Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know By Robert Peter Gale and Eric Lax

I have friend who is died of cancer. He was 46 years old, married and  the father of a teenage boy. A few years ago he was getting violently ill. His doctors told him the cancer had spread throughout his body, his stomach, his lungs, his throat. When I found out my friend was sick,  a mutual friend of ours set up a time that the three of us could just hang out and chat. He told me the radiation therapy made him feel bad for days and then he would feel better for a few days. This triggered a memory in my mind of something I had read recently about the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Apparently the radiation from the accident has spread from Japan to California and it is a deadly force that all life forms must reckon with. I wondered: “How could the same process that is extending, albeit briefly, my friends life also be a ghoulish unstoppable menace?”

Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know has, in very simple terms, helped me understand this conundrum. Turns out we are radioactive beings living on a radioactive planet in a radioactive galaxy. The authors clearly give you the facts and debunk myths about this often misunderstood energetic process. Radiation is in the most mundane of everyday encounters. Tanning salons produce an enormous amount of radiation, an amount that actually rivals the sun, which is essentially a giant ball of radiation. Dr. Gale’s poetic metaphor for cigarette smoking is: “intentionally inhaling a small nuclear weapon into your lungs.” Now that I know more about radiation and understand, in a small way, how it helped my friend, the arbitrary cruelty of fate seems somehow less so.

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