(Antfer) #1
8 June 2013 | NewScientist | 7

Bill Stormont/C



WHAT a relief. It looks as if the
local population and most of the
workers exposed to radiation
from the Fukushima-Daiichi
nuclear accident in March 2011

will not have ill health as a result.
That’s the conclusion of the most
comprehensive investigation
yet into the likely health effects of
the world’s worst nuclear accident
since Chernobyl in 1986.
“The actions taken by the
authorities to protect the
public, such as evacuation and
sheltering, significantly reduced
the radiation exposures,” says
Wolfgang Weiss, chairman of
the panel of 80 scientists that
produced a report on the incident
for the UN Scientific Committee
on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
So far none of the 25,
workers at the site has become
ill with radiation-related
conditions. But about 170 workers
with exposures exceeding
100 millisieverts – the equivalent
of receiving the maximum
safe annual industry dose over
five years all at once – will be
monitored to quickly detect
any radiation-related effects
on their thyroid, stomach, lungs
and colon.

No radiation effect

IT’S not quite Battle: Los Angeles,
but Californians are preparing
for a fight over fracking.
So far, the US controversy
over fracking has been most
intense in Pennsylvania, New York
and other north-eastern states,
where natural gas is trapped in
shale formations in mostly rural
areas. But the vast Monterey
Shale, which lies beneath central
and southern California, is
estimated to contain almost

1900 million tonnes of
recoverable oil. It is more than
2.5 times as large as the deposits
in North Dakota. Many more
people will be affected by its
development, because oil fields
lie near heavily populated areas
of Los Angeles county, including
Culver City, formerly the home
of MGM Studios and still the
base for Sony Pictures. Fracking
involves injecting water, sand
and chemical additives into rock
formations to release oil and gas,
and has raised concerns about
pollution and earthquakes.
Last week, a coalition called
Californians Against Fracking
presented a petition with

100,000 signatures to governor
Jerry Brown, asking him to ban
fracking in the state because of
air pollution fears. Meanwhile,
a bill that would have imposed
a moratorium was defeated in
the state legislature.
“These areas already have
some of the worst air quality in
the country,” says Kassie Siegel
of Californians Against Fracking.

“Quote to go in here over
four lines range left like
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Center for


al diver

Sity Intimate details

Actor Michael Douglas has said that
his throat cancer is linked to human
papillomavirus – transmitted by oral
sex. Such cancer is uncommon and
typically occurs after initial infection
with HPV. A study presented last
week at a clinical oncology meeting
in Chicago found no increased risk
of infection for sexual partners of
people with HPV-related oral cancer.

Shrinking prime
Mathematicians have closed the
gap on the twin prime conjecture,
which posits an infinite amount of
prime numbers two numbers apart.
Last month, Yitang Zhang of the
University of New Hampshire in
Durham proved there is an infinite
number of primes separated by at
most 70 million. Now maths wizards
online have shrunk that to 5 million.

Twister tragedy
Eighteen people have been
confirmed dead after tornadoes
struck Oklahoma last week,
including Tim Samaras of TWISTEX,
who regularly featured on the
Discovery channel’s Storm Chasers.
He was killed after a tornado
changed course unexpectedly.

Rash with cash
The British public face a quadrupled
risk of nickel allergy following the
Treasury’s switch from copper-nickel
coins to cheaper nickel-plated steel.
Researchers report that four times
as much nickel is deposited on the
skin from the new 10 and 5-pence
pieces. Higher exposure has been
linked to increased risk of allergy
(Contact Dermatitis, doi.org/mq9).

Chemical Syria
There are “reasonable grounds to
believe” that chemical weapons
have been used in four attacks
during the Syrian civil war, say a
panel of United Nations
investigators reporting to the UN
Human Rights Council. They are
unsure whether the government
or the rebels are to blame.

  • No fracking in our backyard–

California fracking

Public space scope

“The actions taken to
protect the public
significantly reduced
radiation exposure”

“California’s Monteray
Shale is estimated to
contain 1900 million
tonnes of recoverable oil”

SPACE sells. Within a week of
announcing it would build the
world’s first crowdfunded space
telescope, the company behind
the scheme had raised more than
$700,000 of its $1 million target.
On 29 May, Planetary Resources,
a space-mining firm in Bellevue,
Washington, began an online
fundraising campaign for its Arkyd
observatory, to launch in 2015.
Backers who give $200 will get a
half-hour slot to snap an object of
their choice, with 5-minute slots
donated to students or scientists
for $99. There’s also the option
to beam a photo of someone to
Arkyd and use it to take a photo
of them “in space”.
Arkyd is small and will
frequently switch what it looks
at, so it may not make discoveries,
says Franck Marchis of the SETI
Institute in California. It could,
however, be a model for funding
future research telescopes.

60 SeCoNdS

  • Cereal offender–

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