Ernest J. Sternglass

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Ernest Joachim Sternglass
Born (1923-09-24) September 24, 1923 (age 91)
Berlin
Nationality German, Jewish, American
Fields Physics
Institutions Naval Ordnance Laboratory
Westinghouse Research Laboratories
Radiation and Public Health Project

Ernest J. Sternglass (born 24 September 1923, Berlin) is an emeritus professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. He is an American physicist and author, best known for his controversial research on the health risks of low-level radiation from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and from nuclear power plants.

Early life[edit]

Both of Sternglass' parents were Jewish physicians. The Sternglass family left Germany in 1938, when Ernest was fourteen. He completed high school at the age of sixteen, then entered Cornell, registering for an engineering program. His family's financial troubles forced him to leave school for a year; by the time he returned to Cornell, the US had entered World War II. Sternglass volunteered for the navy. He was about to ship out when the atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima.

Research career[edit]

After the war Sternglass married. In Washington, D.C. he worked as a civilian employee at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory which researched military weapons. Sternglass began studying night vision devices, which led him to work with radiation. In 1947, his first son was born, and he got a chance to meet Albert Einstein.

From 1952 to 1967 Sternglass worked at the Westinghouse Research Laboratory. Early in his time at Westinghouse, he proposed a technology for image intensification.[1] He also published a formula for interplanetary dust charging[2] that is still extensively used.[3] All his work there involved nuclear instrumentation.[citation needed] At first he studied fluoroscopy, which "exposes an individual to a considerable dose of radiation."[citation needed] Then he worked on a new kind of television tube for satellites.[citation needed] Eventually he was put in charge of the Lunar Station program at Westinghouse.[4] During his time at Westinghouse, he worked on a wide range of projects, including applying magnetohydrodynamics to gas-cooled reactor systems, and helping to develop the video cameras used in Project Apollo.[5]

Sternglass is Emeritus Professor of Radiological Physics in the Department of Radiology, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Sternglass is Director, Cofounder, and Chief Technical Officer of the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP).

Claims of radiation harm[edit]

In the early 1960s Sternglass became aware of the work of Alice Stewart. Stewart was head of the Department of Preventive Medicine of Oxford University, responsible for a pioneering study on the effects of low-level radiation in England. Stewart had discovered that a small amount of radiation to an unborn child could double the child's chances for leukemia and cancer.

In the 1960s, Sternglass studied the effect of nuclear fallout on infants and children. He claimed not only an increase in leukemia and cancer, but a significant increase in infant mortality. In 1963 he published the paper "Cancer: Relation of Prenatal Radiation to Development of the Disease in Childhood" in the journal Science.[6]

In 1963, Sternglass testified before the congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy regarding the level of strontium-90 found in children as part of the Baby Tooth Survey. The result of bomb-test fallout, strontium-90 was associated with increased childhood leukemia. His studies played a role in the Partial Test Ban Treaty signed by President John F. Kennedy.[citation needed]

In 1969, Sternglass reached the conclusion that 400,000 infants had died because of medical problems caused by fallout—-chiefly lowered resistance to disease and reductions in birth weight.[7] In an article in Esquire, he claimed that the fallout from the nuclear explosions of an ABM system would kill all children in the U.S.[8] (This claim was distorted by Dixy Lee Ray in 1989, asserting that Sternglass had said this of all nuclear weapons testing, in an op-ed in which she also dismissed anthropogenic global warming as "the current scare".[9]) Freeman Dyson, taking up the debate over ABM systems in the pages of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, disagree with Sternglass, though he admitted

The evidence is not sufficient to prove Sternglass is right [but] the essential point is that Sternglass may be right. The margin of uncertainty in the effects of world-wide fallout is so large that we have no justification for dismissing Sternglass's numbers as fantastic.".[10]

In 1979, Sternglass began extending his analyses of fallout effects to embrace behavioral disorders, including academic deficits seen in high school students.[11] Later he was to blame radioactivity for higher crime rates and higher AIDS mortality.[12]

Critical responses[edit]

Alice Stewart, the inspiration for Sternglass' work on radiation health effects, firmly repudiated it, saying of an encounter with him in 1969:

Sternglass had been tremendously excited about our findings [....] But he had exaggerated what we'd said, grossly exaggerated, and we comment on this in the New Scientist.[13] He's said that we'd shown that fetal x-rays had doubled the infant mortality rate, when all we'd said was you'd doubled the chance of a child's dying from cancer. Well, the difference is that one is measured in thousands and the other in single figures [....] Sternglass was a supporter of our work, but he had got our figures very wrong, and we couldn't have our statistics misused like that.[14]

A review in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of Sternglass's 1972 Low-Level Radiation lauded the author for bringing the risks (and the nuclear industry's reluctance to discuss them openly) to public attention, with a relatively "calm presentation" compared to other recent titles. However, the reviewers sided more with Stewart on methodology, saying that it was

... over-confident in its manner of reaching conclusions. [....] his method is to [...] to amass many instances of events under various conditions, necessarily uncontrolled, that seem to corroborate the same trend. [...] it seems likely that he has exercised some selectivity, emphasizing favorable cases over those showing no distinct trend. [....] his work should be but a beginning.

