fukushima tragedy

Is Your Fear of Radiation Irrational?

by Geoff Watts, Mosaic Science

Bad Gastein in the Austrian Alps. It’s 10am on a Wednesday in early March, cold and snowy – but not in the entrance to the main gallery of what was once a gold mine. Togged out in swimming trunks, flip-flops and a bath robe, I have just squeezed into one of the carriages of a narrow-gauge railway that’s about to carry me 2 km into the heart of the Radhausberg mountain.

Fifteen minutes later we’re there and I’m ready to enjoy what the brochures insist will be a health-enhancing environment. Enjoyment, of course, is a subjective term. The temperature inside the mountain’s dimly lit tunnels is around 40°C, and the humidity is 100 per cent. The sweat’s already begun to flow. More important, I’m breathing an atmosphere rich in radon.

Hang on… radon? That’s a radioactive gas. Yet here I am, without so much as a film badge dosimeter, never mind the protection of a lead apron, among a group of people who have paid to come to the Gasteiner Heilstollen (“healing galleries”) and willingly, even eagerly, undergo gruelling sessions in physical discomfort because of a much-contested theory that small doses of radiation are not just harmless, but act as a stimulant to good health.

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Story of a bullied weeaboo.

Think of that the way you want to, but I have always been thin, with big breasts and a pretty face. Overall prettier than the average girl. I always went very good at both school and sports (even if volleyball isn’t really my cup of tea) and took pride in it, because I fight everyday with stereotypes and people who thinks that just because I’m pretty I have to be .
At university, I’m now regarded as a refined and good-looking girl who always gives her best and gets wonderful grades because she studies and I have made myself very clear with the people I know (the others can go to hell for what I care). I am good at conversation, counseling and I have a witty mouth that everybody seems to like, as many people ask me to join them during lunch or breaks and talk with me.
I have friends, a wonderful boyfriend and I couldn’t be happier with the way things got for me.

I am usually told that absolutely nobody could tell I’m a (now) closet-in nerd who was bullied and went home crying for eight years of her life.

I am an ex-weeaboo.
I was a weeaboo to everybody else’s eyes (even if I never wore any anime-themed things) and what has made things really hard for me was prejudice. Judgement has been spat at me forever (big breasts = stupid, not following trends = outcast, not interested in having a boyfriend at 14 = lesbian) and nobody really cared to see that I could totally talk about everything. That if girls were talking about make-up or boys, I could tell my opinion just like everybody else. I had wonderful parents who understood I was having a Japan-loving phase and encouraged me to draw the way I wanted to, also giving me advice and asking me if I wanted to join an art class during my free time. I bought mangas, read them enthusiastically and also took some Japanese lessons, but never told “kawaii” or “sugoi” in public. I loved (and still love) to write, but my fanfictions never left the site where I published them, because I knew asking for some feedback to uninterested classmates wasn’t a good idea.
I was a weeaboo with some brain, not the demented one this blog always publishes stories about.

On my first day of high school, I was happy. Finally, I could gave myself a new identity and toss away my Dragonball-fangirl part that seemingly cause me to be isolated during three years of junior high, in order to make friends. I met my classmates and tried to talk with the old that joined the same class. My pencil case had a Deidara (from Naruto) keychain and nothing else; it was clear I liked to draw and I loved Japan, but I wasn’t insisting or whatever, I always think (and was confirmed later about it) that I presented myself as a sane and nice girl and went home smiling.

The next day, nobody was talking to me. I approached girls and they just stared like I was an alien or told “So what?” when I said something about the topic they were talking about. When I approached boys, they would simply ignore me, even if I told “Oh, I knew that videogame! What class are you playing?”.
It was the beginning of five years of suffering. I was regarded as “that strange girl”, “manga”, “the not-so-sane one”. I began to ask myself if I smelled weirdly or I had bad breath, and everyday I doubted myself, slowly destroying my self-esteem piece by piece. My pencil case was hidden at least once a week and a drawing I had made for a contest (I brought it to school because I had to drop it by the contest address that day after class), was tossed in the trash when I went to the restroom - I found it during class when I went to sharpen my pencil.
When the Facebook class group was opened, there was a caps-lock warning: NO MANGA in the description.

Nobody would talk or confess what everybody witnessed everyday. It was your classic mobbing and they targeted my interests, but I was too good to fight fire with fire. I simply couldn’t bring myself to hurt others, even if they were hurting me for NO REASON. I never gossiped, I never talked badly of anybody, I passed my notes to everybody who asked and helped, helped, helped that bunch of idiots hoping that they would change, that they would realize I wasn’t…I don’t know what. I have never known what made people think I was a complete idiot.
I had no friends for years. There were people I talked to more often, of course, but none of them ended to be really close to me for a number of reasons (they changed school, moved or simply drifted away after changing interests), so I couldn’t do nothing but closing myself. I couldn’t change class for the simple reason that my teachers were the best and I’m still proud of my decision because I owe my current grades to them. Of course, they sensed that something wasn’t right and often tried talking to my class, but there was an indifferent silence everytime. They couldn’t do nothing. My parents were worried and I thank them everyday for caring so much about me, avoiding the classic consquences of bullying you see on Tumblr or Ask.fm. Or even on tv.

Everything because, for others, I was a weeaboo.

I was lucky. I joined a Saint Seiya roleplaying forum where I met my boyfriend and the people who literally saved my life, self-esteem and that convinced me I am absolutely normal: my best friends. A comic store opened in my town (it’s closed now) and I went here almost everyday after school, meeting some of the people who convinced me I looked identical to some characters. I started to cosplay and made really good costumes and props, eventually stopping when things started to get really too expensive.
I started to be myself again. I finished school with good grades and I am now a top student at my university, winning a scholarship and the possibility of studying abroad. I love videogames, comics and I play tabletops (Pathfinder, Warhammer Fantasy) and I still draw sometimes, mostly for fun. I write and design websites in my free time.

I am a happy. But when I see other people at university talking about anime or webcomics, I unintentionally avoid them at first sight. Only few of my colleagues know I like comics.
Because only three years have passed since my class shouted me: “Who cares?” when my father boarded on his plane just half an hour before the Fukushima tragedy and I couldn’t make my homework, forcing another classmate to go at the blackboard instead of me and take the hideous grade he deserved.
That day, my Italian teacher hugged the crying husk I was and told me: “One day, you will look at them from high above and your victories will make them scream with anger”.

I am.