ago that I was never to return and deleted my posts. He’s entitled of course — it’s his blog — but it reflects on his ethos.

    He truly is a blot on the mediascape.

  54. Nick R
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:34 | #54

    Terje – the best candidates for neutral arbiters of the truth are the scientists who understand the problem and submit their work for scrutiny, and they all seem to be in pretty strong agreement. While I am aware that you have sensible views on AGW, you should acknowledge that most on the right don’t (e.g. Bolt) and that this is not something easily overlooked.

  55. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:46 | #55

    rather than facing up to Bolts fallacious reliance on Ann Coulter.

    Jackerman – my first words on this discussion were:-

    Nice attack on the anti science behaviour of Andrew Bolt.

    Did you presume that I didn’t mean it?

  56. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:51 | #56

    Blot’s pattern of misrepresentation is so consistent in its objects and so reckless with the data, his refusal to recant so solid, that it stretches credulity to conclude other than that he is simply lying for his tribe. Lying seems to be his default position. He has the old RW ALP machine motto — never resign never apologise.

    I don’t think Bolt is a liar. I do think he is over zealous at times and that he should take more time out to listen to and properly understand the more intelligent criticisms of his arguments. However that is not the same as being a liar.

  57. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:54 | #57

    You’ve specialised in avoiding concrete issues

    I avoid concrete positions when I have nothing concrete to say. I can and do however take quite specific positions on certain issues from time to time. Sorry if you have not noticed.

  58. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:06 | #58

    TerjeP :JQ – I broadly agree with your repudiation of Coulter and Andrew Bolts reliance on her. But his article about 4 Corners makes similar valid criticisms of who others rely on for their science.

    @TerjeP

    I disagree, Bolt’s criticism of the Four Corners programme are bogus. Lets take his leading point, (terjeP can pick a better one if he can find one). Bolt complains that the following quote is “a wildly unlikely hypothetical“:

    The problem there is, if that plutonium fuel is melting inside the core, if it’s being vented out or if an explosion were to break the containment open, we could have, and we have as much as a quarter of a ton of additional plutonium in that reactor, we could have radioactive releases containing plutonium, which would be just yet another horror to have to deal with…

    Yet this is not “a wildly unlikely hypothetical“, in Japan it is reported they are actually venting radioactive material to cool the reactors.

    In Japan, plant operators face a similar dilemma, forced to vent radioactive gas from the overheating reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

    At the nearby Fukushima Daini facility, engineers have reported signs of three more reactors overheating, leading them to vent gas. A third facility, the Onagawa nuclear power plant, also is under a state of emergency.

    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20110315/1anuke15_cv.art.htm

    [March 12] TEPCO workers began venting radioactive steam at Fukushima-Daiichi reactor No. 1 to prevent pressure from getting any higher and bursting the thick steel vessel that holds the nuclear core. In essence, the operators moved radioactive gases from the inner containment area into the larger building that houses the reactor. At the same time, the government began evacuating some 20,000 people from the region within 10 kilometers of the stricken power plant.

    On March 12, an explosion tore the roof off the building housing reactor No. 1 after workers vented high-pressure steam and hydrogen into the structure.

    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-03-21/anatomy-nuclear-crisis-chronology-fukushima#

    Now elevated levels of radiation are being found in drinking water food and seawater.

    Now the Japanese government is warning that release of even more radiation is likely. They would not be planning further venting if the risk of worse were not real.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/radioactive-steam-buildup-hits-battle-to-cool-reactors-2247779.html#

  59. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:10 | #59

    TerjeP :

    You’ve specialised in avoiding concrete issues

    I avoid concrete positions when I have nothing concrete to say. I can and do however take quite specific positions on certain issues from time to time. Sorry if you have not noticed.

    No TerjeP , I noticed all right, remember I pointed it out to you:

    That is called hand waving. This empty two sentances can be rolled out for any generic situation where you have no sensible comment to make. Pure mindless word mash.

  60. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:17 | #60

    TerjeP :

    rather than facing up to Bolts fallacious reliance on Ann Coulter.

    Jackerman – my first words on this discussion were:-

    Nice attack on the anti science behaviour of Andrew Bolt.

    Did you presume that I didn’t mean it?

    I accept this correction to my claim. Will you accept your smearing Bolt’s behaviour with that of John is fallacious handwaving?