Three Mile Island[edit]

In April 1979, Sternglass was invited to testify to Congressional hearings on the Three Mile Island accident. Two days later, when the hearings were moved from the House to the Senate, he was told his testimony was no longer desired. Sternglass believed that an effort was being made to suppress any evidence about possible deaths as a result of the accident.[15] In a paper presented at an engineering and architecture congress, Sternglass argued that an excess of 430 infant deaths in the U.S. Northeast that summer could largely be attributed to Three Mile Island radiation releases.[16] This led some writers on environmental issues to claim that he had proven that figure as a minimum.[17]

Sternglass's methodology was criticized—including by the medical researcher who provided him with the statistics (Gordon MacLeod), and by an otherwise-sympathetic researcher with the Natural Resources Defense Council (Arthur Tamplin) -- on several counts:[18]

  • for not attaining statistical significance (Frank Greenberg, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC);
  • for lacking a sufficient baseline, since screening for hypothyroidism hadn't started until 1978 (Greenberg)
  • for not looking at the number of babies who didn't die (Gary Stein, CDC);
  • for not noticing that the sex ratio of newborns hadn't changed—males being more susceptible to fetal injury than females (Stein; George Tokuhata, Pennsylvania Health Department, director of epidemiology),
  • for "ignoring [areas for analysis] close to the reactor, where the infant mortality was very low" (Tokuhata);
  • for simply being incomplete (Tamplin).

As well, he had relied on figures that had incorrectly compounded fetal deaths with infant mortality (Tokuhata).

Cosmological theories[edit]

Sternglass has also written a book called Before the Big Bang: the Origins of the Universe, in which he offers an argument for Lemaître's theory of the primeval atom. He offers technical data showing the plausibility of an original super massive relativistic electron-positron pair. This particle contained the entire mass of the universe and through a series of 270 divisions created everything that now exists. If true, this would help ameliorate some of the problems with the current models, namely inflation and black hole singularities. E. J. Sternglass, Relativistic Electron-Pair Systems and the Structure of Neutral Mesons,Phys. Rev., 123, 391 (1961). E. J. Sternglass, A Model for the Early Universe and the Connection between Gravitation and the Quantum Nature of Matter, Lett. Nuovo Cimento, 41, 203 (1984).

Books[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wachtel, M.M.; Doughty, D.D.; Anderson, A.E. (1960). "The Transmission Secondary Emission Image Intensifier". In J D McGee; W L Wilcock. Photo-Electric Image Devices. Advances in Electronics and Electron Physics: Serial Publication Series. New York, NY: Elsevier. pp. 61, 63. ISBN 0-12-014512-X. 
  2. ^ Sternglass, EJ (1954). "Sci. Pap. 1772". Pittsburgh, PA: Westinghouse Research Laboratory. 
  3. ^ Graps, Amara L.; Grun, Eberhard (June 2000). "Dust in the Earth's Magnetosphere: Properties, Charging, and Dynamics". Summary Report for ESA Contract 13145/98/NL/WK : Update of Statistical Meteoroid/Debris Models for GEO: 14. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  4. ^ Scientific studies on the moon (Proposed emplaced scientific station for lunar surface studies) MORRIS, V B | SHELTON, R D | STERNGLASS, E J WESTINGHOUSE ENGINEER. Vol. 27, pp. 66-72. May 1967
  5. ^ Torrey, Lee (24 April 1980). "Radiation cloud over nuclear power: Did Three Mile Island kill babies in Pennsylvania?". New Scientist (London) 86 (1204): 197–9. 
  6. ^ E.J. Sternglass. "Cancer: Relation of Prenatal Radiation to Development of the Disease in Childhood", Science, 7 June 1963: Vol. 140. no. 3571, pp. 1102 - 1104.
  7. ^ Gerald H. Clarfield and William M. Wiecek (1984). Nuclear America: Military and Civilian Nuclear Power in the United States 1940-1980, Harper & Row, New York, p. 359.
  8. ^ Sternglass, Sep 1969, "The Death of All Children", Esquire magazine
  9. ^ Dixy Lee Ray, Journal of Nuclear Medicine, v.30, no.11, Nov. 1989, p.1772 [1]
  10. ^ Freeman Dyson, "A Case for Missile Defense," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 1969; and Dyson, "Comments on Sternglass's Thesis," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 1969, p. 27.
  11. ^ Ernest Sternglass and Stephen Bell, "Fallout and the Decline of Scholastic Aptitude Scores," a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, New York, New York, September 3, 1979
  12. ^ Gould, Jay M. (June 1996). The Enemy Within: The High Cost of Living Near Nuclear Reactors : Breast Cancer, AIDS, Low Birthweights, And Other Radiation-induced Immune Deficiency Effects. Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1-56858-066-5. 
  13. ^ Stewart, Alice (24 July 1969). "The Pitfalls of Extrapolation". New Scientist: 15. 
  14. ^ Greene, Gayle (2001). The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-472-08783-5. 
  15. ^ Ernest J. Sternglass (1981) Secret Fallout: low-level radiation from Hiroshima to Three-Mile Island
  16. ^ Sternglass, E.J. (1980-01-25). "Infant Mortality Changes following the Three Mile Island Accident". Tel Aviv, Israel: 5th World Congress of Engineers and Architects. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  17. ^ An introduction to global environmental issues by Kevin T. Pickering p. 246.
  18. ^ "Scientists challenge baby deaths at Three Mile Island". New Scientist (London) 86 (1204): 180. 24 April 1980. 

External links[edit]