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Adventures With the Press

Embarrassingly late in life, I realized that "news" is not a public service to enlighten us, the (voting) residents of our country, but commercial, competing enterprises to:
  1. Catch our eye with punchy headlines to attract us to buy that paper or watch that channel.
  2. Scare/entertain us sufficiently so that we stay through the paid ads.
Along the way, the practitioners of print and TV promoted their job titles from
- "Hacks" to "Professional Journalists"
similar in my mind to
- "Janitors" became "Sanitary Engineers".

As an added bonus, the now "Professional Journalists" select/spin their output to promote their political and social agendas.

Bull Crap Journalism

In the fall of 2004, Two Berkeley journalism students
- Jonas von Freiesleben and Michael Rosen
interviewed me and others at the SF-88 Nike site, and came up with http://www.motherjones.com/news/update/2004/09/09_411.html (oops, no longer there)

"Even today, Thelen and many other U.S. veterans are skeptical of any perils from X-rays."
What silly statement!! What a crock!!
I don't like casual medical x-rays. My dentist really has to make a case to get me to submit to his x-ray machine.
I never get the recommended "periodic diagnostic" x-rays.

My point, totally ignored in this article, is:

- that generic Nike equipment
-- (specifically excluding the HIPAR radar which was at very few sites - see note further down)
- did not generate x-rays with enough energy to get out of the tubes.

Frankly, I can't get it through the silly Liberal Arts heads

- that there are many kinds of radiation, a whole study in its self
- and the effects of the many kinds and energies on biological things (us) is another study.
And for better or worse, we are penetrated every instant by natural and man-made radiation.
Even the carbon 14 in our DNA is radioactive !! Ever hear of carbon dating?
And the potassium (to replace that hysterically dangerous sodium) is radioactive - to a much smaller degree :-))

Maybe they don't care - or figure others don't care.

Facts are for Dilbert, lets have excitement and fun.

The electrons in a magnetron give up most of their energy making microwave radiation, and hit the anode relatively softly, making low energy x-rays. The low energy x-rays are much less energetic than the x-rays generated in your TV CRT !!

The low energy magnetron x-rays basically can't get through the glass vacuum envelope. (never zero as this is a statistical thing)
In any case, your color TV CRT display is much more dangerous from an x-radiation standpoint than our magnetrons - 50% higher voltages with the electrons striking the screen at full speed. The electrons in a TV set do not slow down making microwaves.

And the HIPAR radar klystron was very heavily shielded with lead and interlocks. Unless you cheated the interlocks AND removed the heavy lead shielding you received less ionizing radiation than normal "cosmic" rays.

There are no known incidents of HIPAR people doing that.
(There was an instance of five guys on the DEW line who did exactly that with a big energized klystron - and lost. If I recall, two were dead within weeks.)

People who know nothing about techie things say the most ridiculous things.

Might as well say "The green blue is rising yesterday".

The student journalists seem to think that the magnetron tubes are radioactive in themselves. They aren't. Just like your TV or dentists x-ray machine is not radioactive unless turned "ON". Just like your microwave oven at home, same deal.

There were tubes that were slightly radioactive internally.

  1. a series of voltage reference tubes, including the 0A3, not specific to radar, and in use today in many other things.

    Added April 11, 2014 - Last Saturday was the first Saturday of the month - SF-88 Open House :-)) I was docenting in the Radar Van as usual when an interested guy shows up - He said that he had a Gieger Counter - a probe like a fat pencil with wire to a little box. He asked if he could probe about. I said sure and he headed into the TTR receiver cabinet - a mass of tubes, dials, and coax wire.

    While he was "sniffing" the receiver cabinet I went looking for a voltage reference tube in the power supply cabinet. I found a chassis with an 0A3 type tube. He "sniffed" that also - but could find no radiation counts above "background". Interesting.

  2. a funny looking thing called an ATR "tube" that helped direct the magnetron pulse out to the radar antenna instead of into the radar receiver. This "tube", a rectangular thing about 4 cm by 4 cm by 1.5 cm with a glass window on one small end. It was gas filled and its role in life was to arc internally when hit by a magnetron RF pulse. To speed the action, it had an alpha particle emitter in it.

    OK - alpha particles are very active - so active that they can only go about 4 inches in air, and can't even get through a sheet of paper. There is no way any could get through the glass and metal container.

    And we were told (in school in 1954) to not break them open and to return them, if defective, to proper authorities.

    As a point of reference, your smoke detector in your home uses a similar alpha emitter. It is a lot less shielded than the ATR "tube" above.

    The smoke detector alpha particles go through a sample of your room air to help detect smoke.
    Just like the ATR tube, you are not supposed to try to break the smoke detector open - OK?

    I suppose the "Liberal Arts" types will start to shriek about ATR tubes and smoke detectors -

    or will they ignore the smoke detectors?

    I'm sorry - I think that all high school graduates should complete at least one science course, say chemistry or physics.

    - I think this is at least as important as "physical education".
    - Being totally ignorant of the modern physical world is a shame.
    - Maybe jury members should have some minimum requirement of the world around them.
    - And I would like to include journalists and editors.
    - Even the History Channel pops off with some sillies.

The students quote me as saying
"'As a kid, I used to play in piles of asbestos,
and Iíve never had any health problems,' he said.
"
The first phrase is relatively accurate. Jerry Downs, our plumber, left a 3 ft. high pile in our basement for a few months.
And my sister and I played in the nice soft light gray stuff for a few days until our mother made us quit 'cause we were tracking the stuff up from the basement and making a mess. (My sister and I are each over 70 and do not show any asbestos related respiratory or other effects - neither of us ever smoked much.)

The second phrase is just plane bogus!

I prefer to use the politically incorrect word "lie"!!
What a silly statement attributed to me.
My list of health complaints (and a few problems)
- typical of a 60 year old male I'm told - (I'm over 70)
would fill a page - allergies, eye sight, hearing, endurance, feet get tired, left knee swells on long hikes, gout now under control, balding, teeth, some aging male things, ... do you really want to hear?

Small potato(e)s ;-))

Cheers
Ed Thelen

--------------------

Added January 2006 when I cooled down a little -

"Journalists" wonder why "the rest of us" don't take them seriously - this kind of "reporting" is just one of many examples - in big media and small - of callus bigoted presentation of "facts".

The last sentence of the article is "This story was produced for a course at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism."
One might ask if this is the Michael Moore School of Journalism.

OK - the piece was just a 'story' - a novel? - a historical novel? - with made up quotes? -
Who knows - maybe the authors just pass it off as a joke? - What's wrong with you? Can't you take a joke?
From my view point, a lot of media "news" is a joke.

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