  61. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:18 | #61

    Yes but in that case I did actually make a quite specific statement of my position.

    I’m smart enough to know that Bolt is not wrong on all things just as you are not wrong on all things. And both of you are wrong on many things.

    It was JQ who was hand waving. He said:-

    You’re smart enough to know that Bolt is wrong on all counts

  62. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:19 | #62

    Will you accept your smearing Bolt’s behaviour with that of John is fallacious handwaving?

    I don’t understand what this means. Can you rephrase it please.

  63. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:19 | #63

    The following is split to avoid the moderation trap:

    TerjeP :JQ – I broadly agree with your repudiation of Coulter and Andrew Bolts reliance on her. But his article about 4 Corners makes similar valid criticisms of who others rely on for their science.

    @TerjeP

    I disagree, Bolt’s criticism of the Four Corners programme are bogus. Lets take his leading point, (terjeP can pick a better one if he can find one). Bolt complains that the following quote is “a wildly unlikely hypothetical“:

    The problem there is, if that plutonium fuel is melting inside the core, if it’s being vented out or if an explosion were to break the containment open, we could have, and we have as much as a quarter of a ton of additional plutonium in that reactor, we could have radioactive releases containing plutonium, which would be just yet another horror to have to deal with…

    Yet this is not “a wildly unlikely hypothetical“, in Japan it is reported they are actually venting radioactive material to cool the reactors.

    In Japan, plant operators face a similar dilemma, forced to vent radioactive gas from the overheating reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

    At the nearby Fukushima Daini facility, engineers have reported signs of three more reactors overheating, leading them to vent gas. A third facility, the Onagawa nuclear power plant, also is under a state of emergency.

    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20110315/1anuke15_cv.art.htm

  64. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:19 | #64

    [March 12] TEPCO workers began venting radioactive steam at Fukushima-Daiichi reactor No. 1 to prevent pressure from getting any higher and bursting the thick steel vessel that holds the nuclear core. In essence, the operators moved radioactive gases from the inner containment area into the larger building that houses the reactor. At the same time, the government began evacuating some 20,000 people from the region within 10 kilometers of the stricken power plant.

    On March 12, an explosion tore the roof off the building housing reactor No. 1 after workers vented high-pressure steam and hydrogen into the structure.

    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-03-21/anatomy-nuclear-crisis-chronology-fukushima#

  65. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:20 | #65

    Now elevated levels of radiation are being found in drinking water food and seawater.

    Now the Japanese government is warning that release of even more radiation is likely. They would not be planning further venting if the risk of worse were not real.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/radioactive-steam-buildup-hits-battle-to-cool-reactors-2247779.html#

  66. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:24 | #66

    Jakerman – the similar and valid criticisms is the solicitation of scientific opinion from non-scientists.

    As for the venting of radioactive gas it seems clear that you don’t know what this means in practice.

  67. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:26 | #67

    TerjeP :

    Will you accept your smearing Bolt’s behaviour with that of John is fallacious handwaving?

    I don’t understand what this means. Can you rephrase it please.

    Will you accept the fallacious nature of your attemp to liken Bolt’s behavour with John’s. As per your handwaving comment I hightlighted http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2011/03/21/the-chain-of-scientific-authority/comment-page-1/#comment-276468

  68. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:29 | #68

    TerjeP :Jakerman – the similar and valid criticisms is the solicitation of scientific opinion from non-scientists. >

    4 Corners illiciated a range of views, and Bolts criticisms of those views are bogus.

    As for the venting of radioactive gas it seems clear that you don’t know what this means in practice.

    Empty words TerjeP, I assume you have no sensible comment to make on this point.

  69. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:34 | #69

    Jakerman – With those words I was refuting the suggestion that Andrew Bolt is wrong on all things. Nothing more.

  70. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:36 | #70

    As for the venting of radioactive gas it seems clear that you don’t know what this means in practice.

    Empty words TerjeP, I assume you have no sensible comment to make on this point. (As per)

    TerjeP :

    You’ve specialised in avoiding concrete issues

    I avoid concrete positions when I have nothing concrete to say. I can and do however take quite specific positions on certain issues from time to time. Sorry if you have not noticed.

  71. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:39 | #71

    TerjeP :Jakerman – With those words I was refuting the suggestion that Andrew Bolt is wrong on all things. Nothing more.

