Published by The Argus Environmental Trust (UK).
@ ARGUS_II_OPUS (+44-91-490-0327) 2:256/18@FidoNet.org
The Electronic Eyes of Argus
Atomic Energy and Computers
by Nane Jurgensen (in German) translated by Zephyros
updated english text by John S. Bone (c) 25th-Oct-1991
The Soviet Union would have much preferred, of course, to
keep quiet about the Chernobyl catastrophe, so as to be able to
go on believing - at least themselves - in the superiority of
their Communist system to our world of Coca-Cola and Hamburgers.
But the radioactive particles swirling through the earths
atmosphere and contaminating great stretches of the European
countryside just couldn't be denied.
Owing to the many nuclear tests and accidents, so-called
low-level radiation is somewhat higher than that provided by
Research is showing with ever greater clarity - and contrary
to all official mollifications - that this radiation represents,
when seen over the long term, a not-to-be-underestimated health
risk to all of us.
Ever more citizens, and not only in our own Federal Republic,
are feeling themselves to be inadequately informed by officialdom
on actual levels of radioactivity in general, and on the emission
of nuclear materials in 'incidents' in particular.
FidoNews 8-43 Page 14 28 Oct 1991
Not a few even think it possible that peak levels of
radiation brought about through accidents are simply covered up
by officials for reasons of state.
It was demonstrated in the first weekend supplements of the
(German) newspapers in 1988 that such attitudes towards their own
electors are to be found in politicians.
On 1st January 1988 Government files kept secret for 30 years
were released to show that at the instigation of the then Prime
Minister Harold Macmillan the British government had covered up a
near-meltdown at the nuclear power station at Windscale in 1957.
The UK Government records showed that large quantities of
radioactivity had been released then during a fire at the Atomic
The report of the second biggest nuclear accident in the
world, prepared by the nuclear scientist Sir William Penny, was
simply put away in a drawer, on the instructions of the then
English Prime Minister (Macmillan) and in its place was published
a sanitised report which naturally made light of it all.
Instead of decently informing the home population, and that
of Europe, everything was hushed up.
Since then, using the "30 year rule" for releasing old UK
government papers, it has been officially admitted in England
that 33 deaths have been caused by the accident.
But even in the face of increased mortality from leukemia
in the area of the installations on the Irish Sea right up to the
present day, no British government has been obliged to lay its
cards on the table.
Until today, All heads of government after Macmillan have
agreed with his assessment of the near-meltdown: better to hush
it all up than have to deal with "public trust in nuclear energy
being seriously shaken".
The nuclear reactor still has to be sealed off today.
Seventeen tonnes of molten and partially burnt radioactive fuel
are still producing such concentrations of radiation that the
reactor cannot be approached except in protective clothing for
short periods of time.
Alarmed by the way in which information was handled by
politicians and official sources after the Chernobyl catastrophe,
and by the behaviour of the British government in the matter of
the near-meltdown of 1957, some specialists in computers and
communications have got together with active environmentalists to
carry out measurements of background radiation in future on a
wide front, without relying on government and official sources.
FidoNews 8-43 Page 15 28 Oct 1991
With its manifold possibilities as an effective instrument
for democratising our society and for strengthening a public and
decentralised flow of information and communication, the computer
is coming into its own.
The word democracy leads one to think of the ancient
Greeks; even though they managed it without the computer....
So let's take a quick leap back a few thousand years.
Old Zeus had found himself desiring Io, the daughter of
Inachos. In order to protect his beloved from the jealousy of his
wife, Hera, he turned the poor woman into a cow. (Incidentally,
she fled to Egypt and was there given back her human form by
Zeus) Before things had got this far, back in Greece Hera had
had the cow guarded by Argus, the hundred-eyed watchman.
Ever since then the phrase 'argus eyes' has been used to
mean 'vigilantly observing eyes'. Hermes was to release Io by
killing Argus, and Hera was to commemorate the foul murder by
setting the hundred eyes of Argus into the peacock's tail.
Borrowing from this ancient Greek fable, the English group
of computer specialists and environmentalists have called
themselves 'the Argus project'.
They are building small, local monitoring stations across
the whole country. The equipment installed by their volunteers
measures background radiation automatically every ten minutes.
The idea is that wherever in the world, there are plug-in
telephone connections it will be possible to install such Gamma
monitors, building up a comprehensive records based on private
initiative of checking radiation levels against official
The motto is: Government information is all well and good,
but measuring it yourself is better.
Each single monitor outstation sends its results through
ordinary telephone lines to a central (host) computer with the
help of a modem and an appropriate communications programme.
The owner of a local monitor can print out measured data
whenever wanted - or transfer them onto disc on a PC so as to be
able to correlate them with tabular or database programmes.
By these means he has an up-to-date overview of the actual
radiation level of the immediate vicinity, and is contributing to
the overall picture of radiation constructed as a mosaic out of
all the local measurements.
FidoNews 8-43 Page 16 28 Oct 1991
The countrywide assessment of radioactivity is only made
possible by collating all the data acquired in a "central" or
"host" computer. The transferred data are received and assembled
in this host computer.
