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Four Infographics that Help Explain Radiation Exposure

Beware the misinformation about radiation risks, and arm yourself with these charts to better put the crisis in Fukushima in context.

In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear crisis, we posted a couple of charts about the impacts of different levels of radiation. In the past few weeks, designers have had the chance to touch up those simpler efforts. Here are some of the best that should help you better understand the actual threats of radiation.

Lena Groeger, of NYU’s Studio 20 in New York, created this radiation exposure infographic on a vertical linear scale to "transform something you can't see, smell, taste or feel into something a bit more tangible." It goes a long way in giving viewers the scale of exposure.

Alexandra Muresan created Triangle Chart with Fabian Fucci to explain the overall effects of the radiation exposure rate and, more importantly, exposure time on the estimated amount of radiation received.

David McCandless, of Information is Beautiful, created this chart, which, like all of his work, the data behind the chart is publicly available.

Randall Munroe, of XKCD, created this well-circulated logarithmic box chart that contains some useful explanatory text.

The charts help put the accident at Fukushima in context, but, as Anil Dash writes, it's important to distinguish between dose and dose rate. He emphasizes that "risk is a function of the accumulated internal dose."

It's also worth pointing out the shortcomings of the familiar benchmark—the "banana equivalent dose"—which tends to oversimplify the kind of radiation exposure.

Let us know in comments if you find any other compelling visualizations that help make the complex science behind nuclear radiation exposure more comprehensible.

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