It has kind of wedge shapes inside.

Do you know what this is the symbol for?

The OLD radiation symbol

Of course you do. It’s the symbol for radiation. Everyone in the West knows what that is, as part of the same popular culture osmosis (and occasionally target childhood education) that tells us that the skull and crossbones means poison, and the skeletal hand means acid, etc. Hell, there’s a Negativland track about it.

Well, apparently that process doesn’t work to make people around the world understand the symbol, and both the IAEA and ISO were worried about it. In particular they are concerned about the fact that the trefoil symbol “has no intuitive meaning and little recognition beyond those educated in its significance.”

With that in mind, they have come up with a new supplementary symbol “to help reduce needless deaths and serious injuries from accidental exposure to large radioactive sources”.

Here’s the new symbol:

NEW radiation symbol

Honestly, this cracks me up. They had a 5-year project with human factors experts, graphic artists, and radiation workers, working on the design of the symbol and then tested on all kinds of different population groups (over 1650 people) in 11 countries. And that’s what they came up with.

I don’t know about you, but if I saw that symbol somewhere (without having read the press release about the new symbol, of course), my interpretation would be “evil skeleton chases man who is running to the bathroom, while a fan blows at them”.

At least it’s just a supplementary symbol, so all that trefoil tape and the signs, etc, that I … um …acquired when I worked at AECL/CRL are not rendered obsolete.

  2 comments for “It has kind of wedge shapes inside.

  1. February 22, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Heh. I thought of that too. (Actually, I thought of the “It keeps saying that, but I’m still not looking” one, but close enough.)

    Of course for a perfect match the arrows would need to come from the skull:

    Earl On The Run

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada
This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.