Click to view The salvage crew is ready to board a wreck drifting off Reticulum when the engineer calls over the comm: radiation detected. They pop the airlock and pull out a translucent green ball that fits in the palm of a hand. Fitting it into a spherical metal sheath that's perforated like a colander, they toss it onto the derelict ship, then pull back and wait. Eventually they retreive the little ball, analyze it with a computer, and get a 3D map of all nearby radiation sources. This strange device is called RadBall, and it's already been invented.

RadBall was developed by Dr. Steven Stanley at Nexia Solutions. It is designed to be used in nuclear power plants and nuclear research facilities to detect specific radiation sources in inaccessible or dangerous areas. The green plastic globe is filled with polymer chains, and is placed inside a reusable lead sheath pierced with more than 100 small holes. As radiation passes through the lead, it reacts with the polymer chains and causes them to cross-link. This shows up as a visible markings inside the ball, sort of like a holographic radiation map.

Once the RadBall has been left in place long enough, it can be analyzed by shining a light through it. The lines and shapes inside can be interpreted by software to show a map of radiation sources, including their intensity and type. They will be cheaper than other detailed radiation scanners, claims Dr. Stanley, and they require no power source or prolonged human exposure in the irradiated area. Do not taunt RadBall. Images by: Nexia Solutions & BBC News.


On the ball. [The engineer online]