Global Thermonuclear War: Tweeted

[Andreas Spiess] did a video earlier this year about fallout shelters. So it makes sense now he’s interested in having a Geiger counter connected to the network. He married a prefabricated counter with an ESP32. If it were just that simple, it wouldn’t be very remarkable, but [Andreas] also reverse-engineered the schematic for the counter and discusses the theory of operation, too. You can see the full video, below.

We often think we don’t need a network-connected soldering iron or toaster. However, if you have a radiological event, getting a cell phone alert might actually be useful. Of course, if that event was the start of World War III, you probably aren’t going to get the warning, but a reactor gas release or something similar would probably make this worth the $50.

[Andreas] started with software from GitHub that interfaces the board to an Arduino. He uses a free Thingspeak account to shoot the data across the network. IFTTT can then get data from Thingspeak and then push a notification to your phone.

If $50 is out of your budget, we’ve seen cheaper builds. Once you have the tube, you really just need some high voltage and all you really need for that is a 555 and a transformer.

22 thoughts on “Global Thermonuclear War: Tweeted

    1. Depends on your ISP. Some restrict outgoing email to their servers only which makes it less portable. That would also skip keeping a statistics log of the count over time. If all you wanted was an alert then definitely send it as direct as possible.

  1. Andreas coincidentally published the video just in time: Austria, Germany and some other Central European countries have been detecting a slight increase in isotopes of Ruthenium 106 since the past few days: [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4951812/Spike-airborne-radioactivity-detected-Europe.html]

    Unfortunately these low levels of specific isotopes can’t be detected with these Geiger-Mueller tubes – but that’s a completely different story.

    1. Or maybe, I could detect the Fukushima disaster for weeks after it happened. My usual background is 0.16 uS/hr with slight variations butby averaging 10 40 second measurements, it was obvious that slight increases to .20-.24 happend on days where the media reported clouds going over europe and it went on after the media stopped reporting decreasing slightly the following months. This was with an old russian Gamma only detector from the 80’s. A similar technique could be used with a counter connected to an ESP doing the averaging.

    2. Interesting link you posted there. There are approximately 1,000 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators in Russia. Some of them are stolen and sold for scrap: http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/radioactive-waste-and-spent-nuclear-fuel/2005-04-radioisotope-thermoelectric-generators-2. Another source would be decomissioned medical isotope sources used to treat tumours. A few years back a Brazilian scrappy sendt a medical Beta source to the melters, it ended up miced into steel table legs and sold with school tables. Needless to say, there was a nationwide search of every school to collect these tables.

  2. A nice network of these run by trusted people would take the wooo out of nuclear events like Fukushima. For several years I had to occasionally hear about the deadly wave of deadly deadly radioactive water headed for the US west coast.
    But it is scientifically impossible to disprove anything or say that oceans are large enough that like the uranium dissolved in them they also dilute the radioneuclides which started at Fukishima, and all of the others from bomb tests to sunken submarines, at least I could have cut/pasted daily readings to calm the smaller bunnies out there.

    1. Funny, but the reason we need citizens to test for radioactivity is due to several times in the past when there was an incident and real danger the governments were NOT reporting it until some private individual or ‘rogue’ country did.
      Because like you they are all too happy to pretend, and not afraid to make some victims along the way.

  3. Next stop: A smaller and cheaper(!) (build and run time costs) detector so we don’t have to think twice about building lots of them and running a dense mesh of sensors…

    …we might even detect meanies with radioactive stuff in their briefcases that way!

    …or transports of radioactive trash… trashing the myth that they are soooo well shielded…

    PN diode based?
    Better ideas?
    Hacks? \o/

    1. A nice scintillation counter is way cheaper than a Geiger tube and works nearly as well except at the lowest levels of sensitivity where the interest is truly academic rather than safety based.
      Unfortunately since everyone knows the Geiger tube there is not yet a big market to encourage it as an alternative in an already niche market, though I expected after the Fukushima scare more projects, interest, and consumer products to drive down scintillation modules.

      1. Where can you get cheap scintillation counters ?

        I’m thinking of the design with a opaque tube (typically aluminium) filled with scintillator crystals (sometimes NaI doped with 0.1–0.4% of thallium for gamma ray detection) and a sensitive photomultiplier tube (which should cost more than a simple Geiger tube to manufacturer).

        1. Digital X-Ray detectors have replaced X-Ray film. They’re a flat scintillation crystal with an x/y array of photodiodes each with a transistor as the first stage of amplification and an analog sample/hold ckt. The array is A/D X/Y scanned and transmitted to standard desktop computer.

          Try getting a single hi sensitivity photo-diode and growing a salt crystal around front of it… Sample and hold ckt triggered by rising edge and for a set time, integrator ckt to sample and hold amp, feed to A/D, got your photopeak. There needs be multiple event detection to reject, dump, reset to prevent false high readings. 80’s tech but replacing the photomultiplier tube with a photodiode. If you want to calibrate it for electron voltage you’ll need two sources, suggest Am241 and Co57.

          1. With a photomultiplier you can get up to 160dB of gain (no Johnson noise) whereas with a PN junction you are looking at maybe 60dB of gain. So only the flashes of light generated in the scintillator crystals that are 100000x (100dB) brighter will be detected, otherwise they will be buried underneath if noise floor.

            I suppose it does boils down to final application, maybe I was just looking at a scintillation counter, to be used as a scintillation counter.

    2. Funny story…

      A couple of years ago I was into radioactivity experiments, and carried around a detector in my truck. It was on the glare shade, and powered whenever I was driving.

      One day I was stopped at an intersection and the thing started slowly clicking more and more, and built up to to a tremendous signal over the course of several seconds, then faded back to normal background level.

      I parked and went around the intersection looking for what might have caused it, and then realized that it was probably an oncoming vehicle that passed me in the other lane!

      Some random vehicle is running around New Hampshire with enough radioactivity to register 200 times background radiation from a distance of several meters!

      Not making this up, and there is no legitimate (read: legal) explanation that I can think of. Maybe someone delivering radionuclides to a local hospital?

      I don’t drive around with a detector any more, because vibration from driving killed it.

      Just note that there might be interesting things to find if radiation detectors were more common.

      (I have a project page on .io explaining my experiments, but it’s not public yet. For the record, I’m researching detection methods, and only have a couple of vaseline glass marbles and some ore samples from eBay. Oh, and some smoke detector nubs.)

      1. Nuclear Medicine. You nailed it! Delivery vehicle. Not necessarily to a hospital, lot of small clinics made good money imaging patients. 70’s and 80’s I was maintaining Nuclear Medicine Gamma Cameras all over two states. Nucleotide Container had to be light enough for driver to pick up and carry into the office, and further shielding for driver was installed in vehicle just next to the container, but no way they could reasonably put enough lead in the vehicle to shield every other direction. Not a worry for you anyways, it’s stuff they inject into you and collects at your tumor or hairline bone fracture that X-ray can’t pick up but the gamma camera can get a real nice picture of. Only living tissue picks takes it up, accident victims with liver damage it’s used to tell which parts are still living, dark areas aren’t.

        Very surprising that anyone ever picked up on it! Cudos!

  4. Just FYI every bit of iron/steel made after WW2 has some radioactivity.
    Case in point, The table that I had to lay on while getting a baseline count before working at a certain nuclear pant had to be made from pre-WW2 metal.

    1. Did I hear somewhere about the salvage of pre-1940’s steel from (German?) Ships for scientific/medical sensors?
      Apparently, modern steel is too contaminated, raising the ‘noise floor’ above the weak signals

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