Physics & Astronomy

Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

The fascinating science and history of radiation


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Feb 23, 2016
25 b/w illus.
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More than ever before, radiation is a part of our modern daily lives. We own radiation-emitting phones, regularly get diagnostic x-rays, such as mammograms, and submit to full-body security scans at airports. We worry and debate about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safety of nuclear power plants. But how much do we really know about radiation? And what are its actual dangers? An accessible blend of narrative history and science, Strange Glow describes mankind’s extraordinary, thorny relationship with radiation, including the hard-won lessons of how radiation helps and harms our health. Timothy Jorgensen explores how our knowledge of and experiences with radiation in the last century can lead us to smarter personal decisions about radiation exposures today.

Jorgensen introduces key figures in the story of radiation—from Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of x-rays, and pioneering radioactivity researchers Marie and Pierre Curie, to Thomas Edison and the victims of the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Tracing the most important events in the evolution of radiation, Jorgensen explains exactly what radiation is, how it produces certain health consequences, and how we can protect ourselves from harm. He also considers a range of practical scenarios such as the risks of radon in our basements, radiation levels in the fish we eat, questions about cell-phone use, and radiation’s link to cancer. Jorgensen empowers us to make informed choices while offering a clearer understanding of broader societal issues.

Investigating radiation’s benefits and risks, Strange Glow takes a remarkable look at how, for better or worse, radiation has transformed our society.

Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of the 2017 PROSE Award in History of Science, Medicine & Technology, Association of American Publishers
  • Winner of the 2017 AIP Science Writing Award for Books, American Institute of Physics
  • One of Smithsonian Magazine’s Best Science Books of 2016
  • #6 on The Telegraph’s Top 50 Books of the Year 2016
  • One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016
  • One of Physics World's Top Ten Books of the Year, 2016
  • Shortlisted for Physics World's Book of the Year 2016