August 7, 1987

Types of Radiation: The Journal Flunks Physics-Reply

JAMA. 1987;258(5):611. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400050053017

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In Reply.—  Dr Wick is correct. While many of our mistakes might seem to be intentional (to fulfill some departmental quota designed to perpetuate the LETTERS section), the accumulation to which he refers was not. Two were born of the necessity to summarize due to space limitations; the third resulted from a typographical error. Here's how they occurred:Alpha radiation: Rather than describe an alpha particle as the nucleus of a helium atom—two protons and two neutrons—we named only the component nuclear particles. We did not mean to imply that these particles were emitted independently.Beta radiation: The modifier "nearly" was inadvertently dropped. It was to have preceded "the speed of light."Gamma radiation: Gamma radiation is like sound. It cannot be entirely blocked. Thus, we should have said "attenuated to levels considered safe" instead of "stopped." The amount of shielding needed to attenuate gamma radiation to safe levels varies