Monday, February 19, 2007


The old familiar international symbol for radiation:

... is being supplemented by this:

According to the International Atomic Energy Association and the International Standards Organization, this is a clearer way to tell people to run! Run! Run for your lives!

The new symbol is aimed at alerting anyone, anywhere to the potential dangers of being close to a large source of ionizing radiation, the result of a five-year project conducted in 11 countries around the world. The symbol was tested with different population groups - mixed ages, varying educational backgrounds, male and female - to ensure that its message of "danger - stay away" was crystal clear and understood by all.

"We can´t teach the world about radiation," said Carolyn Mac Kenzie, an IAEA radiation specialist who helped develop the symbol, "but we can warn people about dangerous sources for the price of sticker."

The new symbol, developed by human factor experts, graphic artists, and radiation protection experts, was tested by the Gallup Institute on a total of 1 650 individuals in Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Thailand, Poland, Ukraine and the United States.

The new symbol does, indeed, make it clear that something bad is around and one should get away. It's not terribly clear about what the bad thing is: a strange object will fire worms at grinning skulls of people with no teeth, and at you? So best to run and ask questions later?

They're right, of course, that the plain old radiation symbol doesn't mean much if you've never seen it before. I'm not sure the new graphic tells much more than a sign saying "DANGER" in the appropriate local way would.

Of course, looking at this collection of hazard signs, there are quite a few that don't really scream "hazard" unless you know that yellow triangles mean to be cautious. (The "machines start automatically" sign is particularly mysterious.)

While my instinct is to hate the sign because it's klutzy and ugly, I see why it would be needed... sort of. I wonder where they will actually be placed?

Seems to me anybody working in a power plant, or other facility where radiation is likely to be found, will already understand the old radiation symbol. Where is it that an ordinary person who doesn't know the symbol might accidentally come across deadly radiation and have to run away - and is there perhaps a bigger problem than bad signage there?

(Blogtalk:, NerdWorld)

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