Remembering Fukushima

by Timothy Jorgensen

The human cost in terms of death and suffering, from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, was immense. The death toll was over 15,900, with an additional 2,600 missing and presumed dead. In addition, 340,000 people were displaced from their homes.

The recovery effort continues but there is a long way to go, and many people are still not able to return to their normal lives—yet another form of suffering. The large numbers of displaced people present a huge public health challenge for the Japanese government with no clear end in sight. On top of that, radioactivity that was released from the compromised nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant continues to thwart efforts to achieve full recovery. The local environment is still contaminated with radioactivity, and radioactivity stored on the plant grounds still threatens to taint groundwater.

Now that the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami has run its course, people are anxious to return home and resume their lives. But a major concern is whether it is safe to return to areas with radioactive contamination, particularly in light of the reality that radiation levels will not be soon returning to the low background levels that existed prior to the accident.

The Japanese government has set a radiation mitigation goal of 20 mSv per year as the maximum annual dose allowable for returning evacuees. Prior to the accident, 1 mSv per year had been the dose limit for the public—a limit that is no longer sustainable if the region is ever to be reinhabited. The Fukushima evacuees now need to decide for themselves whether the government’s new 20 mSv per year dose limit presents a personal risk level that is acceptable. It is an important decision because, one way or another, how they decide will have a huge impact on how the rest of their lives unfold.

fukushima image

CC image courtesy of greensefa on flickr

As I describe in my book, Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation, we have over a century of experience with human exposures to man-made radiation, and that experience has taught us much about the health risks at various radiation dose levels. These data on human exposures suggest that 20 mSv of dose represents a lifetime risk of a fatal cancer of about 1 in 1,000. Stated another way, if 1,000 people lived in a radiation-contaminated area for one year and received this level of dose during their stay, we might expect one of them to come down with a fatal cancer at some point in their remaining lifetime due to that radiation exposure. Meanwhile, as many as 250 of those same 1,000 people would be expected to sustain a fatal cancer as some point during their life from non-radiation causes because, unfortunately, cancer is a common disease.

So compared to people living elsewhere in Japan, the cancer rate for the returning Fukushima residents would raise from a baseline of 250 out of 1,000, up to 251 out of 1,000, during their first year of rehabitation. Each additional year of residence at 20 mSv per year would increase the lifetime cancer risk level by one additional victim per 1,000. So two years of 20-mSv exposure would result in 252 cancers out of 1,000, compared to the 250 out of 1,000 risk level in uncontaminated areas.

It must be understood that these numbers are just approximations of the cancer risks. But they are good approximations backed up by a century of health experience with human radiation exposures, including atomic bomb victims, nuclear fallout victims, and people exposed to medical radiation procedures. They may not be very precise estimates, but they are definitely in the ballpark for the true level of cancer risk from radiation.

fukushima image

CC image courtesy of thlerry ehrmann

Now, knowing the risk of cancer associated with returning, what are the risks of not returning. Well, that will depend more upon the exact personal circumstances of affected individuals with no two people having the same types of risks. Beyond various health risks, there will be a spectrum of both social and financial risks associated with either returning or not returning that must be considered. None of those disparate risk estimates will be anywhere near as reliable as the cancer risk levels that we have just projected. The cancer risks are just one aspect of the risk/benefit analysis that each evacuee must make. But, for all their imperfections, the cancer risk estimates are the most accurate part of that analysis.

Whether to return to contaminated communities is a hard decision, but all intelligent people are capable of making such a decision about their own health and wellbeing, and they have the right to do so, as long as they have access to credible and intelligible information regarding the risks involved. And it’s actually good that people make their own decisions and not rely on government agencies to make decisions on their behalf because only they, and not the government, know exactly what uniquely personal and individual interests they have at stake.

Strange GlowTimothy J. Jorgensen is author of Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation. He is associate professor of radiation medicine and director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program at Georgetown University. He lives with his family in Rockville, Maryland.

