Tag Archives: food

Radioactive Banana! Peeling Away the Mystery

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Radioactive Banana! Peeling Away the Mystery

All bananas contain potassium (element K). All potassium contains 93+ % Potassium 39, stable potassium, and a little bit of the isotope Potassium 41, perhaps 6+ %. But, all potassium also contains a tiny fraction of the radioactive isotope of potassium, Potassium 40 (K40).

Potassium 40 undergoes three forms of decay, beta -, rarely beta+, and electron capture. The last step emits a gamma ray with an energy of 1461 keV. It is this gamma ray that I detected.

My calculations for the typical radioactivity of a banana:

The number of Potassium (K) atoms per gram of potassium:
(Avogadro’s Number / Atomic Weight of K40) = 6.022 x10^23 / 39 = 1.544 × 10^22 K Atoms/gram

The amount of Potassium in a Banana (approx):
grams of Potassium in a banana = 0.442 grams

Natural abundance of K40 per normal Potassium (A): 0.000117

Half life of Potassium: 3.9357×10^16 seconds (T 1/2).

((Avogadro’s Number) / (Atomic weight)) x (0.442 g) x (A) x (ln 2) / (T1/2)
(((6.022*10^23 / 39)*0.442) x 0.000117) x ln2 / (3.9357×10^16)
=14.0633 decays per second per banana
= 14.0633 Bq Banana^-1

Practical Gamma Spectroscopy Links

For $350 USD – $500 USD
http://beeresearch.com.au/ – Quality and inexpensive MCA
http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~marek/pra/index.html – PRA software for viewing peaks.

You can often find a good scintillation probe on eBay for a few hundred dollars (USD), but you have to shop for it.

$4,000-$5,000 USD
http://spectrumtechniques.com/ucs30_system.htm — Entry lab-grade setup.

Some potassium and banana sites!!!

Radioactive Food: Brazil Nuts

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Are Brazil Nuts radioactive? You bet!

I tested a bag of them using gamma spectroscopy and found clear peaks for Radium 226 and Lead 214, as well as probable peaks for Bismuth 214. In the end, the radioactivity of Brazil nuts isn’t something to worry about. In an entire 24 hour period I only few a few hundred gamma rays from each peak. The radioactivity was just too low to be of worry.

Like most nuts, Brazil nuts are quite good for you and typically get a “glowing” review from health care professionals. =)

Tasty Food – Good For You Too!

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Here are some wonderful food choices for the health conscious conosur.

(I am getting a new camera soon. This was from my Iphone… go figure)

Annie Chun’s Noodle Bowls
Annie Chun’s Rice Express
Annie Chun’s Sushi Wraps
Healthy Valley Organic Tomato Bisque
Dr. McDougall’s Split Pea Soup
Random package of Udon noddles!


Sushi – Not actually raw fish…

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Yeah… I’m eating it on my bed…. wanna fight about it…?

I love sushi but I always have to remind people that it doesn’t have to have raw fish. Interestingly, sushi means “vinigared rice” and not raw fish. It happens to be that raw fish is nearly always added as a source of protine, but consider the people who created sushi… The Japanese live on an island and migrated from the south of Asia where tasty fish is quite common in shallow waters, and easy to obtain. Adding fish to Sushi provided protine!!!

I enjoy sushi perhaps once a week, but remember not to eat too much due to the methylmercury!!! Mercury, a nasty little silvery metal which flows like water at room temprature, builds up in fishies!!! The result is damage to unborn children, harm to the brain, and in large amounts, necrosis and death!!!!!!  <– additional explaimations for severity…

Most methyl mercury comes from nature, but people add lots too. Just don’t eat more than 6oz/week of fish and try to eat fish not at the top of the food chain… they eat the most other fish.

Chili of Ancient Times – A Historical Look at Chili!

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A short document I wrote about the origins of Chili!

