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Professor Astronomy

The nuclear crisis in Japan

16 Mar 2011, 19:49 UTC
The nuclear crisis in Japan
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Like many of you, I've spent a lot of time this week watching and reading coverage of the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan. The news coverage I've seen of the earthquake and tsunami has been heart-wrenching, and I strongly encourage all of you to give generously to reputable relief charities.

However, the news coverage of the unfolding crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been, through most of what I've seen, poorly done. Two days ago I spent an agonizing 15 minutes watching a national news anchor and a meteorologist discussing what impact the wind might have on radiation levels in Japan. Both people freely admitted to not understanding why the wind would have an impact, or even where nuclear radiation comes from. Yet rather than bring on an expert who could explain these important issues, they admitted their ignorance and threw it to commercial.

News coverage like this leads to fear and panic, and fails to provide that one crucial item that the field of journalism is built upon: correct information. So today there are reports of panic purchasing of radiation-related health products on the West Coast of the U.S. when, to the best ...

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