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DO NOT TRY ANY OF THE CONCEPTS DEMONSTRATED HERE, BODILY HARM AND/OR DEATH MIGHT RESULT.
I DO NOT ASSUME ANY LIABILITY FOR THE MISUSE OF THE CONTENTS.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What is a Nuclear Winter and What Causes it?

City Nuclear WinterThe concept of a Nuclear Winter remains a theory. However this theory is well ingrained in popular science and is backed up by many scientists. The basic concept is that a nuclear war would cause so much dust to be thrown in the air that it would block out the sun. This would in turn lead to a massive decrease in temperatures (especially in the desertic regions) which would then result in a massive food shortage. Plants being very sensitive to temperature, the majority of the worlds crops would wither. I based part of my article on the research paper entitled "Climate and Smoke: An Appraisal of Nuclear Winter" (1990) by Turco, Toon, Ackerman, Pollack, and Sagan.

How Much Change is too Much?
Frozen Crops Temperature Nuclear WinterAccording to the most recent scientific research as little as a 1 degree Celsius change could possibly destabilize the ecosystem. The worst case scenario could result in a 22 degree Celsius drop in temperature in equator dry regions and up to a 10 degree Celsius drop in humid regions. This would mean the destruction of all crops that aren't resistant to frost, which unfortunately is about 99% of them. The greatest impact on the flora and fauna can be seen in tropical forest regions where pretty much everything would die. The two crops that are most likely to survive frost are potatoes and hemp. This will be discussed in more detail further in this post.

Don't You Count on Solar Panels to Help You Either:
Volcano Kliuchevskoi NASA SpaceAnother effect from the massive amounts of dust thrown in the air by a nuclear war is a enormous decrease in sunlight. The sunlight will be blocked by two sources: the dust from the initial nuclear blast and the smoke and soot and ash generated by the burning cities, forests, and fossil fuels. Soot has a far greater potential that dust for blocking sunlight. The particles are less dense that sand and earth particles and thus can be carrier further. A typical forest fire only carries the particles in the troposphere where most of the weather systems are. Therefore rain and wind eliminate much of the particles. However, a major fire and nuclear blast can carry particles in the stratosphere where they are likely to stay for a longer period. Estimates suggest that they could remain there in sufficient amounts to impact sunlight for a good decade. Since sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis in plants, a major decrease in sunlight (up to 90%) could mean the end of even the toughest plants.

What About the Dinosaurs?
Dinosaur Extinction MeteorThe two factors discussed above were previously seen during the massive dinosaur extinction in the Cretaceous period. The majority of the world's scientist and population adhere to the theory that a giant asteroid (approximately 10 kilometers wide) collided with the Yucatan peninsula. The resulting impact created the same consequences than a nuclear war would. During this event, the great majority of plant and animal life was wiped out.

What are we Supposed to Eat?
Hemp Plant Family VarietiesFood is going to be the greatest concern of a nuclear war. Since the temperature drop would be similar to February temperatures in Canada, humans would have no problems surviving. However, as discussed earlier plants would not likely survive. Two plants were proposed as eatable crops. In the event of a mild nuclear winter where the temperature would remain over freezing temperatures during the day, potatoes could survive with appropriate attention. Since they are buried underground, they are isolated from the swaying air temperatures. However, if the temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius are observed for prolonged periods, they would not survive. The second option is hemp. Hemp is a family of weeds that includes the cannabis plant but also many other varieties. As a weed hemp is a very resistant crop that can grow in almost all soil types under varying conditions. Hemp is already used for food, textile, construction, fuel, and medical products. The variety used for food provides a very nutritive food from its seeds. Hemp seeds contain all the amino acids and fatty acids for a balanced diet. The seeds can be eaten raw, crushed in a mash, sprouted, made into milk, used for tea, etc. The leaves are also eatable and can be used in salads. It is a crop with almost unlimited uses, similar to the soy bean. In a world where the cultivatable lands will be rare, a versatile plant like hemp would be a viable alternative. If the temperatures are too cold though, food will have to be grown inside. It is important to know that the hemp variety used in the food industry contains very little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Therefore, this variety does not have the effects of the cannabis plant which contains much more THC.

You Should Seriously Consider Sunscreen:
UV Ultraviolet Radiation OzoneEven if sunlight would seriously decrease, UV radiation would increase. This is because the smoke encapsulated in the stratosphere would destroy most of the ozone layer. The most affected regions would be the north and south pole but research suggest that there could be up to 20% of the ozone layer destroyed in the tropics and up to 70% destroyed in the northern regions. The resulting ultraviolet light levels could further speed up the extinction of life and provoke cancer and eye damage in living organisms.

