Archive for February, 2014

Wearable Radiation Detector

February 17, 2014
Wearable Radiation Detector

I am working with my student,  famous artist and technologist,  Peter Terazakis on constructing an open-sourced, wearable radiation detector.

A tide of radiation is inexorably drifting toward the western shore of the North American continent.  The government of Japan has responded to world-wide concern by criminalizing media coverage of clean-up efforts at the crippled nuclear reactors of Fukushima.  In keeping with its own actions criminalizing the 2010 media coverage of BP’s Gulf oil spill ($40,000 fines), the Obama administration has voiced support of Japan’s new laws – and by extending the scope of existing anti-terrorism and secrecy acts.

There are currently 435 operable civil nuclear power reactors around the world, with a further 71 under construction.  Out of those existing there are 104 nuclear reactors operating in 31 states around the United States.  The number of operational/non-operational military nuclear reactors, for the United States or other nations, is not known.  The total number of disposal/dump sites (ocean and/or on land) for radioactive waste is not known.  Banned by international treaties in 1993, ocean dumping of radioactive waste (liquid and solid) continues off the coasts of Somalia due to the “lack of a functioning government.”

Accidents happen; events occur.  There is a current and growing need to be able to detect the presence of abnormal levels of radiation in our food and water as well as the volumes through which we travel and live.


Existing radiation detectors are often expensive and vary both in accuracy and credibility.

It is my intention to design and fabricate an accessible, affordable, and reliable device based upon sound physics and available materials. The published design will allow the construction of a device which will have repeatable results using readily available parts. The plans, drawings, block diagram, and printed wiring board artwork will be available through the web.

Multiple detectors would result in increased sensitivity.
Peter has consulted with physicists Marco Kaloften (advisor to Arnie Gundersen, and Manuel Rotenberg (Professor Emeritus, UCSD).

The detection of radiation began in 1903 through an accident.  While the initial discovery occurred using a microscope, a compact transportable device was soon made called a spinthariscope.  Sir William Crookes named his device after the Greek word for scintillation (σπινθηρισμού).

The spinthariscope consisted of a point source of radioactive material in proximity to a scintillation screen, enclosed in a tube, and was capped with a magnifying lens.  ( As a side note, I had one of these as a child.  Looking through that lens lifted the lid on an unseen world and provided me with some of my first moments of awe and wonder.)

Until 1908 radioactivity was quantified by counting the number of flashes which would appear on the scintillation screen.  Hans Geiger (then working for Ernest Rutherford) developed what was known as the Geiger tube and was sensitive only to Alpha particles.  In 1928 Geiger and Walther Müller improved on the original design and were able to detect all types of ionizing radiation (“Geiger-Muller tube”).
Cold-war era radiation detection equipment using the Geiger-Müller tube abounds on eBay.  Sensitive contemporary detection apparatus for various types of radiation exists the world over.  It is also priced accordingly.

Basic physics has not changed.  What has changed since the design of the Geiger-Müller tube is our access to different types of readily available and reliable technology; particularly those in electronics and materials.

In the 1970s Peter Terazakis invented a wearable LED pin and eventually created a line of jewelry which was featured in Mademoiselle, Interview, ID Design, and sold world-wide. His prior experience in creating wearable electronic accessories is highlighted here ( and (  Designing a wearable radiation detector is within the scope of our abilities.

We look forward to encouraging a spirit of discovery, curiosity and adventure in the minds of some, and the production of a device which will remain useful for years to come.