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article imageCitizen data project to measure radiation levels in Japan Special

By Lynn Morris     May 1, 2011 in Technology
An organisation is raising money to provide devices to measure radiation in Japan. The aim of the project is to collect all this data together and make it freely available online.
After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan a group of people in Portland, Oregon in America realised there was a lack of data being collected on the level of radiation and they decided to do something about it.
Marcelino Alvarez from Safecast said: “We were all touched by the magnitude of the tragedy in Japan. As the news reports evolved in the days after the emergence of the nuclear crisis, we started to get concerned about the lack of information about what that crisis meant for us on the West coast of the US. In the absence of data, either in Japan or in the US, we decided to create a platform for people to submit data.”
Safecast is currently raising money to buy Geiger counters to send to Japan.
The information will be used to provide an open data source of radiation levels which can be used by both citizens and experts.
Mr Alvarez said: “The thing we like to note (and we do it proudly) we're not nuclear experts. We're not health physicists. We are a group of individuals who were concerned at the lack of data and wanted to create a way to publish more data. The analysis and inferences from that data should be left to those who are trained to interpret it. We are actively trying to create more data so that analysis can be better.”
A Geiger counter.
A Geiger counter.
Photo courtesy of Marcelino Alvarez, Safecast
The idea is to create a system that can be useful in this crisis and beyond. The organisation hopes that in the future it can be used to collect information on pollution, precipitation or weather.
At the moment Safecast is focused in Japan and is currently appealing for volunteers in Japan who can drive to do radiation measuring.
Mr Alvarez said: “We are working with volunteers in Japan from all walks of life. Engineers, scientists, university students and hackers are helping us with various elements of our organization. From creating data to interpreting it, and from translation of our site to designing hardware to log radiation data, we have been fortunate in the amount of help we have received.”
For more information visit or to make a donation to the project visit
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