To conclude, it is better to just hope that governments realize that they will inevitably destroy everything if they launch a nuclear war. However, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by politically unstable countries might be our biggest concern. In countries where suicide bombers are common, the concern for self-destruction is minimal. Little can be done to prevent this disaster from happening by the layman, but adequate preparation can greatly increase the survival rate.

Keep reading for future posts!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sheilding Your Electronics from EM Radiation Using the Faraday Cage

As I discussed in many other posts, Gamma Rays emitted from radioactive fallout particles and the initial blast itself produces intense electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation as the name says it, produces electricity. This electrical current will follow all conductive material with its extremely high voltage. To large electronics such as large electrical motors and power plants, the damage is minimal. However, to electronics that use small motors (such as hard disks) and microprocessors (such as computers, phones, and cars) this can be lethal. The high voltage fries the processor and circuits which not only disables the electronic device but also permanently destroys it. A car that was subject to a electromagnetic radiation will results in a fried Engine Control Unit (ECU) and Ignition. On modern cars the damage is much worst since it uses more electronics. A rule of thumb is that any thing containing a circuit board will most probably be fried. The real annoyance is that even if the electronic device is turned off or disconnected, it will still fry. This post will address the issue of shielding your electronics against electromagnetic radiation using a Faraday Cage.

A Little History Before We Start:
Michael Faraday Cage BoxThe principle of using a conductive material to shield the interior from current was first observed by Benjamin Franklin in 1755. He conducted the first experiments using a metal can and a cork ball. However, Franklin did not popularize his discovery as it had little use back in the 1700s. It was not until 1836 that Michael Faraday realized full sized experiments with an electrostatic generator. He discovered that the metal cage distributed the current on its surface and effectively shielded the inside contents. The discovery was thus named after him.

The Faraday Cage:
As outlined in the precedent section, the Faraday cage consists of wrapping the sensitive object in a conductive material leaving no gaps. Getting a little scientific, there may be holes in the shielding material as long as they are smaller than the radiation's wavelength. The general rule is to try and not have any holes, all windows and ventilation openings may be covered in a tight metal screen.

Sheilding Your Electronics From Electromagnetic Radiation:
Faraday Cage BoxThe real annoying fact with EM radiation is that it follows all conductive materials including wires. This means that even if you would make a metal box around your computer, it would still fry. The first path the EM radiation would follow is the utilities electrical wires. The only real solution to shielding objects from EM radiation is to make sure everything is contained withing the box and no wires exit it. Such a a setup can be seen if for example you put your laptop in a metal box, the complete setup is enclosed, therefore protected. Shielding a desktop computer will still be effective up to some point even if it is connected to the utility. The best bet is to keep a spare computer, backup hard disk, cellphone, etc. Put these spare objects in a Faraday box disconnected, and take them out if something happens to your main computer. It should be noted that there is no limit to the size of a Faraday box, whole server rooms are normally shielded. My personal favorite to make a full size Faraday cage is a boat. A steel boat already has metal hull and if the deck is shielded then you have a complete Faraday cage. Windows and ventilation shafts can be shielded using a metal mesh, the more layers, the better the shielding.

Remember that the biggest Faraday cage is the earth's magnetic field which protects us from EM radiation in space. Keep reading for future posts!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Microwave Gun

Microwave Gun US Army HummerYes, yes, I was blankly surfing the net when I came upon a forum that was discussing the future of microwave weapons. At first I thought it was some fake news that the web is full of, but no. This really exists and it was seriously researched. Even the U.S. military have used it in action and plan on building larger versions. Now there are two different applications, one is personal use, the other is vehicle mounted organization use, I'll concentrate on the personal version.

The big problem with conventional weapons is that they rely on ammunition. In a battle, ammunition is commonly available and the weapons work fine. The problem arises when there is a full war as it was the case in World War 1 and 2 where factories were pumping out ammunition and could barely keep up with the demand. If something wipes out the factories (Global Warming disaster or Nuclear War) it wouldn't take long for everyone to run out of bullets. After this happens, it will most probably be back to the stone age. There is a popular demand for weapons that don't use any physical ammunition. These include weapons such as Tesla, EMP, and Laser guns and cannons. These weapons only need energy which is easily produced locally and they don't rely on factories to supply them. Microwave weapons fall into this same category.

