Radiation Exposures at a Glance

Inspired by a risk conference I attended, I decided to try my hand at visual demonstrations of toxicological safety limits and pesticide exposures. It struck me that the same kind of visualisation might work well for a demonstrating radiation dosages. I have written earlier about Radiation and Cancer Risk, after I visited Switzerland’s interim repository for nuclear waste, ZWILAG. While in the heart of the place – the dry cask storage hall which houses the spent nuclear fuel – we crossed a line with a sign that read: “HIGH RADIATION AREA No unnecessary stay !!!”

This left me curious. I wanted to know how dangerous a “high radiation area” was, and after a dive into the evidence, I got my answer. But much of what I wrote there could also be effectively summarised with an infographic.

Radiation squared plus air pollution

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Posted in biology, health, nuclear | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Toward More Intuitive Toxicology Information

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 19.06.58

Our presentation was titled: “Navigating the Risk Landscape” by
Alison Bernstein, PhD & Iida Ruishalme, MSc

Last week I had the privilege to attend a conference on risk science in New Orleans, and hold a roundtable together with neuroscientist Alison Bernstein from SciMoms. We were kindly invited to talk about our approach to risk communication by Center for Food Integrity.

This was awesome! Not only did I and Alison finally get to meet face to face, we also got to present what we had learned about messages that work on social media (see our series: Risk In Perspective), as well as ones that don’t. In between many interesting sessions, on everything from food fears to radiological risk to supplements and climate change mitigation, Alison also introduced me to fresh beignets, fried green tomatoes and other New Orleans essentials.

For our presentation, one of the things we talked about was the varied success of our infographics for the piece Measures of Toxicity. In the article, we underlined the distinction that acute toxicity info (like LD50) is mostly relevant to accidents, murders and suicides, whereas what the public is often most concerned about are the gradual chronic effects. These are more appropriately reflected by the chronic intake limits, which are set in a way to try hard to avoid such effects. Continue reading

Posted in agriculture, chemistry, health, science communication | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Nuclear is a Crucial Piece of the Carbon-Free Puzzle

The findings of the recent MIT study bear repeating: to achieve a carbon-free grid, exclusion of nuclear would make the effort much, much more expensive.

the team’s analysis shows that the exclusion of nuclear from low-carbon scenarios could cause the average cost of electricity to escalate dramatically.

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Posted in climate, energy, finance, nuclear, renewables | Tagged | 2 Comments

Saving Lives Is Not Shameful – Let’s Break the Stigma on Supporting Nuclear Energy

ask me about nuclear

This t-shirt is from a site called What Is Nuclear, a great information resource. Available at Zazzle.

I own a t-shirt that says “Ask me about nuclear energy.” On the back there’s an image of a cooling tower and the words: “Sustainable. Ecological. Independent.” I wore it to my daughter’s first day at our village music kindergarten class a few days ago.

I had a cold, so I also wore a warm shirt and a shawl, and had counted on keeping my views on energy policy a private wardrobe-matter on the occasion. But when we got there, little sweaty from hurry, it turned out that my shy 4-year-old refused to let go of me for the entire lesson. I ended up holding her hand, dancing around the room, playing boats bobbing on the waves with my t-shirt in perfect view of all the other parents sitting at the end of the room (…little nuclear icebreaker on the chilly ocean of popular opinion…). Continue reading

Posted in energy, environment, nuclear, parenting, psychology, renewables, society | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Lyrical in Lapland – Biologist Released into the Wilderness

Nature post! I went to Lapland for a few days, and am so bursting with happiness about the fact that I can’t help sharing some of the experience. Anyone looking to read about nature observations of plants, lichens, mushrooms and animals, as well as my hiking mishaps and serendipities above the arctic circle in Finland, with plenty of photos to go with, read on.


On the green banks of brook Sivakkaoja

My much awaited Lapland visit could not have packed much more of the things a wilderness hike is all about: surviving the cold, drying wet socks over the fire, climbing a fell (rounded ancient ice-ground mountains of Finland), finding vibrant valleys between fells with clearwater lakes and waterways, crossing said waterways on foot, eating bilberries everywhere, and encountering a family of fearless Siberian jays (kuukkeli), reindeer, owl, and rock ptarmigans (kiiruna). Continue reading

Posted in environment | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Do we fear the right things?

torivartti okI had the privilege of giving a public presentation at a large Finnish political discussion and debate fair Suomi Areena for the Finnish Ecomodernist Society in Pori a few days ago. (Finnish readers can view the presentation here – skip over to the 03:01:30 or 02:15:00 depending on the version, to watch my 25 minute live televised presentation.) This year’s theme at the fair was safety, and the point of my talk was to look at things we fear, things that are risky, and where these two meet – or don’t meet. Continue reading

Posted in biotechnology, health, nutrition, psychology | Tagged , | 4 Comments

No, Glyphosate Is Not a Threat to Bees

Glyphosate is a herbicide, in other words, it is toxic to plants. Its target enzyme is not found in insects or other animals, so it is generally not very harmful to them – and as confirmed by a recent study, even direct sprays are not lethal to bees.

This is what I said about bees in my series 17 Questions about Glyphosate. I thought that glyphosate having anything to do with bee welfare would be such a far-fetched idea that I needn’t dedicate more time to that. But, time and again, when discussing glyphosate – usually in some completely different context – someone will pop up and go “it should be banned because it harms bees!” So let’s talk about that in more detail.

2018 September UPDATE: New study out about bee gut microbiome, observations of its findings included in the end of the piece. Continue reading

Posted in agriculture, environment | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Measures of Toxicity

This article is co-written by biologist Iida Ruishalme (yours truly at Thoughtscapism) and neuroscientist Alison Bernstein, aka Mommy PhD from SciMoms.

In this piece we dive into the wealth of information available on toxicity, and take a closer look at two main categories: acute and chronic toxicity. Large versions of the infographics separately below.

We live amidst a mind-bogglingly rich sea of molecules. Nowadays, we also have astonishingly sophisticated methods of chemical detection at our disposal, and are able to measure smaller and smaller traces of substances in our environment. This is great! We can learn to understand molecular interactions better than ever before, and with the help of this information we can also better monitor and regulate potentially harmful exposures.

But when we know, we worry. Sometimes this wealth of knowledge leads to undue fear of substances even when they are present in minute quantities that pose little risk and a wish to remove these traces altogether. However, trying to remove all traces of unwanted substances in our environment is an impossible goal. Continue reading

Posted in biology, chemistry, health, methods, science communication | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Risk In Perspective: Population Risk Does Not Equal Individual Risk

nullThis series is a collaboration between neuroscientist Alison Bernstein and biologist Iida Ruishalme. Errors in risk perception are at the core of so many issues in science communication that we think this is a critical topic to explore in detail. This series is cross-posted on SciMoms and Thoughtscapism. Continue reading

Posted in health, society | Tagged | 5 Comments

Risk In Perspective: Zero Risk Is an Impossible Dream

This series is a collaboration between neuroscientist Alison Bernstein and biologist Iida Ruishalme. Errors in risk perception are at the core of so many issues in science communication that we think this is a critical topic to explore in detail. This series is cross-posted on SciMoms and Thoughtscapism. Continue reading

Posted in agriculture, alternative medicine, energy, environment, health, psychology | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments