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28/12/2009 - Lamb Curie with HP (Health Physics) Source

Lamb Curie with HP (Health Physics) Source

Thought I would take some time to cook up another Ramsay Special. This is a flavoursome lamb dish with a special hot and fruity HP (get it ?) source (not sauce of course) . It does not take too long to prepare and cook, and even less time to eat. Like all my concoctions, I cannot claim the dish is totally original - I must have picked up the basics from somewhere (and I do have a library of cookery books).

By the way, the picture above is taken from my spice cupboard, just spent the hols sorting it out. Compare this picture with the Atomic Toy picture in the blog below - colours are very similar.

So this is what you need for two (very large) portions (which you can freeze if you wish). The main ingredients are:

  • One tablespoon (tbsp) of tomato puree
  • About 1 teaspoon (tsp) of Garam Masala
  • One half tsp of ground up cumin seeds
  • 250 ml of plain natural yogurt
  • Salt (to taste) - suggest one half tsp
  • 1 tsp of finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp of crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp of hot chilli powder (use less if you wish)
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 400g of diced lamb
  • 4 white onions (finally chopped)
  • One tbsp of Ghee (can can use oil or butter if you wish)
  • Some chopped fresh coriander

The HP Source consists of the following additional ingredients

  • 2 green cardamom pods (slightly bashed but NOT crushed so they fall apart)
  • Small handful of curry leaves
  • Four squat green chilli, finally chopped and deseeded
  • 3cm piece of cinnamon stick (leave whole)
  • Handful of chopped dried fruit (e.g. apricots)


Ok so now you have the ingredients this is what you do to make Lamb Curie with HP Source.

Marinade the Lamb

All conventional stuff here. Take a large bowl and pour in the yogurt. Follow this with the Garam Masala, the cumin and salt, the ginger and garlic and the chilli powder. Add the lamb and give it a really good mix. Then add the tomato puree and mix well. Do not worry about the colour - it will be quite bright pink (see above) - not much like an Indian curry right? Well sure - this is a Lamb Curie after all and it does not have any turmeric to give it that classic dark yellow look.

I try to leave this to do its stuff as long as possible - but with family dinner to also prepare (ahem - they do not eat my experiments) I never get to leave it as long as I might like - would suggest at least an hour - but if you can make it in the afternoon all the better.

Make the Onion Gravy

I like to eat authentic Asian dishes once in a while - you will find that these have ‘bits' in them and normally use meat on the bone. However, I also love the restaurant (takeaway) curry experience as well (indeed I have curry named after me, developed together with my local Indian Restaurant, more of that later). For this dish I am going for a restaurant feel and so it is important that the dish is smoooooth.

So , heat the chopped onion in a large pan with some of the oil. You need to fry the onions really slowly so that they are golden brown - but not burned. Be really careful here as it is easy to take the onions too far too quickly where you will end up with a bitter taste. Once you have the onions right then let them cool and then reduce them to a smooth paste in a baby liquidiser (or equivalent).


Add a little water so that you have a paste that will fall off a spoon if held in the air for a few seconds. Once you have this return the paste to the pan.

Make the Curie

You simply heat the onions back up again and add the lamb mixture. You need to cook the lamb on quite a high heat (say three minutes) to seal the meat - stir constantly. Once the meat has changed colour turn down the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. During this time stir frequently, but otherwise keep the pan covered. You will need to add water now and again - aim to keep the consistency of the gravy similar to what you would expect for your takeaway restaurant experience.

Towards the end of the cooking period you need to make your ‘source'.

The HP Source

Take a small pan and melt the Ghee (or butter) until it is bubbling. Then you add all the source ingredients and stir very rapidly to keep everything moving - you want to ensure the ingredients are cooked without burning (in my experience this is where Ghee has the advantage). Cook this source (which will contain lumps - e.g. do not try to break down the cinnamon stick) for about 5 minutes. Then take off the heat.

Hopefully, your main Curie Dish is now cooked - if not then keep the source warm but do not cook further.

Lamb Curie with HP (Health Physics) Source - serving

Once the main Curie is ready you simply pour in the source - lumps and all and give it all a good mix.

Then you are ready to serve with rice or bread. Do not try to eat the cinnamon stick - it is not clever and will ruin your experience no end!

Hope you enjoy!

(With apologies to Mr and Mrs Curie, HP Foods Limited, and all those who believe I cannot spell ‘sauce')

The Ramsay Special

Just before I go - thought I would advertise my local takeaway again. If you are in the East Berkshire area do try to visit the Mita's  (Twyford, location is on their website but note they have not uploaded the new menu shown below). If you do then I recommend the ‘Ramsay Special' - description below.