What is a Microwave and Why does it Work as a Weapon?
Microwave Oven Function DiagramA microwave is a kind of radiation that is non-ionizing. This means that when you turn off the device, all the radiation ceases. No radiation is absorbed by living organisms and nothing can come radioactive from being exposed to microwaves. Microwaves operate at frequencies anywhere from 300-300,000 MHz. Though for the purpose of this weapon, I will concentrate on the household microwave frequency, 2450 MHz (2.45 GHz). Microwaves heat any water based organism living or dead by making the molecules rotate, thus producing heat. If you were to put something living in a microwave oven, it would survive long. Any metal object exposed to strong microwaves will likely spark at it conducts electricity. Therefore, microwaves are both effective at killing living organisms and electronics.

How to make a Weapon Out of it?
Microwave Oven Parts DiagramAs complicated as it may seem, microwave weapons will probably be one of the future weapons used by guerrillas and militias. They require very little understanding of the way it functions to fabricate it. A weapon can easily be made out of a household microwave. Though, a low power household microwave wouldn't give the same results as a purpose-built microwave gun, it would be effective at destroying electronics. By taking the components out of a regular microwave oven and instead expelling them in front of you, a weapon is born. I'll describe the whole process in detail farther in this post.

Why is it so Dangerous?
With our society more and more relying on electronics for our daily lives, someone who has the ability to disrupt all electronics permanently will do a lot of damage. The main use that could be made out of it would be for frying Engine Control Units (ECU) used to control everything in a car. Frying the ECU will immediately shut off the car. Any radio, phone, computer, will also cease to function. The worst part is that it is permanently broken, to fix it you need to replace all the micro-controller, screens, etc. This is a warning to any person that would try to build one, don't turn it on anywhere near (100 feet and + range) any electronics. It'll cost you thousands of dollars to replace all the electronics if this was to go off in your backyard.

How to Make One?

There are 2 different approaches to make one, you can either modify an existing microwave oven (1000W and + models) or buy all the parts seperatley and build a more powerful one. I'll discuss the first one then briefly touch one the second one. The first one is easier to do so one should start with that one. This is high voltage and could kill you, beware!

Parts Needed:
  • Power Source
  • Capacitor
  • Diode
  • High Voltage Transformer
  • Magnetron
  • Waveguide
Power Source:
If you modify a household microwave oven then you're going to need 115VAC power. Modifications can be done to change this to whatever voltage you can provide but now you're getting into dangerous stuff. The power source can be anything from household power, an alternator (on a car for example), a generator, or a battery pack. The microwave gun doesn't need to be switched on for long in order to fry electronics so little power is needed. For a portable gun, laptop batteries is the way to go, they are compact, light, and efficient.

Capacitor, Diode, and High-Voltage Transformer:
There use is to ramp up the voltage supplied by the power source to something the magnetron can use. Typically a magnetron works with 3000 volts. There is a loss of electricity in the conversion process so a power source that would provide this voltage could technically eliminate some of these parts. Warning: These parts still contain electrical current even if the microwave oven is disconnected, you have to ground them to discharge the current.

Magnetron:
This is the device that transforms electricity into microwaves. If you decide to build the weapon from scratch you can buy magnetrons of any power online. The power of the magnetron will determine what kind of electronics it can fry and at which distance. It will also affect how dangerous the weapon will be to living organisms, but I don't recommend using it as such. It will likely only cause a sunburn and not be an effective weapon. The same warning than the capacitor goes for the magnetron.

Waveguide:
In terms of firearms, the waveguide is the barrel. Normally the magnetron outputs the microwaves in a square hole in which the microwaves fly in every direction, bouncing on the metal surface. In a household microwave, the waveguide will look like a cone-shaped tube that distributes the microwaves evenly in the oven. To make it into a gun, you will have to fabricate a new waveguide in the shape of a cannon. Microwaves don't penetrate metal, they simply bounce off so anything from a metal pipe to aluminum foil will do. Just be careful not to leave any sharp pointy edges as the microwaves will cause sparks. The more uniform the waveguide is the straighter the microwaves will travel.

Now that you understand each part its time to build. Don't play with your life, test things by increments, just removing the door can help you better understand the effect of microwaves before attempting a full gun build. As for buying the parts separately, I recommend that you stick with modifying a household microwave oven before attempting anything else.

Remember, ignorance is danger, experience is safety. Keep reading for future posts!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dirty Bombs: The What's and How's

Dirty Bomb Explanation DiagramThe Dirty Bomb is briefly discussed in the post The Fallout Shelter. It was said that a Dirty Bomb is a conventional explosive device to which a radiation source is added. The result is not a nuclear explosion, but a traditional explosion with radioactive fallout dispersed in the nearby environment.