Celebrating 203 years of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

On December 20, 1812, the first volume of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmarchen (‘Children’s and Household Tales’) was published. The Grimm’s were the most prominent in a new intellectual interest in folk stories—for them, the stories showed a national German identity. That first edition included 86 tales, with later versions adding and subtracting stories to what became known in English as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

PUP’s edition, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, aggregates 156 stories from the 1812 and 1815 editions in English for the first time with beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist Andrea Dezsö. From now until December 31 save 40% when you purchase it on our website. Enjoy the stories that have been inspiring readers for more than 200 years!


Happy 100th Anniversary to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity!

relativity jacketToday is the final day of our popular #ThanksEinstein series, in which an array of prominent scholars and scientists have shared their insights and reflections on relativity, Einstein, and how his work inspired their own careers. Scroll through this week’s blog posts to read pieces by Daniel Kennefick, Katherine Freese, Hanoch Gutfreund, Jürgen Renn, Alice Calaprice, Jimena Canales, J.P. Ostriker, and many more special features, including this piece on Einstein’s final days.

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity celebrates its 100 year anniversary today. November 25, 1915, during a particularly strenuous time in his life, is when Einstein submitted his final version of the general theory of relativity to the Prussian Royal Academy, complete with the field equations that define how the force of gravity arises from the curvature of space and time by matter and energy. The theory, which is the current theory of gravitation in modern physics, has implications for everything from black holes to the idea of universe expansion. It gained rapid popularity after its conception in 1915, and in the early 1920s alone, it was translated into ten languages. Fifteen editions in the original German appeared over the course of Einstein’s lifetime.

Princeton University Press has released a special edition of Relativity: The Special and the General Theory to commemorate the anniversary, including commentary from Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn, Einstein experts, as well as additional content such as title pages from several language translations. You can browse through them in the slideshow below. Happy 100th to the general theory of relativity! Science wouldn’t be the same without you.

Memorable Quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in WonderlandHere at PUP, we’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a new edition that combines the text of the 1897 version (thought to be the most authentic and correct by Lewis Carroll himself) with the illustrations done by Salvador Dalí for the 1969 Random House version. Readers can enjoy this familiar tale alongside Dalí’s hyper-saturated, surrealist pictures. In honor of Alice, here are some of the most memorable quotes from the book. Which is your favorite?


“Off with her head!”
–the Queen of Hearts

“A cat may look at a king.”

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

“[W]e’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
–the Cheshire Cat

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”
–the Duchess

“For the Duchess. An invitation from the Queen to play croquet.”
–the Frog-Footman

“Begin at the beginning … and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
the King

“I ca’n’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir … because I’m not myself, you see.”

“The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh my dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers! She’ll get me executed, as sure as ferrets are ferrets!”
–the White Rabbit

The 50th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination

JFKToday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The 35th President of the United States, he was one of four presidents who have ever been assassinated while in office (the other three being Lincoln, McKinley and Garfield). He was shot and killed in a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963 at 12:30 pm.

To honor JFK and all of our fearless leaders of the United States since George Washington was inaugurated in 1789, we’re posting a list of some of our best presidential titles to remind us all of the dedication these men put forth in their time leading our country.

Rest in Peace, Mr. President.

Quotable Jefferson
The Quotable Jefferson

Collected & Edited by John P. Kaminski

The Quotable Jefferson is the first book to put Jefferson’s words in context with a substantial introduction, a chronology of Jefferson’s life, the source of each quotation, an appendix identifying Jefferson’s correspondents, and a comprehensive index. The main section of Jefferson quotations, which are arranged alphabetically by topic, is followed by three other fascinating sections of quotations: Jefferson on his contemporaries, his contemporaries on him, and Jefferson on himself.