    That’s quite a standard you set. Like I said, fallacious hand waving

  72. rog
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:40 | #72

    The venting of radioactive gas indicates that desperate measures are being taken, the ongoing very high temperature combustion of nucear material continue to produce gases which, if not released, could cause an explosion emitting even more radioactivity. Is this a situation that corresponds with Bolt’s version?

  73. bobalot
    March 22nd, 2011 at 17:41 | #73

    TerjeP :
    I avoid concrete positions when I have nothing concrete to say.

    This however doesn’t stop you from posting useless waffle or attempting to derail yet another thread with “look over there! there’s somebody who does the exact same thing!”.

    What makes this even more stupid is that you fail to show how the two situations are remotely equivalent.

  74. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    March 22nd, 2011 at 19:33 | #74

    or attempting to derail yet another thread

    I was intending to post a single comment. I thought it was interesting and ironic that Andrew Bolt was currently making the same case against others which was currently being made against him here. It is all the ridiculous accusations that are leveled at me subsequent to that which have derailed the thread. I’d be quite happy for the discussion to get back on it’s rails. However it seems that I manage to evoke strong emotions for some reason.

  75. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 19:45 | #75

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :

    I thought it was interesting and ironic that Andrew Bolt was currently making [trying to fabricate] the same case against others which was currently being made against him here. It is all the ridiculous accusations that are leveled at me [conflations I tried to make between Bolt and others] subsequent to that which have derailed the thread. I’d be quite happy for the discussion to get back on it’s rails. However it seems that I manage to evoke [project] strong emotions for some reason.

  76. Donald Oats
    March 22nd, 2011 at 19:48 | #76

    @paul walter
    I do not know what you saw and heard, but I’ll guess it was much the same as what I saw and heard. All I can say is “Thank Goodness for MediaBash!” for without it there would be no media presence actually counterbalancing the shock jocks egregious lyin’ mouths.

  77. March 22nd, 2011 at 19:52 | #77

    Regarding the earlier discussion of the effects of radiation on cells.

    Basically doses off radiation can cause damage to the DNA nucleotides ” the letters” and also break the DNA. Since damage to DNA is a process cells have evolved to deal with, cells can respond by up-regulating repair enzymes to try to fix this. Once they have done their job they will likely go back to normal levels, but a future bout of radiation/ DNA damaging reagent could see them turned up again.

    Conversely higher doses may cause so much damage that it the DNA is not repairable and instead the cell will go into growth arrest and decide to die.

    Now any dose of a DNA damaging reagent, could cause a mutation that doesn’t get repaired and which (by chance) causes it to become abnormal and on the path to a tumour cell. This is part of the reason why people get cancer despite being non-smokers etc. Obviously the bigger the dose the more likely you are to hit a cancer gene. So in low doses you’ll have an interplay between the chance of hitting somewhere important and the fact that repair enzymes can mop up the damage. So statistically some people will receive cancer causing mutations from low doses but it’s probably stuck in the noise while more people could be receiving an overall benefit from activating repair pathways. Obviously as the dose increases the chance of hitting somewhere important increases, but determining where any net “benefit” could become net harm is difficult because of the noise in the system.

  78. bobalot
    March 22nd, 2011 at 20:22 | #78

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :

    or attempting to derail yet another thread

    I was intending to post a single comment. I thought it was interesting and ironic that Andrew Bolt was currently making the same case against others which was currently being made against him here. It is all the ridiculous accusations that are leveled at me subsequent to that which have derailed the thread. I’d be quite happy for the discussion to get back on it’s rails. However it seems that I manage to evoke strong emotions for some reason.

    No. You started with the stupid assertion that both situations were equivalent (which you still haven’t provided any actual support for) and then continued to defend this position with mountain loads of waffle (Your post above provides a perfect example).

    Now you are thumping your chest and crying you have been wronged even though it is an obvious troll.

  79. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    March 22nd, 2011 at 21:47 | #79

    So statistically some people will receive cancer causing mutations from low doses but it’s probably stuck in the noise while more people could be receiving an overall benefit from activating repair pathways.

    Mike – I profess no specialist knowledge but it would seem to make sense that the relationship is non linear. And that is certainly what I have been lead to believe. However that is quite different to saying that low levels are beneficial. Do you have a well founded reason to believe it “could” be beneficial?