Its Function:
Dirty bombs are not very effective in terms of destruction, they do the exact amount of damage than if they did not contain radioactive elements. This is the primary reason why Dirty Bombs have never been considered in military applications. The Dirty Bomb damage is very immediate as conventional explosives deal only localized damage. If for example, such a bomb would explode in a shopping mall, the structural damage would be contained in the shopping mall. Terrorist groups have in the past, built and deployed Dirty Bombs, but none have ever been detonated. However, in the future, Dirty Bombs are more prone to be used since nuclear waste is more and more common and a full nuclear attack is out of most terrorist organization's budget. The Dirty Bomb is simple to build and very effective for its purpose. It may also be as small as a suitcase bomb and therefore is easily transportable. The most common Dirty Bomb, one that would do reasonable damage would however most probably be in a small cube truck. Such a device could affect the whole commercial area of a city.

Its Purpose:
Dirty Bomb New York City Area of Effect
The Dirty Bomb's purpose is not damage, it's fear. In fact even if there is some radioactive threat to the explosion of such a device, it is not fatal. If a person is far enough not to be incapacitated by the conventional blast, the radioactive fallout won't do much harm. Certain people might be attained of radiation sickness but since the bomb wouldn't disturb the emergency forces, the victims might be treated adequately. The fear factor however is without limit. Citizens have been horrified at the idea of radiation since the cold war. The detonation of a Dirty Bomb would cause as soon as the public would know that the area is radioactive, a massive emigration and state of panic. Even if the area could be safely inhabited, no one would want to live there. Therefore, detonation in a commercial center would deal a significant economic blow to the whole country.

To conclude, even if not very common, citizens should consider what to do in such an event if they live in a high-risk area. The government and general population will most probably be running all over the place.

Keep reading for future posts!

Duck and Cover!

Duck and Cover Concept Demonstrated During the Cold War
The "Duck and Cover" concept was predominant during the Cold War era in the United States and in England. The concept was widely criticized as it might seem plain stupid to some that simply placing yourself in a fetal position could save your life. Well, these people are right on some points and wrong on others. In my opinion, the Duck and Cover technique remains a viable method that is easily rendered a automatism in children who would normally run to the windows to see what is happening.

There are three aspects that the "Duck and Cover" technique was looking to address and that I will discuss in this post:
  • The Curious Nature of Humans.
  • The Increased Spine and Radiation Protection Offered.
  • Reducing Casualties in the 5-17 Age Group.
The Curious Nature of Humans:
Humans have the instinctive nature of wanting to know everything, in the case of a Natural Disaster of Nuclear War, this is not the best idea. Take for example what would happen if you saw a big flash outside, would you go hide or go see what it was? Unfortunately all the people who will go see what it was will probable be dead or dying since a huge flash is the sign of a nuclear detonation. The resulting shock wave sent in the form of wind and then of heat will implode all windows and set fire to anything within miles of the bomb (depending on the size). The "Duck and Cover" technique addresses this issue by installing a automatic reflex.

The Increased Spine and Radiation Protection Offered:
A Poster from the Game Fallout 3 which Demonstrates the Duck and Cover Technique
The Duck and Cover technique also improves the protection offered to the subject by encouraging him to find a safe place to hide. The drills taught in school and businesses told the people to hide under a desk or against a solid wall. This also prevents debris from striking the person and blocks some of the initial Gamma radiation shot out by a nuclear blast. The fetal position protects the person's spine which in turns offers better survival chances. It is obvious that in the event of a natural disaster or nuclear war the emergency response teams would be in as much trouble as you, and a spinal fracture could prove to be fatal.

Reducing Casualties in the 5-17 Age Group:
Since events that cause massive casualties will probably kill most of the people of the targeted area, there is an essential need for any population to protect its future leaders. In the event of a nuclear war, most working age men will be in the military while women will be unable to reproduce because of radiation damage to ovaries and fetuses. The "Duck and Cover" technique was thus, most taught and practiced in schools even if they are not primary targets of a military nuclear attack. Even if it would only save 10% more children than if the method wouldn't be used, this represents a huge advantage for repopulating the area.