It looks like this:


 Ramsay Special is Served!

Back to radiation protection matters next time.

27/12/2009 - Radioactive Toy, Chemistry Set or Steam Engine?

Well I had a generous set of gifts from my family this year. A large set of Asian ingredients (they know I like cooking), a DVD of Michael Mcintyre, a book based on cooking with alcohol and other nice gifts. The boys did very well indeed - all sorts of interesting toys (Alex really likes his battery driven Quad Bike!). A lot of the toys however are electronic and passive - they exercise the mind but perhaps not the physical. By physical I do not necessarily mean ‘physical exercise' I just mean doing things with their hands and getting 'dirty'.

This got my thinking back to my own childhood and the gifts that I received as a young boy. Doing some research on the internet revealed some potential gifts that even I would have wished for as a youngster but would not have been available. Keen to relate these wishes to my current profession I bring you the: Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab (pictured above).

The Atomic Energy lab was only available from 1951 to 1952 and had a relatively high price for the time ($50.00). It included over 150 different experiments using varieties of uranium ore and isotopes of lead, ruthenium and zinc. It also included radiation detection instruments (e.g. Geiger counter). It even included a neat manual as shown below.

You can read more about this ‘toy', and other ‘atomic' themed material at the Atomic Toys Museum - where you can discover such treasures as Atomic Fire Balls (yes, these are sweets named after the fireball of a nuclear explosion). The pictures above are also credited to the same museum.

Clearly having such a radioactive toy when I was a boy was out of the question and even more so now. I therefore turn my thoughts to gifts that I did receive as a child but which might be frowned upon now (i.e. either unavailable or available in a much diluted form). One of my favourites was the chemistry set - I must have received 3 or 4 of these between 8 and 12 years of age. I recall the name was the ‘Thomas Salter Chemistry Set'. I could not find any pictures of the exact sets I played with - but the following is similar:

The above chemistry set contained 15 chemicals for over 90 experiments (distributed by Peter Pan Playthings Ltd, Peterborough, England). The picture is credited to the Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library.

15 chemicals seems a bit light from what I remember, I am sure my sets were much bigger. However, on closer inspection of the above picture I clearly recall using the spirit burner (and buying the Meths from the local DIY store - no questions asked!). Looking on the internet I did spot the following on Amazon:

However I just do not believe it will be quite the same - will it for example include Potassium Nitrate and Magnesium Ribbon (and I mean 10cm of ribbon, not a tiny piece) - I very much doubt it indeed. I remember ordering extra ribbon such was the excitement of (carefully) watching it burn.

I then turn my attention to another toy I remember as a boy - the stationary steam engine. Here is the exact same type I had


Credit goes to this site.

After being shown how to set this up I was left to my own devices in the garage - putting the spirit into the burner, raising the steam, and then attaching to a small generator to make a light bulb function.

Here is an example of it running (as a car engine) - was never clever enough to do that!

Alas not these days (safety / security etc)

So where am I going with all this? Well, I am the first to NOT knock ‘Health & Safety'. I think overall improvements in health and safety over the last 30 years are to be commended - there has to be a balance and I do not always think that balance is correct - but overall I believe more good than ‘harm' has been achieved in the work place. However, looking at the toys I have noted above I do think they will become an even rarer sight in the near future - you can even simulate a steam engine and a chemical reaction in glorious 3d on a computer. So I do not think H&S can be blamed in isolation - a lot of it has to do with kids expectation.

I think security does have a part to play as well. Clearly buying potassium nitrate from your local chemist or a piece of Nat U from your local chemical store is long gone (and long before events such as 9/11). However, I do think learning about the world we live in, and the physics and chemistry that surrounds us, is still in my view best achieved by looking at the physical world (reactions, smells, sparks, fizzes, clicks etc). Many schools do not think so - and I know this from the number of enquires I get regarding the disposal of school radioactive sources - they simply do not want the liability nowadays (be that safety, health, security or financial).

Or is it my impending mid-life crisis?

Anyway - this Dad wants a chemistry set and a steam train - and I think that might be to do with my age (my wife bought me a book on cars and the mid life crisis for Christmas).

Radioactive Toy

Well, returning to the theme of this blog entry, I cannot let the chance go by - got to mention some Progressive Rock (it is the holidays...). So I give you a live version of a track by Porcupine Tree: 'Radioactive Toy'.

24/12/2009 - Radiotherapy Bunker tours and training

Greetings all! I had a hunch that December would be a quiet month - a long slow march towards the festive season. Well far from it, been enjoyable and rewarding - I have no idea where each week has gone. I only wish this had been like this when I was a child; I remember clock watching for weeks wondering if the 25th December would ever appear!