  80. SJ
    March 22nd, 2011 at 21:58 | #80

    bobalot says:

    This however doesn’t stop you from posting useless waffle or attempting to derail yet another thread with “look over there! there’s somebody who does the exact same thing!”.

    Terje says:

    I’d be quite happy for the discussion to get back on it’s rails.

    Terje says:

    Mike – I profess no specialist knowledge but it would seem to make sense that the relationship is non linear. And that is certainly what I have been lead to believe. However that is quite different to saying that low levels are beneficial. Do you have a well founded reason to believe it “could” be beneficial?

    Look, just bugger off, Terje. It’s obvious you’re just trolling.

    You aren’t even as smart as Bolt, Devine, etc. They know that they’re lying, but at least they know that their paycheck depends on it. You don’t even have that excuse.

  81. SJ
    March 22nd, 2011 at 22:02 | #81

    Poor, poor, whining Terje. You’re a troll, exactly as bobalot said.

    I was intending to post a single comment. I thought it was interesting and ironic that Andrew Bolt was currently making the same case against others which was currently being made against him here. It is all the ridiculous accusations that are leveled at me subsequent to that which have derailed the thread. I’d be quite happy for the discussion to get back on it’s rails. However it seems that I manage to evoke strong emotions for some reason.

    You reckon anyone actually believes stuff like this?

  82. Alice
    March 22nd, 2011 at 22:05 | #82

    So now – am I to take it that students who are incorrect in science exams at school are now correct and students who are correct in science are in reality merely politically correct.

    God help our educaton system with losers like Bolt, Bethell and Coulter around…

    All these inexpert experts must just have a failure complex.

  83. Alice
    March 22nd, 2011 at 22:15 | #83

    As regards the nuclear debate on whats happening in Japan – I can assure you all there was a medi shutdown about the middle of last week. A simple blog search on all the normal terms produced very little real information but what really sealed it for me was the fact that twitter no longer came up as link (and there are numerous twitters from Japan and outside on this mess)’and the media and internet somehow hurtled back to a full frontal on gaddafi.

    The facts will come out, the levels of radiation will come out in the end but meanwhile we are all sitting here and we dont really know what happened. The spent fuel rods – were they blown up in the explosions? Whats causing the fires that cant eb out out in a day, two, three, four, five six etc

    We dont know half of it and the internet has cooled distinctly and suddenly even if the reactors have not.

  84. Mel
    March 22nd, 2011 at 22:37 | #84

    From the peer reviewed literature:

    “Inhabited areas with high levels of natural radiation are found in different areas around the world including Yangjiang, China; Kerala, India; Guarapari, Brazil and Ramsar, Iran. Ramsar in northern Iran is among the world’s well-known areas with highest levels of natural radiation. ”

    “. Based on the findings obtained by studies on the health effect of high levels of natural radiation in Ramsar, as well as other HLNRAs, no consistent detrimental effect has been detected so far. However, more research is needed to clarify if the regulatory authorities should set limiting regulations to protect the inhabitants against elevated levels of natural radiation. ”

    http://www.ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/RamsarHLNRAPaper.doc

    As the above report notes, in some parts of the world people including children and pregnant women receive ten or more times the annual radiation exposure permitted by OHS regs each year of their lives without apparent ill-effect.

    I would also like to ask those here who claim any level of radiation emissions are a grave concern why they aren’t agitating to have the radioactive Paralana hot springs in South Australia sealed under lead and concrete? These springs pump radioactive gases into the atmosphere at rates vastly greater than that permitted by Australian OHS guidelines and are carried hither and yon by the prevailing winds, no doubt contaminating Adelaide from time to time.

  85. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    March 22nd, 2011 at 22:47 | #85

    As regards the nuclear debate on whats happening in Japan – I can assure you all there was a medi shutdown about the middle of last week.

    Alice – Who is in on this conspiracy?

  86. Alice
    March 22nd, 2011 at 22:58 | #86

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje

    When the only person trolling conspiracies (of the denialist type) and denying so much here eg AGW, Bolts lies etc (repeatedly) is you.

    I may well ask you who else is in on this conspiracy.