To conclude, even if the "Duck and Cover" method was subject to a lot of criticism because it seems like it is only a way to statistically reduce casualties and is not reliable for the individual human being. Still the method has its advantages and overall it is a good this. I included a 9 min 14 sec movie (below) that was aired in 1952 to publicize the "Duck and Cover" method. It was written by Raymond J. Mauer and directed by Anthony Rizzo of Archer Productions.

video

Keep Reading for future posts!

The Fallout Shelter

Best American Radiation Fallout ShelterThis is a follow up to the post Protecting Yourself from Radiation. Here I will discuss the materials used to build a Fallout Shelter. I will also discuss the typical shelter.

As you may all know, anything that is purposely built excels in that domain. The same is true for Fallout Shelters, seriously, a basement will only provide merger protection from radiation. The Fallout Shelter will protect you from radiation so well that if it was well built, it is as simple as walking in it with your family and closing the door.

During the cold war, civilian built radiation shelters were common. The majority of them were built in basements, where additional concrete was added. How much material has to be added to provide enough protection will be discussed later in the post.

What is the Best Fallout Shelter Build out of?
Well, there is no magic formula, as the more mass you put between you and the source of radiation the better it is. It is important to note that air has a mass and therefore the father you are from the radiation source, the better. This doesn't mean that we all have to go about building a Fallout Shelter underneath a mountain, a reasonable approach is considerable. The commonly accepted Fallout Shelter reduced Gamma Rays by a factor of 1000. This means that you are only subject to 0.1% of the radiation than you would be if you were standing outside. Below is a list of how much of what materials reduces gamma rays by half. Thus, you need ten times this amount of shielding to reach the 0.1% goal. Note that a Fallout Shelter typically uses more than one type of barrier. Example, a concrete structure buried in packed dirt.

Materials and their Shielding Properties:
  • Lead, 1 cm (0.4 inch) for 50%.
  • Concrete, 6 cm (2.4 inches) for 50%.
  • Packet Dirt, 9 cm (3.6 inches) for 50%.
  • Air, 150 m (500 feet) for 50%.
The fear of nuclear weapons or nuclear meltdowns was prominent in the Cold War era. We are seeing a return of these fears with the development of nuclear weapons by Korea and Iran. Moreover, much of the weapons stockpile of the USSR has been sold off on the black market or is still stashed somewhere. A terrorist group could possibly have a nuclear warhead right now, and be planning on exploding it. We also have seen the arrival of Dirty Bombs, which I will discuss in a future post. The base principle of a Dirty Bomb is to add waste radiation materials (such as nuclear plant waste) to a traditional bomb. The result is not a nuclear explosion, but the nuclear waste is thrown in all directions and a localized fallout occurs.

The Typical Fallout Shelter:
Basement American Radiation Fallout ShelterThe typical fallout shelter consists of a reinforced section of a residential basement with accommodations and supplies to last a month. The photo (to the left) illustrates the concept. Since the shelter is in the basement, the bottom and sides are already shielded to 0.1%. You simply have to add 2 feet of concrete to the top and to the side which is not lined with earth. If the concrete is reinforced with metal bars, the shelter can also withstand major earthquakes, fires, bombing. In the design of the shelter it is important to make sure that there is enough material (0.1%) at all angles. Note that the cement construction that comes with the house normally doesn't cover the full height of the basement.

Preventing Carbon-dioxide Poisoning (or death):
The problem with sealing yourself in a concrete structure can be compared with putting a goldfish in a water-filled plastic bag, eventually you'll run out of air. Make sure that your shelter has an adequate air exchange system that doesn't let in fallout particle or makes a direct path for Gamma Rays to enter the shelter. A simple filtration system is enough to stop the fallout. If you take some Potassium Iodine, as outlined in the post Is There Such a Thing as a Radiation Pill?, then you should be just fine.

Food and Other Necessities:
As you will probably be staying in the shelter continually for a maximum duration of one month, you should make sure you won't have to expose yourself to deadly amounts of radiation to go get supplies. That is if, there are still some after the thermal blast that a nuclear warhead generates. Note that food isn't the most important thing you'll need, a human can last a month without it. Water is at the top of the list, a human can't survive without it for 3 days. Also, a method or container to dispose of the waste that a toilet would normally deal with. There is such a thing as methane poisoning for waste products, and its not the most honorable thing to die from. If you have kids you should provide them with some ways of diverting themselves or they'll be a real pain. Last but not least, a means to get information about radiation levels should be essential to determine when it is safe to get out, see my post on Measuring Radiation Levels for useful information. And, my personal favorite, add a video game console or computer with the game Fallout 1, 2, 3, and 4, which deals exactly with the scenario of a nuclear war, laughs guaranteed.

