Former Oklahoma Attorney General, notable enemy of the environment, and feverish climate change denier Scott Pruitt seems to be making it his goal to make you and everything else alive on earth a lot less safe. He’s already pushed for slashed research budgets — especially for the climate — and refuses to acknowledge the role of climate in storms or wildfires. It looks like he’s taking aim at radiation safety standards next.A new set of instructions for EPA agents bumps the “safe” radiation exposure far, far higher than it was under Obama’s presidency. Previously, the document said that all radiation above background levels was a hazard, the new report says that “radiation safety experts” claim that “exposure of 5-10 rem (50-100 mSv) usually result in no harmful health effects because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk.”Problem is, that’s just not true. That level is widely recognized to be quite dangerous. One rem is a pretty sizable dose, enough that typically, the unit millirem, or “mrem” is used. For context, the regulatory limit for the public is about 100 mrem per year, so the proposed limit is 50-100 times even that,“[It] really is a huge amount of radiation,” Daniel Hirsch, director of environmental and nuclear policy at University of California Santa Cruz, told Bloomberg. “The position taken could readily unravel all radiation protection rules.”With these new rules, one in 86 workers exposed would get cancer. That’s still not much, but given that it is CANCER and we already had the tools and equipment to successfully mitigate that level exposure — because we were doing just that — it’s completely insane to think that this is acceptable. It puts many lives at critical risk, too. Even worse is that these are rules for clean-up crews in the case of an emergency, like spilled waste. The US already had a really bad track record of taking care of its public health and safety officials (see: how 9/11 first responders were treated), so it’s particularly disheartening to see the US once again throw out the health and safety of those risking their lives for the rest of us.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.
An international team of scientists has located one of the densest clusters of galaxies in the universe.The team, led by Mauro Sereno of the University of Bologna, used gravitational lensing to probe galaxy cluster PSZ2 G099.86+58.45.Described by Sereno as “the best candidate to target,” PSZ2 lies at the center of a very large field, allowing the lensing signal to reach a large radii. The “gravitational lens” effect, affording to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), happens when the mass of a cluster and its surroundings bend light from very distant galaxies and change their shape.“This study shows that the density of matter around the cluster we studied is up to six times greater than expected,” Sereno said in a statement.While it took “just a few minutes” to measure, the group spent weeks determining whether this was a fluke.“Astronomers can be very [critical] and they are mostly [critical] toward their own work,” the researcher wrote in a blog post. “Or at least, they should be. Or at the very least, I am.”Using X-ray emission, cosmology, numerical simulations, and optical spectroscopy, Sereno & Co. checked for every possible systematic error. But the signal proved true, and the team successfully revealed one of the highest-density nodes of the cosmic web.Six years in the making, their results were published recently in the journal Nature Astronomy.“Astronomy can be a lot of fun, you can be really free to make your mind wonder,” Sereno said. “Astronomy is sharing, too. Our work was mostly based on public archives, provided by people who make their work available to the whole community.”There is, as always, more work to be done. But, as IAC researcher Antonio Ferragamo pointed out, this marks “another small step forward,” toward understanding dark matter and how it is distributed across the cosmic web of the universe.“The research I enjoy the most comes from unannounced ideas,” Sereno said. “Most of the time, that genius idea you had is just a reminder that you should go to bed earlier, but sometimes you find something.”Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Supercomputer Generates Virtual Universes to Study Galaxy FormationNASA’s Spitzer Telescope Spots Whirlpool ‘Warhol’ Galaxy Stay on target