Safecast draws on power of the crowd to map Japan's radiation

By Xeni Jardin

[Video Link: YouTube, PBS.org]

I traveled to Japan with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien to help shoot and produce a series of NewsHour stories about the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters. One of these just aired, and is above. It's the story of how a group of hackers and internet folks are working with Japanese volunteers to harness DIY technology to record and share data about radiation hotspots.

We traveled with Safecast on a radiation-data-gathering drive from Tokyo to inside the voluntary evacuation zone, close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. We monitored readings on the ground and in the air with the Safecast team all along the way. You'll see what those contamination levels were, and what and whom we encountered, in this video.

Some of the voices in this piece are familiar names to regular Boing Boing readers: Joi Ito, Sean Bonner, and others. One DIY/Maker/hacker culture hero we interviewed whose work you see is Bunnie Huang (I was thrilled that this project allowed me to meet Bunnie in person for the first time).

In the NewsHour story, airing exactly eight months to the day after the March 11 disaster, you'll see the geiger counters the Safecast team have developed with Sebastopol, California-based Dan Sythe and International Medcom. The successor to the "B-Geigie" Safecast is using now will be a device Bunnie designed (which looks really elegant, by the way). Oh, and these geiger kits were assembled in the very cool Tokyo Hacker Space, a central site for the Safecast movement.


LINKS: PBS NewsHour site, with transcript. Don't miss this conversation with Miles and NewsHour Host Hari Sreenivasan, the day after we came back to Tokyo from the Fukushima drive. And here's a related story about the abandoned pets we encountered there.

Here's a related post on Safecast.org, and here's Sean Bonner's original drive report from our trip together.

Ganbare, Nippon.

(Photos in this post: iPhone snapshots by Xeni Jardin.)

Published 9:51 am Fri, Nov 11, 2011

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.

3 Responses to “Safecast draws on power of the crowd to map Japan's radiation”

  1. Nadreck says:

    This was presaged by the crowd-sourced “Godzilla Prediction Network” in one of the Big G’s movies. ¬†Very appropriate considering he’s a metaphor for atomic energy!

  2. baronkarza says:

    That would be “Godzilla 2000: Millenium” to be exact, an excellent film that relaunched the big G’s movie career. Just before this film Toho Pictures had pretty much shelved the charcter, until everyone in Japan saw the ultra-crapfest that was the American Godzilla movie and thought “come on, we can do better than that!”, so they did! A really fun film.

    But from the second photo on this article it looks like someone is driving around with a very hi-tech Shinto statue mounted on the roof of the car, for what reason I don’t know.. Better etherial reception?

Leave a Reply