One of my favorite jokes about the difference between scientists and engineers is the one in which a scientist and an engineer are both put into a room with a pot of gold on the other side. They are given the rules of the challenge – the gold will be given to the person who reaches it first. There is one caveat – each contestant is limited to moving only half way to the goal with each turn.
The scientist gives up and claims that the goal is unreachable because the distance to the gold will never be zero. The engineer walks across the room, picks up the pot of gold and says – “I may not be able to get here, but I can get close enough.”
During the question and answer session following the presentations at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) meeting on food safety, Dr. Allison, a life-long scientist, proves that some scientists recognize that close is often good enough. As he says in answer to a lengthy question from the audience, the risk from a dose of 100 mSv each year may not be zero. However, the life span survivor studies of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki show that it is so close to zero that it is impossible to measure.
That study included a population of approximately 100,000 people monitored carefully for more than 50 years. It is difficult to conceive of a larger or more well followed study group.
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