Flying with the Geiger Counter Kit

Shortly after my Geiger counter workshop at the Chaos Communications Camp in Germany, @tatzelbrumm sent me this video of his kit chirping madly on his flight home to the United States.

If you squint at the laptop in the video, you can see that his geiger counter is reading over 400 CPM!

Exposure to cosmic radiation is a well-known side effect of commercial airline flights, and is even documented in the xkcd radiation dose chart (click for a large version):

Christoph sent me his data logs, which clearly show the effect of altitude on radiation exposure:

The red trace is the background level on the ground in SFO and hovers around 20 CPM. The blue trace is the measured radiation over Greenland on his transatlantic flight. The peak readings are 25 times the background radiation at sea-level!

Caution: Unless you like being hassled by the TSA, I don’t recommend flying with the Geiger kit in your carry-on luggage, much less actually using it on the plane! On his DIY Geiger Counter site, Brohogan posted some good advice about traveling with a Geiger counter.

Look! Geiger Counter Kits! And shiny new cases!

Have you done something cool with your Geiger Counter kit? If so, post about it in the forums!

7 thoughts on “Flying with the Geiger Counter Kit”

  1. What’s interesting is, I saw on a documentary that airline staff are no more likely to have cancer as a result of such exposure … contrary to what one might have predicted.

    1. I don’t think so – I think Christoph was in the galley at the back of the plane, judging by the big counter and newspapers on the left. I could be wrong.

  2. I just saw a neat little blurb similar to this on Boing Boing discussing the observed radiation level versus the level that they assign to people in the flight trades (pilots, flight attendants, etc). It turns out that the ACTUAL radiation level is higher than even that would indicate because a substantial portion of the dosage is in the form of non-ionizing neutron radiation. That takes a special tool to pick up.

Leave a Reply