APL Colloquium

January 27, 2017

Colloquium Topic: Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

People like to get their learning in the form of stories. If you tell an engaging and compelling story, people will learn something from it and they will retain that knowledge. So that’s what author and scientist Timothy Jorgensen attempts to do in Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation. The book is the story of man’s encounters with radiation, and how mankind has been transformed by the experience. The story is told with an emphasis on the human aspects, and it is told from a health-centric perspective. The goal is to integrate the technological aspects of radiation within the human experience and, thereby, remove some of the mystery and misunderstanding that surrounds radiation. An accessible blend of narrative history and science, Strange Glow describes mankind’s extraordinary, thorny relationship with radiation, including the hard-won lessons of how radiation helps and hinders our health. Jorgensen explores how our knowledge of and experiences with radiation in the last century can lead us to smarter personal decisions about radiation exposures today. The book introduces key figures in the story of radiation – from Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays, and pioneering radioactivity researchers Marie and Pierre Curie, to Thomas Edison and the victims of the recent Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. Tracing the signal events in the evolution of radiation, Jorgensen explains exactly what radiation is, how it produces certain health consequences, and how we can protect ourselves from harm. He also considers a range of practical scenarios such as the risks of radon in our basements, radioactivity levels in the fish we eat, questions about cell phone use, and radiation’s link to cancer. Jorgensen empowers us to make informed choices while offering a clearer understanding of broader societal issues. Investigating radiation’s benefits and risks, Strange Glow takes a remarkable look at how, for better or worse, radiation has transformed our society.

This website has book reviews, audio interviews, and biographical info:  www.timothyjorgensen.com

Colloquium Speaker: Timothy J. Jorgensen

Timothy J. Jorgensen is associate professor of Radiation Medicine, and Director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program, at Georgetown University in Washington DC. His scientific expertise is in radiation biology, cancer epidemiology, and public health. He is board certified in public health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE). He serves on the National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP), he chairs the Georgetown University Radiation Safety Committee, and he is an associate in the Epidemiology Department at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University. His research interests include the genetic determinants of cellular radiation resistance, and the genes that modify the risk of cancer. He lives with his family in Rockville, Maryland.