RPS Radiotherapy Bunker Training

A key event this month has been running a RPS training event for managers of an industry leading linac manufacturer, supplier and installer of medical radiotherapy equipment. Although the training encompassed the usual suspects with respect to RPS training (the basics, dose limits, Ionising Radiations Regulations, ALARP etc) it also included a large module on linac bunker design. This module was presented as an overview of the subject (we were not trying to change them into shielding designers!), but we wanted to ensure all understood the basic requirements.

For this module we commissioned Chris from Grallator Limited to develop some new resource for Ionactive - a flyby virtual linac bunker. With this resource we firstly fly around the outside of the bunker as it grows from the ground upwards - we note the offices, waiting areas and storage space around the bunker in our virtual treatment centre.


We then take a pause at the entrance to look at the external active signage and consider the location of the Last Man Out (LMO) button.


We take a trip inside the bunker observing all the key features such as the emergency stops, locked engineering doors, last person out button, cameras and internal signage.

Here is a general view of the inside..

In this shot we consider the placement of the LMO (here shown as the alternative LMO). We discuss if this button should be placed near the exit (most bunkers we have seen) or at the furthest point from the exit (as shown here, next to the engineering door). We also consider the locking of the engineering door (and note here that the key has been left in the lock - a no no once in treatment mode).

We then exit the bunker and again fly above the facility - looking at plan and elevation views of the facility - noting the extent of the primary and secondary shielding.

This is the shielding shown in plan view


The shielding is then shown in side elevation

We then consider the shielding in 3d, by first looking at the total structure

And then we break it down into each part

I believe it to be an excellent example of using multi-media to ‘visit' a facility for the purposes of training - particularly when you might not have one on your door step.

The images you see in this blog are taken from the new resource. Currently there is no audible commentary - during the training I simply talked over the resource, stopping from time to time to discuss design issues with the delegates. As time allows we will work with Grallator to produce a script for audible commentary, so we can put this resource up on the web (like we do with all our similar videos and animations).

If you think the video animation of this resource would be helpful then email and I will let you know when it is uploaded. Or, you can bookmark our YouTube page IonactiveConsulting and view it from there once it is uploaded.

Bunker Shielding Calculations

Been a busy month for shielding calculations too - not only number crunching for two different facilities, but also explaining the basic concepts in the above mentioned training course.

We have constructed a spreadsheet based model for the shielding required for a Gamma Knife. The Gamma Knife is a radio-surgical technique that utilises a large number of Co-60 sources built into a collimator array allowing precision placement of pencil beams around the head. The Co-60 sources are housed in a heavily shielded treatment unit which has a shielding door. With respect to dose rates outside the treatment zone there are really three circumstances to assess:

  • Shielding door closed (lowest dose rates, but are above ambient levels, particularly around the back of the unit)
  • Shielding door open and treatment couch out of machine - highest dose rates
  • Shielding door open with treatment couch in machine (i.e. patient being treated) - intermediate level dose rates.

Unlike a linac which has an isocenter outside of the equipment, the Gamma Knife isocenter is within the machine. Typically, dose rates at this point are 3.5 Gy/min with a full load of Co-60 (about 200 sources, each around 1TBq when fresh). Once you know the basic characteristics of a linac (dose rate, patient position workload etc) it is relatively easy to calculate the required level of shielding (this being optimised). With the Gamma Knife, less is known about the photon energy outside of the machine.

With respect to ‘line of sight', if you were able to stand at the end of the treatment couch and look inside the machine with the shielding doors open, you would not be able to see any of the sources. This might therefore imply that all the photons outside the machine are scattered (depending on the shielding door and couch position) and therefore have lower energy than the expected classic double peaks of 1.17 and 1.33 MeV. However, it has been shown that there is a distribution of photon energies around the machine, including two lobes symmetrical about a centre line running through the machine,  foward of the shielding doors, which are very near full primary energy.

Therefore when designing shielding it cannot be assumed that all photon energies are less than primary, neither is it sensible to assume that all are at the primary energy (unless you want to build a shield with VERY high factors for safety). Therefore the solution is a mixture of classic shielding calculations (using Tenth Value Layers) modified by empirical calculations based on real measurements in and around real facilities.

Knowing the ‘workload' proportions of the above mentioned dose rate scenarios can also help in the design process (i.e. the highest dose rates are realised for the shortest period of time compared to the overall treatment period). Unlike the linac (and ignoring the short lived activations products of the higher energy machines), the Gamma Knife always produces residual levels of dose rate - particularly around its back end - these being slightly higher with the shielding doors closed (due to back scatter within the machine I believe).

