Saturday, January 2, 2016

Falling for the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) Theory

Sadly, and ironically, the change in our attitudes toward radiation is due to an assumption - an assumption originally made to protect us from excessive exposure, but which has turned into the real "nuclear monster." We will examine it in detail later, but for now it might be best explained with an analogy to falling.

If we have found that falling 100 feet to a concrete floor is fatal in 100% of the cases and falling from fifty feet is fatal in 50% of them, we might logically expect the risk from falling twenty-five feet would result in a 25% death rate. But let's go on. At one foot, according to this "linear relationship between falling and death," we would expect one percent of the victims to die. At one inch, about 0.1%.

Yeah? Do you really think that out of 10,000 people who fall an inch, ten of them will die? If this linear relationship were the case, we would have thousands of people die every day from "falling" off their bathroom scales. Manhattan would have innumerable bodies in the street every day from people "falling" off the curbs.

Everyone sees how ridiculous this "linear relationship" is in an activity like falling that we know about, yet we have been convinced to believe that this relationship is true for our response to ionizing radiation - a subject that very few of us understand. In later chapters we will look at the units that define radiation and how these compare to the "Linear No-Threshold" (LNT) theory of radiation at low doses. But first let's examine another scientific abomination: collective dose.