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Thread: Gamma rays and ancient books.

  1. #1
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    Gamma rays and ancient books.

    ("Ancient" is relative, of course.)

    I deal with a certain government agency that sends me old books to digitize for the web. I return the books to an off-campus address because all of the mail that comes into that building is run through a gamma ray machine to kill any possible anthrax spores. (Yes they still do that.)

    My question is: Do gamma rays actually damage books? Please advise.

  2. #2
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    Gamma rays and ancient books.

    I don't know about gamma rays, but I have some mail that was treated by the postal service in 2001. It arrived a little bit yellowed. I think it was treated with electron beams, though.


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  3. #3
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    During the early 2000's I was inspecting buildings when the anthrax scares were at a high level. At the Home Depot HQ in Atlanta all mail was being sanitized at a special building on site and at another nearby complex I watched all the buildings from a top floor being evacuated because some idiot had knocked over a fire extinguisher in a politician's office. The security guard knew what had done but made the choice to hit that alert button. The amount of county, state and US government emergency personnel that were brought in to take control of the situation was mind-numbing.
    Last edited by DukePaul; 2017-Mar-20 at 01:58 PM.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noisy Rhysling View Post
    My question is: Do gamma rays actually damage books? Please advise.
    Probably yes. The level of ionizing radiation considered safe for sterilization may do some permanent molecular damage to non living organic matter.

    The highest US irradiation levels whose numbers I found could be anything up to 41 kGy. http://www.sfowler.com/investigation...rradiation.htm

    Are you sure they are using Gamma and not electron beams or X-rays?
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Probably yes. The level of ionizing radiation considered safe for sterilization may do some permanent molecular damage to non living organic matter.

    The highest US irradiation levels whose numbers I found could be anything up to 41 kGy. http://www.sfowler.com/investigation...rradiation.htm

    Are you sure they are using Gamma and not electron beams or X-rays?
    Especially when you use an outfit that's never installed one before.

    I know witnesses to the first run through the X-ray machine at the San Francisco AMF (Air Mail Facility)

    The X-ray machine was tested using a hamper full of actual mail and set 400 pounds of dry paper on fire in quite a spectacular fashion.

    What I'd like to know is what the dosage of X-ray was to all those bystanders! I know X-rays don't travel far in air but most X-ray sources blue collar types get exposed to can't set 400 pounds of paper on fire either.

    It took three tries before they tuned it so the paper wouldn't smoke as it came out the other end.

    Oh hey chief!

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    The X-ray machine was tested using a hamper full of actual mail and set 400 pounds of dry paper on fire in quite a spectacular fashion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    The X-ray machine was tested using a hamper full of actual mail and set 400 pounds of dry paper on fire in quite a spectacular fashion.


    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    What I'd like to know is what the dosage of X-ray was to all those bystanders!
    Never mind bystanders - I'd be looking for burn victims in Madagascar!!!

  8. #8
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    Oh hi Dave.

    For years I wondered why I was the only person that worried about those numbers.

    To me that seems on par to an unscheduled fission event at a lab or something. I told said witness not to stand around and watch that anymore.
    Time wasted having fun is not time wasted - Lennon
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    The X-ray machine was tested using a hamper full of actual mail and set 400 pounds of dry paper on fire in quite a spectacular fashion.
    Until recently, I lived in the town where the anthrax-tainted mail was processed in 2001. I'd previously mentioned the yellowed letter I saved as a souvenir, but we also got some mail that was partially burned (along with a letter of apology from the postmaster). The burned stuff was mostly advertising that had expired by the time it was delivered. I don't know why they even bothered.

    On a related note, I spent pretty-much the entire summer of 2001 being treated for a prostate infection. It turns out that the standard treatment for both prostate and anthrax infections is Cipro. I was treated by three doctors, and had prescriptions for a substantial quantity of the stuff. I'm actually a little surprised that the FBI never stopped by my house for a chat.

    By the way, they finally decontaminated the processing facility by covering it in plastic and flooding it with chlorine gas.
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

  10. #10
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    I found this article that might be useful:

    http://www3.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/pdfs/2000-4-3.pdf

  11. #11
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    Those poor bookworms...

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