Keep reading for future updates!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Measuring Radiation Levels

What is the use of understanding the way radiation works theoretically and practically if you can't measure it. This post will address the different measuring equipment available, from the high-tech to the home made. The ability to measure radiation levels will help you choose where to take shelter and when it is safe to get out.

Measuring equipment will use different units such as Rad, Rem, Grey, Roentgen, etc. It is not important to know what each of these terms mean or how they are calculated. The essential is to understand how much of each unit will be dangerous or fatal.

Different Measuring Equipment:

  • Survey Meters.
  • Geiger Counters.
  • Dosimeters.
  • Homemade KFM (Kearny Fallout Meter).
Survey Meters:
These devices are portable, typically weigh between 3 and 6 pounds, and are battery operated. They use 1 or 2 ''D'' batteries to power them up to 150 hours. They use a different measuring equipment than the Geiger Counter but yield the same results. They sell for approximately 300$US. They have to be calibrated every 4 years. The age of the typical unit goes back to the cold war, where they were produce in massive quantities. Calibration costs approximately 80$US.

Geiger Counters:
They look and weigh the same weight as the survey meters. They are typically used to measure lower ranges (0-50R/hr). They are very useful for measuring radiation levels in food and water. This in turn avoids you from ingesting harmful fallout particles. This range typical for a post-nuclear war, where lower levels are attained and where only prolonged exposure is dangerous. They can help you determine the maximum time you may spend outside the shelter. They sell for 300-600$US Calibrated. They have to be calibrated every 4 years. Calibration costs approximately 70$US.

Dosimeters:
These little gadgets are very useful to have with you. They measure the total radiation you were exposed to. They are very small, normally the size and shape of a pen. They measure the absorbed radiation in Roentgens. There are different ranges of dosimeters availible. Typically the most common are the 0-100R and the 0-200R. As you may have noticed they do not measure the ''R/hr'' like Survey Meters and Geiger Counters. You just take it with you and it will add up the total radiation to which you were exposed. A lot of survivalists prefer having a dosimeter over a survey meter. With the use of a Dosimeter charger you can reset them to 0R. They sell for approximately 200$US for a set of 3 Dosimeters and a charger. They have to be calibrated every 4 years. Calibration costs approximately 30$US per Dosimeter.

Homemade KFM (Kearny Fallout Meters):
These meters are made from very common components and can easily be assembled with a simple tutorial. The main items needed are: a tin can, aluminium foil, a couple of human hairs. This may sound ridiculous to some but this meter has been scientifically tested hundreds of time since its introduction during in the cold war. Free instructions to build the KFM can be found here. The section that covers the KFM Meter is in Appendix ''C'' (page 350). Anyone that puts time and effort to build a KFM can redo it easily when necessary. These are sometimes built as science projects by kids so it isn't very hard.

The important thing when choosing a meter is to be able to measure the whole range of radiation exposure. Ex: If a meter measure from 1R/h to 50R/hr you wouldn't be able to know if you are exposed to 50R/h or 100R/hr. This is why you should consider having the highest range meter to effectively know when radiation levels are deadly (500R/hr and +). Keep reading for future posts!

Protecting Yourself from Radiation

In the preceding post (Making Sense Out of Radioactivity ) I discussed the different types of radiation emitting particles and ray found in a nuclear explosion. Now that the terms radioactive decay, alpha and beta particles, and gamma rays have been defined I will discuss the ways to block each of these rays.

Alpha and Beta Particles:
You should not worry about sheilding these particles since there penetrating power is very low. Alpha particles are stopped by the skin or clothing. Beta particles penetrate up to 2mm on bare skin and may cause a sunburn if exposed for prolonged periods of time. These particles are not dangerous while they stay on the exterior of you body. Their danger exponentially increases when ingested though. This aspect has already been covered in the post (Is There Such a Thing as a Radiation Pill?).

Gamma Rays:
These are the most dangerous for of radiation decay out of the three listed above. Strict protective measures must be taken to protect yourself and your electronics from them.

It is important to understand that radioactive fallout (the sand and dust blown by a nuclear blast) radiates all three types of particles. Therefore the radiation is produced from where the particles are deposited, ex: Your house's roof.

