Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Atomicity II. I wondered where A L Kennedy got the atomicity and the 250,000 Nagasakis thing from. So I googled. What follows is just my speculation, of course, but I'm pretty sure she got it from one of the sources below.

Searches upon most variations of "250,000" and "Nagasaki" or "Nagasakis" will take you promptly to this article by Bob Nichols. Bob Nichols is described as a a contributing writer for LiberalSlant, Democratic Underground, Online Journal, AmericaHeldHostage and other publications.

He says he got the 250,000 Nagasakis figure from this report (original PDF here) by Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. Bhagwat is a former Chief of the Naval Staff for the Indian Navy, which sounds impressive and certainly impressed Bob Nichols. (I digress, but isn't it funny how people who have spent years proclaiming their oppostion to the military-industrial complex will sometimes swoon when a military man looks kindly upon them? CND used to be crazy about that German general who lived with Petra Kelly, until he killed her. And it is a very odd sight to see American Democratic activists raised on tales of protests against the Vietnam war so proud of Senator Kerry's medals from that same war.)

Admiral Bhagwat's report contains this sentence "The reported coming of an AIDS epidemic last year in India, down wind, may have a relationship to DU bombing in Afghanistan." Now you know how impressed to be.

Anyway, elsewhere the admiral says "Professor Yagasaki calculated that 800 tons of DU is the atomicity equivalent to 83,000 Nagasakis" and mentions a conference in Hamburg where this calculation was offered to the public. He implies that his own calculation is based on Yagasaki's.

So I googled Yagasaki. The paper Bhagwat cites must have been this one and the atomicity ur-document seems to be this one. Professor Yagasaki Katsuma (Yagasaki is the family name) really is a scientist with a position at the University of the Ryukyus. He seems to have served as an expert witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan which tried G.W. Bush in absentia for waging a war of agression against Afghanistan, and other war crimes. (Verdict: guilty.)

Professor Yagasaki's documents are badly translated from Japanese and I found them almost impossible to follow. However he seems to use atomicity to mean the total number of alpha radioactive decays taking place within the body. I cannot help feeling that his comparison in terms of Hiroshimas and Nagasakis is designed to scare rather than illuminate. I'd probably get it wrong if I tried to make a calculation, but I would guess that by this criterion living in a place built on or of granite (most types of granite contain naturally-occuring Uranium-238) would give you quite a few Nagasakis too, but the people of Aberdeen aren't dropping like flies.

This usage of the word "atomicity" seems restricted to campaigners against depleted uranium and people who report favourably on them. Nearly all uses of it cite either Professor Yagasaki or Admiral Bhagwat. I expect Yagasaki used a correct Japanese term, probably but not certainly the Japanese for "radioactivity", which was badly translated as "atomicity". The others just copied blindly. A search for "uranium" and "atomicity" will now reveal hundreds of entries: the meme is propagating outwards, and now it's reached the Guardian its survival is assured.

So that's what I found out about "atomicity." No big world-shattering point will be adduced from all this. I just thought you'd be interested in following one oddly translated Japanese word into the big wide world of internet ignorance.