It wouldn't be necessary to bother with computers if this
weren't fully automatic: the local outstation sends its readings
once a day to the host computer, where appropriate programmes
receive the data, collate them, and prepare them for the most
The "Argus" host computer can be reached via normal
telephone lines from anywhere in the world by anyone with a
computer and a modem. (Call it on +44-91-490-0327)
So anyone in, say, Manchester wanting to find out the
current levels of radiation in the area, or countrywide, could
make a telephone call to the Argus project host computer to
elicit the up-to-date readings quickly and easily.
Not only current readings can be sought like this; the
longer the project runs, carrying out measurements over longer
periods of time, the more it will be possible to call up and
display the development of radiation over the last few years.
Really interesting eventualities might result.
The extension of the Argus project will make it even
harder for the authorities to issue doctored readings of
radiation levels, or simply to cover up incidents involving the
emission of radioactive particles.
If this project gets even half way to realising the ideas
of its initiators we will be able to rely on this private network
of monitors keeping tighter and more effective tabs on radiation
than any of the current official sources.
The Argus Project is open to anyone prepared to pay the
basic costs of the equipment (circa $1000 [DM2000]) and the small
telephone usage charges, involved in data transmission, to the Host
computer (about $30-50 [60-100DM] per year).
First of all you need a (ARGUS_Project designed and
built) gamma monitor. As standard a Mullard ZP 1220/01 Geiger-
Muller tube is used, installed by Argus specialists outside the
house 1 metre above ground level to ensure that Beta particles
won't be counted. Arrangements to protect the monitor from
weather, wildlife, or vandals will be made as appropriate to the
The distance from monitor to house, where the computer
data-logging control unit (based on the tried and tested Motarola
6809 microprocessor) is installed, may be hundreds of metres.
FidoNews 8-43 Page 17 28 Oct 1991
A standard printer port is provided with the data logging
control unit. A standard "hayes" modem is attached via a (RS232)
communication port , so that the recorded data may be carried
forward to the Argus host computer.
Once a night, at the most favourable time for minimum
tarif call-charges, the readings which have been recorded every
ten minutes are transmitted via telephone line to the host
computer. To inhibit abuse, data exchange between host computer
and outstations is protected by passwords, and a unique data-format.
The Argus specialists have designed the outstations to
operate reliably for about ten years.
The Argus project's two host computers have also linked into
the International FIDO Network so as to be able to communicate and
thus exchange data with computer users over telephone lines world-wide.
This, the largest independent information network, was
brought to electronic life by the American Tom Jennings in 1984.
It includes at the present moment (at least in the free world)
more than 10,000 computers and bulletin boards. The opportunities
opened up there can be imagined.
For any politician not at home with effective democracy,
such hard-to-control networks are enough to make the hair stand
8000 MeNCHEN 19
Telephone (089) 16 79 644
Mailbox (089) 16 79 745
(c) 1988 Nane Jurgensen All rights reserved
Further information is available directly from:
The ARGUS Environmental Trust.
The Argus Gamma Project.
19 St. Marys Terrace,Ryton,
Tyne and Wear,
Contact: Graham Denman.
Telephone: +44-91-490-6272 ARGUS_OPUS 2:256/18@FidoNet.org
The Argus Project Computer (ARGUS_TWO) is accessible 24 hours
a day (300 to 2400 baud) on + 44 91 490 0327.
FidoNews 8-43 Page 18 28 Oct 1991
Its Co-Sysops: Graham Deman. (2:253/94) and John Bone (2:256/17)
UPDATE on Current details of the ARGUS Project. 20th AUGUST 1991
The ARGUS Project now has 16 remote Gamma Monitor stations,
reporting their daily Gamma readings each night to one of their
two "host" computers. Each "Host" being a OPUS node in the
Gamma Monitor Stations are at the following positions:-
O.S. Map grid references location (Owner of Station)
NZ14640 - Ryton - Tyne & Wear - England (ARGUS_1_HQ)
NZ25600 - Gateshead - Tyne & Wear (Low Fell) (ARGUS site)
TQ32820 - London - England (FoE site)
SU71700 - Reading (Borough) - Berks (Local Council)
NS15800 - Dunoon - Scotland (Cowal)
NZ69040 - Botton - N.Yorks (Wand)
NS33200 - Ayr - Scotland (ARM)
NZ2560A - Gateshead - T&W - (Low fell TEST SITE) (ARGUS)
SH64160 - Mawddach - Wales (CYMRU)
TQ05830 - Uxbridge Civic Centre (Hillingdon)
SP49080 - Oxford City Council (Oxford City)
SU64000 - Portsmouth City Council (Portsmouth City)
SU40100 - Southampton(1)@ Chilworth (Southampton City)
SU42150 - Southampton(2)@ University (Southampton City)
SY92870 - Wareham(1) - Dorset (Local Council)
SZ11920 - Bournemouth (Cemetary) - Dorset (Local Council)
and others coming online soon
:::New for 1992:::
Remote equipement for Acid Rain monitoring is also being
currently developed, by the Argus trust.
Gamma Data has been collected now for over 3 (three) years, and
it is published daily. (some stations are new for 1991)
By JOHN BONE 2:256/18@FidoNet 20th August 1991