Taking shelter in your basement:
The typical home offers very little protection against gamma rays as the material shielding you from the roof to the basement add up to a maximum of 2 feet of wood and insulation. However, it is much better than the protection attained from just standing outside of hiding in your car (worst idea). Try to be the farthest away from the walls and roof. Shut off all ventilation systems and windows. The trick to shielding gamma rays is to put as much weight as possible between you and the fallout particles. Use build an ''n'' shaped shelter using anything heavy. Doors, book, water filled containers, sand and salt bags, etc. Be very careful that your construction is solid enough not to collapse on you when your inside.

Taking Shelter in a Specifically Designed Fallout Shelter:
This is the best choice if you want to survive a nuclear attack. It doesn't cost a lot to build and doesn't require a lot of space. Since there is much to say on this subject, I will leave this to a future post.

Understanding Radioactive Decay and Half-Lives:
The term radioactive decay has already been explained in the post (Making Sense Out of Radioactivity), refer yourself to it if the term is still shady. The concept of half-lives is very important in choosing protective measures and the time you have to stay in your shelter. A half-life is the time it takes for the radiation level from a specific particle or ray (ex: Gamma Ray) to reduce its power by 1/2. This means that as time progresses the radiation levels will reduce exponentially. Ex: If a fallout particle generates 100RAD, when it finishes its first half-life it will be at 50, when it finishes its second half-life it will be at 25, and so on. Note that it will in time come closer to zero, but will mathematically never get there. However, at some point the radiation will be so weak that it won't affect humans or electronics. The duration of the half-life depends on the specif isotope used to fabricate the bomb. They have half-lives from a few seconds to a century. The shorter the half-life, the more intense the fallout radiation is in the beginning. There is no point in building a bomb with a half-life of a century since the country launching the attack would probably be destroyed themselves by the fallout carried in the wind. To conclude, the longer you stay in your shelter the less strong the radiation will be.

There are a couple of different types of devices available to measure radiation levels as well as exposure levels. The next post will address this topic.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making Sense Out of Radioactivity

Radiation is a very complex subject in which scientists are still amazed by its complexity. The layman doesn't need to know the complex functioning of radiation, they just need to know what it is and how to protect themselves from it. In this post I will explain in the most practical terms what it is, I will leave the protection methods to a future post.

First of all, it is important to know how radiation is produced. Going down to the simple terms, radiation is produced when the nucleus (core) of an atom becomes unstable. This unstable atom will slowly decay into a more stable one. This decay is called radioactive decay. As you may have guessed, radioactive decay produces radiation.

There are three types of radiation produced during an atoms radiation decay:
  • Alpha particles.
  • Beta particles.
  • Gamma rays.
Each of these types of radiation is unique in its behavior. Alpha, beta, and gamma particles attach to the dust produced in a nuclear blast and produce fallout. This fallout dust accumulates on rooftops and on the ground. Therefore, during the event of a nuclear blast, you will probably encounter these three types of radiation.

Alpha and Beta particles:
Alpha particles are the least strong and slowest type of particle. Beta particles are a little faster and stronger. These two types of particles are not lethal when exposed to externally. Beta particles can caused skin irritation and burns if exposed for prolonged time. However, radioactive fallout particles producing alpha and beta particles are very dangerous. I have already explained their effect when inhaled in the post "Is There Such a Thing as a Radiation Pill?" As I said in this post, there damage can easily be controlled by prevention and treatment.

Gamma Rays:
Gamma Rays is the most lethal form of radioactive decay. It travels at the speed of light and extremely strong. They are especially found in high levels during the nuclear blast itself and in large accumulation of fallout particles. They are a form of electromagnetic radiation and can seriously damage any electronics exposed to them. To protect yourself from this type of radiation, heavy shielding must be used (To be discussed later). Exposure to high levels of gamma rays results in the death of the person anywhere from 2 days to 6 weeks. The danger with radiation is that effects of exposure only start appearing 30 minutes after exposure even when high levels are absorbed.

Radiation is a very complex subject and the different aspects of it will be discussed in many post to come. Keep reading in the future for new updates!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is There Such a Thing as a Radiation Pill?

What if you could just taking a pill, be protected from the killer alpha, beta, and gamma rays produced by radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb. Well, it does exist, but as nothing is ever entirely prefect, it only works up to a certain point.

To understand how the pill works you have to first understand why radioactive fallout is so dangerous. The fallout particle produce very faint radiation which by itself is easily shielded by a roof or fallout shelter. The big problem resides in the fact that these particles are minutes (very small) and thus they are in suspension in the air. Breathing these particles is what makes them lethal. They are mainly absorbed by the thyroid glad which wants them because of their ionized state. The thyroid needs iodine and the particles being easily accessible, the thyroid prefers them over natural iodine. The particles concentrated in the small gland can produce lethal amounts of radiation similar to if you were exposed to a classic gamma radiation source.

