March 2011

Geiger Counter in Action

Measuring radioactivity

Measuring radioactivity

Many years ago, I lived in the Ukraine… InĀ  1986 (April 26) Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened and even though we lived 500 km East from the disaster, we were able to detect increased levels of radiation… I was 16 then and I remember how my grandfather brought Geiger Counter home to show me how it worked and what the level of radiation was… Now I have my own Geiger counter (the one from Vernier) and I can measure radiation easily and show it to the students. In this figure, I measured the levels of radiation from the background, then from the NoSalt salt, from a piece of Uranium covered Fiesta dishware and from a radium painted dials of a watch. If you want to know more about the use of radioactive paints, check this web site by Bill Kovarik. As you can see the radiation levels are higher than the background radiation (red) when you combine all of the objects together (purple)… It is still not dangerous. Another interesting piece of data: Brazil Nuts also emit slightly higher levels of radiation to the presence of radioactive Potassium isotopes. I bought lots of these nuts and measured it – it was much less than the watch and approximately the same as the NoSalt salt.

I love this activity because it allows your students and you to collect and analyze data and to link it to everyday life. I also like an opportunity to think or patterns and randomness and how we deal with the processes where we cannot predict the exact time of occurrence of an event, yet we can discuss it in terms of a large number of events. A concept of half-life fits perfectly here… I think the radioactive dating game by PhET fits very nicely here…

Measure radiation levels using Vernier's Geiger Counter

Measuring radiation levels using Vernier's Geiger Counter

2 Responses to Geiger Counter in Action

  1. adam barker

    hello. my names is adam barker, this is a general inquarie about the use of your geiger counter. how affective it is? i was recently on a fishing trip to tofino canada and went with my father, a local fishing guide. off shore for tuna. i have done some research and it would seem theese tuna have migrated to and from japan 3 times sence the disaster at fukashima. i wonder if trace elemants of radiation are in this food, how can i test it?
    any info on the subject would be greatly appreciated. i am no scientist but do have a concearn for the health of the ocean and everyone connected to it.

  2. Marina Milner-Bolotin

    Hi Adam:

    I recommend you to contact TRIUMF scientists:

    Best wishes, M.

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