Overall this is an interesting project to work on.

Thoughts for 2010...

So it's onwards and upwards (I hope) for 2010 - looks like being a mixture of familiar radiation protection related tasks and a number of new initiatives.

Ionactive 'R&N in CBRN' Newsletter

We have our first ‘R & N in CBRN' course ready to go for early February 2010. This course has been constantly evolving and now appears to be growing in popularity with the Fire & Rescue service (the course was originally designed for the Police Service). We believe this is an excellent step forward as multi-service training is likely to be more efficient. You can read more about these courses on our dedicated Contingency Training pages. (Sorry, the newsletter was delayed due to work in December, it will be released for early January 2010)

Our first general Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) course for 2010 takes place 25/26 January and is already almost full (which is unusual for January as we often find this is a quiet month). Although the course is constantly updated and tweaked from month to month, it will undergo a significant peer review and revision over the next 3 weeks to ensure it remains fresh and progressive. Although these courses are UK based they remain popular with delegates from around the world. In January 2010 we host delegates from the Ukraine and Syria who we will integrate absolutely with our UK based trainees. Find out more about our RPS training services by visiting our RPS Training page.

Talking of January normally being a quiet month - NOT - we are running a one day bespoke RPS fresher training course (NORM related) in Hull in the first week of 2010. Whilst our routine RPS training is always an interesting exercise (because our delegates are so diverse), we do enjoy developing and running bespoke courses.

Talking of bespoke courses - waiting to hear from the UAE to see if we are in the running to deliver a set of RPS / fresher training courses in the Gulf during February 2010.

Do check out this blog and our Radiation Resources pages for additional new material during 2010. We already have new animations in the pipeline - the first of which will be a virtual flyby (see we are into this now!) in and around an industrial radiography bay. This resource will be based around the panoramic radiography of large pipes using Ir-192. The animation will point out key features of the shielding, safety systems and warning signals. Also, since this bay is open-topped the resource will also graphically consider scatter from above the bay.

For up to date news on radiation protection, nuclear issues and related matters, Ionactive and a few odd things besides (Mr Ramsay does like his curry and Progressive Rock music), check out our Twitter Page If you are not into Twitter you can still catch up with our updates on our home page and on this blog.

So - may I wish all visitors and clients are very good Christmas and all the best for 2010!

21/12/2009 - Will it be a White Christmas?

Well, I thought I was going to need to take the above picture for the kids before said ‘man' disappeared. Not sure what others feel, but we found the snow of the last few days very powdery and not the sort of stuff that is good to create large snow balls.

Anyway, just when I thought the melt had started .. this happens:

This is a quick shot taken out of my home office window. I am glad I turned back from a potential visit in South London today!

An hour later and its still going strong (a view from the back window of our house)

And finally, I cannot take pictures (I'm sure you can tell). This was my attempt at something 'arty' ... ahem back to the day job I think.


21/12/2009 - The Geiger Muller (GM) Tube

Ionactive GM Tube Radiation Protection Training Resource

For some time we have made available our GM Tube resource on our Multi-Media Page. This resource was produced for us by Grallator Limited some months ago.

Well now it's available on our YouTube Channel: IonactiveConsulting.

You can watch Part 1 and Part 2 of the resource directly below now:

GM Resource Part 1

GM Resource Part 2

A few select images from the resource that we really like:

Getting to the heart of the matter ..

GM - Tube - Getting to the heart of the matter

Why GM Tube is not best choice for pulsed radiation ..

Why a GM Tube is not the best choice for pulsed radiation

The above diagram shows bunches of radiation, like that produced in a linac. If the dead time is longer than the pulse width duration of the detector, you will only pick up a single event (bunch) rather than the full bunch-worth of electrons or photons.

Therefore a GM detector is certainly not a good choice if you want to measure dose rate from a pulsed source of radiation. That said, we still use a GM based monitor when looking at dose rates around a linac bunker - buy only as an 'indicator' instrument. For formal dose rate measurements we will always use an Ion Chamber (current mode monitoring device).

Other online related Multi-Media Resource

As always, we do not endorse this - but like it all the same !

A GM Based DIY Neutron Detector

Producing X-rays from a Cheap Light Bulb!

Finally something for Xmas (as I have spent many an hour trying to get the Christmas Lights working every year!). Please do not try this at home.

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About Our Blog

This is the company blog of Ionactive Consulting Limited, a Radiation Protection Adviser consultancy. Visit here often to read our views on radiation protection and related matters. You can contact our director and RPA directly at

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