The pills are composed of Potassium Iodine and the way it works is by getting the thyroid its daily iodine dosage. If the thyroid is full than it ignores the radioactive particles, thus protecting the user. The pills are sold on the internet in a couple of different brands that all have slight content difference. There exists another option for the handyman which reveals itself to be as efficient but much, much cheaper.

Potassium Iodine reveals to be a very very common product worldwide. It is used in agriculture, medicine, vitamins, and research. A 100 grams powder form bottle sells for about 20$US. A 130mg dose taken daily has the same effects as the pricey tablets. Simply place the diluted dose in water and put on some bread.

However, Potassium Iodine does not protect you from the other sources of radiation. Proper shelter is necessary to absorb the gamma rays produced from accumulated fallout dust on roofs and ground. I will discuss shelter in a future post.

Keep reading in the future for other information!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Spring Stilts for Powerbocking

It doesn't if they are Powerstrider, Poweriser, Powerskip, Air Trekkers or any other brand, they are all equally amazing. The concept of stilts with attached springs has first been developed by a Alexander Boek. The german based company ALAN Sportartikel GmbH manufactures the original design. What I really found great about this concept is that it is a means of transport that is efficient, cheap, and depends only on muscular power.

The spring stilts allow the user to jump to extraordinary heights and run inhumane speeds with little effort. The concept work by using the spring (usually a fiberglass or carbon fiber leaf spring) to amplify the gravitational force and converting it into forward or upward energy.

This technology will especially be useful in a major disaster as the highways and roads will all be blocked by cars and rubble. Even if you have the latest hummer you'll still be stuck in traffic. Moreover, a nuclear bomb's EMP (Electro-magnetic pulse) blast would most certainly knock out all electronics, including your car's onboard computer.

This technology has been successfully tested by the military as they are considering it as a replacement for fast attack vehicles. A trained squad on spring stilts could run as fast as a dirtbike in the desert and even jump over obstacles.

The U.S. military put one of their soldiers on spring stilts and asked him to chase a military quad over 1/4 of a mile. He reached a cruising speed of 23 MPH (37 Km/h). This is an incredible speed counting the you can maintain across a city in ruins that a car could never maneuver in. You can also jump up to 6 feet (1.83 meters) high.

This item definitely qualifies to be in my survival box.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Molotov Cocktails

As a first post for my blog I shall talk about one of the cheapest and most readily available weapons to make, the Molotov Cocktail.

The magic behind this weapon is that is can be made from a very wide variety of supplies. This weapon has been used by the military in World War 2 as an effective anti-tank incendiary device. I will cover the items needed to make the basic weapon plus the additives and upgrades available to make it even more potent.

The basic items needed to assemble the Molotov Cocktail are:
  • A container.
  • An open flame carrier.
  • A flammable liquid.
  • A means to seal the container and tie the open flame carrier.
The classic Molotov Cocktail consists of a wine bottle filled with gasoline. A piece of cloth is dipped in gasoline and tied to the bottle. The bottle is well sealed with the original cork or it can simply be taped shut. The cloth is ignited and the bottle is thrown.

As the exact items discussed above might not be available after a major global disaster, here is some items that can be substituted.

Container:
Anything that can hold a liquid and easy break on impact is good enough. Just get a case of 48 beer bottles and you have enough for a long time. Worst comes to worst, any contained that will unseal upon impact will work.

An Open Flame Carrier:
As the name implies, anything that catches on fire and stays on fire long enough for the bottle to break works. This should be the least of your worries.

A Flammable Liquid:
This is where you will discover that gasoline is not the only thing that burns. Things like paint thinner (turpentine), pure alcohol (not beer), perfume, oil, will all work fine.

A Means to Seal the Container and Tie the Open Flame Carrier:

This is another easy one, use you shoe laces, string, stands of grass, wires, come on it's impossible not to find something. My favorite thing that I stock a huge supply is duck tape! It can be used in virtually thousands of places.

Some modifications have also been done to Molotov Cocktails to make them more potent. The use of thickening agent (to make the liquid stick to its target) might include: motor oil, tar, flour, blood, pieces of plastic, etc. Anything that will thicken the liquid and make it smoke more will work.

That pretty much concludes contents of this weapon. It is an immortal concept because it can be assembled by anyone and with pretty much anything. It is certain that ever after a disaster these supplies will still be available. If you have anything to add please comment.