  87. March 22nd, 2011 at 23:13 | #87

    Hi TerjeP

    Radiation damage isn’t my area of expertise either and I’m not trying to imply that a low dose of radiation is beneficial and I certainly wouldn’t irradiate myself without good cause. I’ve just finished reading the Pharyngula post on the topic, linked by John above and I think PZ has described it well. “radiation is bad for you, cellular defense mechanisms are good for you.” If you are really interested in this stuff I would recommend trying to dig out some scientific review articles, quite a few journals are open access these days.

    What I think one can say that is that there is a very small (ie: greater than 0) chance of acquiring an “oncogenic” (cancer promoting) mutation from a low level of any environmental mutagen, or from a mistake during DNA replication when cells divide. Normally however the mutation won’t be harmful, or your repair pathways will catch it and fix it. If this effect, when generalised to a population, was so small that you couldn’t detect it, you’d say there was no health risk above that of being alive. Ie: Any negative effect is in the noise*.
    Thinking about the idea, I can conceive how stimulating repair pathways with a low dose of a mutagen *could* be beneficial. 1) Prior mutations that had gone unnoticed could be fixed and/or 2) Greater surveillance for mutations could push more partially damaged cells into programmed cell death instead of continuing to divide and accumulate mutations. But this doesn’t mean a positive effect will predominate.

    *Extra science geek caveat: I can see the sense of using a conservative “linear no threshold” model for determining “safe” doses of radiation (see PZ’s post). While any negative effect for the general population might be lost in the noise, subgroups of the population may react differently and what could be beneficial for some may be detrimental for others.

  88. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    March 22nd, 2011 at 23:46 | #88

    Alice – I don’t deny AGW.

  89. John H.
    March 23rd, 2011 at 03:10 | #89

    There is a huge difference between radiation from an external source and radiation from radioactive particles lodged in tissues. In the former case low dose for short periods activates repair processes like heat shock proteins and ku proteins. A cell can maintain this for a limited period of time but in so doing it enters into a different mode of function which impedes its more typical physiological function. If sustained it can lead to a cell senescent state, which can be a precursor to programmed cell death. In the latter case there is sustained radiating effect on nearby tissues potentially for many years which will almost certainly eventually overwhelm the cells defensive capabilities and lead to a micro inflammatory environment which some studies indicate is an ideal state of cancer formation. Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing unusual about cancerous cells in the body. All of us are carrying cancerous cells. It is a probability function, in the right micro-environment and with the right set of mutations these cells can then go on to form tumours. So while studies may indicate a short term benefit from low dose radiation exposure, sustained long term exposure by radioactive particles lodged in tissues is a very bad idea.

    While everyone thinks of nuclear DNA damage the more worrying aspect could mitochondrial DNA damage. This DNA is MUCH more susceptible to damage and current evidence suggests it has poor if any reparative capacity. The loss of mitochondrial function is serious(it is now perceived as a key issue in aging and yes there are strategies to help preserve mitochondrial function), it can doom a cell to necrosis, a form of cell death that is inflammatory in nature. More worryingly, loss of mitochondrial function is an intriguing feature of many cancer cell lines. This is a major challenge because without mitochondrial function cells cannot die by apoptosis, programmed cell death, which is not inflammatory as necrosis. Moreso the loss of mitochondrial function can set the stage for the cell becoming cancerous because mitochondria are key agents in initiating cell death.

    It is ludicrous and desperate to argue that a little radiation is a good idea. If you want to initiate cell repair processes in a much safer fashion than get some exercise, go hungry occasionally, and put in a hard day’s work. If the likes of Bolt and Coulter are intending to use such arguments as a buttress against this nuclear incident they are being desperately stupid.

  90. jakerman
    March 23rd, 2011 at 07:45 | #90

    Hormesis

    The possibility that low doses of radiation may have beneficial effects (a phenomenon often referred to as “hormesis”) has been the subject of considerable debate. Evidence for hormetic effects was reviewed, with emphasis on material published since the 1990 BEIR V study on the health effects of exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation. Although examples of apparent stimulatory or protective effects can be found in cellular and animal biology, the preponderance of available experimental information does not support the contention that low levels of ionizing radiation have a beneficial effect. The mechanism of any such possible effect remains obscure. At this time, the assumption that any stimulatory hormetic effects from low doses of ionizing radiation will have a significant health benefit to humans that exceeds potential detrimental effects from radiation exposure at the same dose is unwarranted.

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=315

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