Coming Across that Kodak Moment

A PC usb port decked out to look like a nuclear missile launcher
The army pressed the button, we did the rest
You never know when you’ll come across a Kodak moment – like today when I found a photography blog that tells the story of how the Kodak corporation in Rochester, New York learned as early as 1946 that their film was being damaged by nuclear weapons testing. After one test, which was followed by a snowfall in Rochester, they recorded 10,000 counts per minute in the snow, compared to a “normal” count of 400 in snowfalls before this test. It’s notable that this is about what people in Tokyo were blanketed with in the days after the Fukushima 
meltdowns. Because people in Tokyo knew what was hitting them, they were not blessedly ignorant like the North American population of the 1950s and 60s. The Japanese spent anxious days wondering if they should flee from a danger they (or their parents) were all exposed to in the past - some of us more than others, actually. I found out recently that I was born nine months after the start of a global weapons testing moratorium that lasted from early 1959 until it began to unravel in late 1960. I couldn’t have picked a less bad time in that era to be conceived. To the extent that I am still healthy, this may be the reason. I was spared, during my most sensitive months of development, from exposure to all the short-lived radionuclides in the fallout - although there is little reason to take comfort from the spike in the fallout for many years after 1960.
1959-60 was a relatively good time to be born (image from Wikipedia).
   In any case, the comparison between America in the 1950s Japan in 2011 just shows that you can oppose nuclear weapons and the civilian nuclear industry, or you can run away, but you cannot hide.
Kodak complained to the Atomic Energy Commission in 1951 and threatened to sue, and thus from that time they were given privileged access to the schedule of bomb tests and the predicted fallout patterns. The North American public was kept in the dark, and food production was not protected, but our film for all those precious Kodak moments was kept safe.
I suppose the people involved in these secret decisions convinced themselves that the film was hypersensitive, while levels detected presented no threat to living things. But then and now scientists knew this was not the case. In particular, the danger of iodine 131 getting into the dairy supply was a well-known hazard, but the interests of the public were put aside for national security.


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