Richard Nixon: Speeches, Writings, Documents

Edited and Introduced by Rick Perlstein

The first book to present America’s most controversial president in his own words across his entire career, this unique collection of Richard Nixon’s most important writings dramatically demonstrates why he has had such a profound impact on American life. This volume gathers everything from schoolboy letters to geostrategic manifestos and Oval Office transcripts to create a fascinating portrait of Nixon, one that is enriched by an extensive introduction in which Rick Perlstein puts forward a major reinterpretation of the thirty-seventh president’s rise and fall.

Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980’s

By: Gil Troy

Did America’s fortieth president lead a conservative counterrevolution that left liberalism gasping for air? The answer, for both his admirers and his detractors, is often “yes.” In Morning in America, Gil Troy argues that the Great Communicator was also the Great Conciliator. His pioneering and lively reassessment of Ronald Reagan’s legacy takes us through the 1980s in ten year-by-year chapters, integrating the story of the Reagan presidency with stories of the decade’s cultural icons and watershed moments-from personalities to popular television shows.

The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment

Edited by Julian E. Zelizer

The Presidency of George W. Bush brings together some of today’s top American historians to offer the first in-depth look at one of the most controversial U.S. presidencies. Emotions surrounding the Bush presidency continue to run high–conservatives steadfastly defend its achievements, liberals call it a disgrace. This book examines the successes as well as the failures, covering every major aspect of Bush’s two terms in office. It puts issues in broad historical context to reveal the forces that shaped and constrained Bush’s presidency–and the ways his presidency reshaped the nation.

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition (New in Paper)

By: James T. Kloppenberg

Reading Obama reveals the sources of Obama’s commitment to democratic deliberation: the books he has read, the visionaries who have inspired him, the social movements and personal struggles that have shaped his thinking. Kloppenberg shows that Obama’s positions on social justice, religion, race, family, and America’s role in the world do not stem from a desire to please everyone but from deeply rooted–although currently unfashionable–convictions about how a democracy must deal with difference and conflict.

Presidential Leadership
Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era

By: Joseph S. Nye, Jr

Spanning multiple presidencies, this book examines the foreign policy decisions of the presidents who presided over the most critical phases of America’s rise to world primacy in the twentieth century, and assesses the effectiveness and ethics of their choices. The book shows how transformational presidents like Wilson and Reagan changed how America sees the world, but argues that transactional presidents like Eisenhower and the elder Bush were sometimes more effective and ethical. It also draws important lessons for today’s uncertain world, in which presidential decision making is more critical than ever.

Presidential Difference
The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama (Third Edition)

By: Fred I. Greenstein

In The Presidential Difference, Greenstein provides a fascinating and instructive account of the presidential qualities that have served well and poorly in the Oval Office, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first hundred days. He surveys each president’s political skill, vision, cognitive style, organizational capacity, ability to communicate, and emotional intelligence–and argues that the last is the most important in predicting presidential success. Throughout, Greenstein offers a series of bottom-line judgments on each of his 13 subjects as well as an overarching theory of why presidents succeed or fail.

The Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

fall-wall-2013In just three days, the 24th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall will be celebrated at Eureka College with a ceremony and multiple guest speakers, including Henry R. Nau, author of Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan.

As their Facebook page reads: “Ronald Reagan, Eureka College Class of 1932, implored, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Today, Eureka College is home to the only authentic section of the former Berlin Wall in Illinois. Join President J. David Arnold leaders from all over the state of Illinois, political dignataries, neighbors, veterans, faculty and students as Eureka College celebrates the 20th anniversary of the end of the Cold War, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.”

To learn more about the event go to the Eureka College website, or look for updates on the Conservative Internationalism Facebook Page.

Thursday, November 7, 2013
4:00 p.m. Ceremony, Becker Auditorium, Cerf Center
5:00 p.m. Reception, Cerf Center
Special Guests
Governor Jim Edgar
Medal of Honor Recipient Harold Fritz, U.S. Army, (Ret.)
Eureka College President J. David Arnold
Professor of International Affairs Dr. Henry Nau, The George Washington University