Chili of Ancient Times

By Tom Watson

“Chili”, or more accurately Chili Con Carne {literally “Chili Peppers and Meat”},

is more than a combination of local fruits and meat available to the cattle ranchers of

Texas; It is the culmination of nearly 9500 years of experience and a simple spark of

ingenuity. Before the recent history of the dish may be digested, we must first understand

how Chili Con Carne came to be invented. To do this we must look at the ingredients, the

cultures surrounding them and the final motives involved in the creation of this great


Before we can understand the ingredients we must understand the culture that put

them together. Often Chili is thought to have been created in Texas; while this is true it

cannot be over looked that the Chili Pepper was first cultivated in central Mexico by pre-

Aztec cultures. Around 8000 BC, during the Early Archaic Period, people first began to

cultivate native Chili plants and use them in their food. We can surmise who these people

were based upon the most probable origin of the first domesticated Chili peppers


The modern Common Red Chili Pepper, Capsicum annuum (Diamond), is

thought to have been domesticated from wild variants found in central Mexico.

(Pickersgill) This is based upon chromosomal comparison. Nearly every genetic aspect of

modern C. annuum is found in the wild “weedy forms” for the species found in central

Mexico. This evidence is supported by recent genetic tests performed in which tests of

native C. annuum from northwestern Mexico and central Mexico revealed that the central

Mexican plants matched our modern domesticated plants more closely (Casas).

C. annuum has been a part of human diet in the regions of central and northern

Mexico for nearly 12,000 years and may have been cultivated as early as 10,500 years

ago. (Diamond) It can only be expected that the word “Chili” comes from the Spanish

word Chile, which in-turn was derived from the Na’huatl (pronounced: “Na-Ha’Whatle)

word for the pepper. Na’huatl was the ancient language of the Aztecs, who in-turn where

the descendents of the inhabitants of central Mexico (Rountree).

The first ingredient in Chili Con Carne is of course Chili Peppers

C. annuum, “Chili”, is often thought of as a vegetable; however it is in actuality a fruit. C.

Annuum is actually part of the Nightshade family of plants, Solanaceae (“pepper”). This

fruit owes its spicy flavor and pungent aroma to a simple oily chemical produced by the

plant called capsaicin. (Blumberg) Capsaicin is noted for its ability to cause the sensation

of heat when exposed to mammalian tissue. This effect was probably developed as a

natural defense mechanism for the plant but used by humans as a flavoring agent.

Meat has been a part of the human diet for several million years and is necessarily

a part of life in most human societies. The Aztec people where no exception to this fact.

Consumption of meat was a part of the diet of most Aztecs. The Aztecs probably started

adding salt and other native spices to their food in the same manor as nearly all other

peoples of the time (Rountree).

Meat spoilage is often cited as a primary reason for adding spices to meat in warm

climates. This is due to modern misconceptions of ancient food preparation. During

recent times humans have had to contend with meat being slaughtered and then traversing

great distances before being consumed. In the ancient world of archaic period Mexico

such concepts were untested. Food would most likely be eaten within an area

geographically close to the place in which it was obtained. This may be seen in most

cultures of the time (Diamond).

Blumberg, Peter M., Szallasi, Arpad, “Vanilloid (Capsaicin) Receptors and

Mechanisms”: June 1999 Copyright © 1999 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Vol. 51, Issue 2, 159-212,

Casas, Alejandro; Gonzalez-Rodriguez, Antonio; Garzon-Tiznado, Jose Antonio;

Hernandez-Verdugo, Sergio; Sanchez, Carla; Sanchez-Pena, Pedro; Oyama, Ken.

“Genetic structure of wild and domesticated populations of Capsicum

annuum (Solanaceae) from northwestern Mexico analyzed by RAPDs.” May 2006: Genetic Resources & Crop Evolution. 53(3):553-562,

Diamond, Jared. “Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal

domestication.” Nature: 8 August 2002:700-707. Nature International Weekly Journal of Science. Accessed 20 Apr. 2006

“pepper.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica

Premium Service. 24 Apr. 2006.


Pickersgill, Barbara, “Taxonomy and the origin and evolution of cultivated plants in the

New World.” Nature: Vol. 268, August 1977. Nature International Weekly Journal of Science. Accessed April 21th

Rountree, Dr. Helen C. Personal. 06 Apr. 2006

“Summary: Characteristics of prehistoric periods.” Mississippi Historical Society ©

2000–2006. 22 accessed: Apr. 2006

mshistory.k12.ms.us/features/ feature32/archaeology_summary.pdf