Radioactive Lad

23 09 2011

I recently read an article on the Sept-Oct issue of “Mental Floss” magazine. It is a profile of Taylor Wilson, the youngest person ever to build a nuclear reactor. 

This kid likes blowing stuff up, and likes to collect Geiger counters and uranium. Still, this kid refuses to drive.  Crazy as it seems, he might have his risks right. I thought it was hilarious. 

 Taylor says that pop culture has made people afraid of radiation when “household chemicals under [the] sink are more dangerous.”

This is what David Ropeik refers to as “the perception gap.” This phenomenon makes us believe that something unfamiliar, like radioactivity, or flying, is far more dangerous than driving, or drano, when the opposite might well be the case. 

This is why Taylor got in trouble with the dairy industry when he found that, after Japan’s earthquake earlier this year, spinach and milk contained trace amounts of radioactive elements. People heard “radioactive” and went crazy, burying the key phrase “trace amounts” under all the noise. 

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