Category Archives: Biology

A Dirty Bomb

Frankly you have heard about such things for years, without being told what the heck you were supposed to be afraid of. Short answer – nothing much.

Here is a prime example of a risk that made everyone in the radiation business crazy for a few days. Thieves car-jacked a transport of Co60 between the hospital and the storage facility. It has been recovered, but it was a worry for a few days. Thieves have not been found, but I hope they get medical treatment soon.

Cobalt 60 is a created material. It has a half-life of around 5 years (5.27) and decays into a perfectly normal Nickel isotope. If you have a Co60 problem, leave it alone for a couple decades and it goes away. It is created by bombarding normal cobalt metal with slow neutrons, a percentage of the Co59 gets transformed to Co60 – depending on a whole bunch of very boring variables, and a precentage turns back into Ni60. You do some math and at some point you pull the Cobalt metal out of the reactor or Californium source, or whatever, and put it into a Co60 machine – which is either in a pool of water or a lead box. Since Co60 produces a lovely spectrum of 1 MeV  (or call it 1000 keV) gamma rays, we usually call them Gamma cells. 

This is a picture of a pool with a Co60 source at the bottom. Safe as roses to be up here, but when the pulley drags the source out of the water, well, you’d get dead pretty quick. Which is kind of the problem with stealing gamma cells.

As a comparison, everybody has had a dental x-ray. They run from 20 – 100 keV. So at minimum, the gamma cell is 10 times hotter than a dental x-ray. The technicians wear lead coats to keep the exposure to a minimum, they do a couple dozen shots a day. Maybe a minute or two of exposure, total. Frankly, it was shown that x-rays will give you cancer – by Marie Curie – but she had hundreds of hours of exposure, with no shielding.

Gamma cells are hotter than x-ray machines, so don’t play with them without training. Certainly don’t put them in the back of your car and drive around for a few days. And don’t eat any of the pellets. That is all stupid-dangerous. If you are of the mind to do that, stay away from scissors and other deadly apparatus. (Eating scissors is also bad for you.)

Dirty bombs are what scare the normal folk, that some crazy would blow up a gamma cell, irradiating miles of landscape with “deadly radiation.” Yeah, pretty over rated. Mostly, radioactive materials – when blown up with simple explosive – are not much different than anything else. Yeah, it could take a few days to clean up and  you probably want to protect yourself from exposure if you are going to be handling it a lot, but not really worth “fearing.”

picture 9/11 families for a Safe & Strong America

I mean, a BOMB can kill you. If a terrorist is setting off a bomb, that is scary. So are terrorists shooting guns, or flying planes into buildings. Ok, lets set that – 9/11- as a Scale = 10. Scale = 0 is a bearded guy yelling scary Arabic words at you. Where should a dirty bomb fall? 


The bomb part could still take down a building, with people in it. An act by itself which could theoretically be an 8 or 9) SO, for arguments sake, lets let the dirty bomber blow up the mall at midnight, after the janitors leave, with a Co60 dirty bomb. The mall is ruined and it is a few months of clean up to get back to a parking lot. We’ll call that a 3 for 20 million dollars of property damage and zero casualties. What does the “dirty” add to the “bomb.” Physically? It means that the cleaners will have to wear protective gear, which multiplies time required by a factor of 4. SO, it would mean that the mall was out of action for a year. (and that you would have to endure a year’s screaming from ignorant media about the “deadly attack” even if it didn’t kill anyone) I mean, it doesn’t add a casualty, so I’d leave it pretty much a 3. In my book, the lone gunman with 1 kill is a lot scarier than 40 million in damages, but maybe somebody would say differently. 

Dirty bombs are only effective at making people stay out of areas. This is good for “site denial” attacks, such as shutting down an important bridge and costing people a lot of money. This is good for “Fear” tactics, so long as the media is a bunch of ignorant savages. Frankly, guns are more frightening – if you don’t own one. 

Water Bears are Space Aliens !!!

Stephanie was sending this around, in between advertising her newest book, (speaking of space aliens and UFOs) so I figured I had to try it out. Oh, read the Displaced Detective series, good books.

It is probable, 99.76% positive, that the title of this blog post is as much a lie as my statistics. But take a look at that thing! Space Alien! Ok, so it is only a mm long. Well, maybe it won’t take over the world…wait…it already lives everywhere…ok, it took over the world. This little … Bug? … is the most highly evolved survivor seen yet. It can hybernate through Outer Space. Amazing… and a little bit frightning.

I seriously want to praise the scientist featured here, he didn’t “sex up” the Tardigrades in any way. An amazing achievement for a scientist these days.

Human Psyche Expandable

Scientists now claim that the ‘self’ can relocate to other bodies, or be made to include a third arm‏.

This can help explain (in reverse) the concept of “phantom limbs,” as well as the ability of some to consider objects (a car, a tennis racket, a golf club) an extension of their bodies to enhance their skills with it. A little scary and a lot fascinating at the same time.

-Stephanie Osborn, the International Woman of Mystery