Day 2: Fun and Games With Microsieverts

So we’re getting close to 48 hours of radioactivity here at chez Berri.Yesterday I was up and down and today feels more of the same. I’m pretty tired (though I may in fact, just be tired) and so have slept a fair amount. I get headaches from time to time. My mouth and eyes are dry. So far, everything tastes pretty normal. I think.

But of course, the real question is what it’s like to be radioactive? Since I don’t have access to that particular part of my being through my own senses, I turn to my delegate, the Geiger counter, which is getting more interesting as I get slightly less radioactive. But how radioactive am I and what does that mean?

I’m using the “microsieverts/hour” measurement because that’s what the Jewish General used on me. It’s a measurement of exposure if you’re close to me. If you want some comparable dosages, here’s Wikipedia:

.098 µSv = a banana

.25 µSv = airport screening

1mSv (100µSv) = US recommended dose limit per annum

1.7mSv (170 µSv) = estimated annual dose received by flight attendants

10 to 30 mSv = whole body CT scan

50 mSv = US annual occupational dose limit

60 mSv = estimated dose to Fukishima evacuees

Yesterday, I came in at 137 µSv/hr and change around 2pm, and 120 by midnight. A few minutes ago, I was down to 84 and change.These are measurements in close proximity. 3 feet away, the numbers drop significantly. Just now, when I ran the Geiger counter, I moved it all around my body. Levels were highest around my chest (where the metastatic thyroid cancer is) and my neck (ye olde thyroid bed). My arms, legs, and the top of head were much lower.

So if I understand these measurements right (and I may not), last night, if you cuddled up with me while we slept, you would have awakened having received a dose of radiation higher than a Fukushima evacuee. Carrie came by for dinner but was generally 3 feet away from me or further, so her exposure was considerably lower. When she arrived, I think she was a little skeptical but after seeing my Geiger counter demo, she was more than happy to sit across the table from me and on the next couch over as we caught up on the week’s episodes of Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.

Another way to “know” my radioactivity is to do something with the real-time response of my Geiger counter. So I’ve been recording my Geiger counter output once a day. It produces a series of ticks. Those ticks can be turned into sonic events in a number of ways. Below is a recording. On the left channel, you’ll hear the ticks of the Geiger counter (this is different from the beeper you heard yesterday). On the right channel, I have transformed them into percussion instructions (MIDI data, kids) and applied them to a set of sampled gongs. It’s not an exact science, but you can get some pretty subtle gong playing.The last hit is a cheat–it’s the pop when I turn off the Geiger counter’s output and therefore not a sign of anything:


http://sterneworks.org/radioactive2.mp3

I also ran the sounds into my modular synthesizer. If you’re not a sound nerd, just play the file below. Otherwise, keep reading: last night I sent the recording through an envelope follower and out to my modular synth. The follower interpreted the sounds as pitches and gate triggers. I then ran the pitches through a quantizer with 3 outputs–one to a modulated wavetable, one to an analog synth, and one to the pitch shift of a digital delay, and the gates to some VCAs. Here is a tiny clip of what I got:

http://sterneworks.org/radioactive3.mp3

So yes, there’s some kind of art project in this. Perhaps a couple more cancerscapes.