A Radioactive Chat with Robert Peter Gale

A Radioactive Chat with Robert Peter Gale


Ok so, here we are with doctor Robert Peter Gale who was on the faculty of UCLA, and he is currently on the Medical Staff and is Visiting Professor of Haematology at the Imperial College London. He is on the editorial boards of several scientific journals including Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology and many others He’s also widely recognized for his humanitarian activities. In 1986, he was asked by the government of the Soviet Union to coordinate medical relief efforts for victims of the Chernobyl nuclear power facility accident. And in 2011 he was called to Japan to deal with medical consequences of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident. In addition to his academic publications, he has written popular books and I’d like to recommend to my viewers his great book “Radiation: What It Is, What You Need To Know” because it’s a phenomenal compendium of what you really need to know about the effects of radiation, or better its nature and its effects. So, professor Gale, thank you for joining me. I would like to talk about, broadly speaking, the human toxicity and the toxicity potential of ionising radiation, namely for those who don’t know, it’s that wide and heterogeneous class of dynamical subsystems with a positive kinetic energy which is high enough to break the bonds or “links” among the molecular and atomic constituents of a given target, which can be everything from an inert, morally insignificant piece of rock to those super-complex morally significant human beings. So, first of all I’d like to ask you about your bio, your own experience, your personal involvment in the most important nuclear accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Ok, perfect. So, many interested friends, after watching for example the HBO, or for the Italian people Sky, mini-series, mini-drama called “Chernobyl” asked me “But why is it that there are so many estimates of the death toll of Chernobyl on Wikipedia and other sources?” Right? And so I tried to answer in the best, less technical way that I could by saying, by pointing to the flawed methodologies, like using the cumulative collective dose, low data quality, citation of non peer-reviewed papers and stuff like that, but what would be your answer to these kinds of doubts and questions? I would like to ask you a more pragmatic question, which is the following How could we design an effective “radiation baloney detection toolkit”, a la Carl Sagan, so that the general public could use that to spot some false or misleading information they may encounter on mainstream newspapers or social media, namely what are the basic questions everyone should ask before drawing any conclusion whatsoever from any article or documentary or series concerning the health effects of radiation? Great. So what would be your recommendation for conscientious, serious, maybe decent journalists that sincerely want to do their best in clearly and accurately informing the public about radiation-related events when they happen so that it’s actually useful after like a medical, hospital accident or industrial accidents and stuff like that. So what should they do ? What are the best practices ? Yes, perfect. Thank you very much for your time and for your precious work. Thank you.

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