back to article Ex-Apple engineer lifts lid on Uncle Sam's top-secret plan to turn customized iPod into 'Geiger counter'

A former Apple engineer has spilled the beans on what he's described as a top-secret project Cupertino conducted with the US government in the 2000s. David Shayer, a former engineer with Apple's iPod outfit, this week recounted the yarn of how he came to build a custom bit of kit for the US Department of Energy (DOE) in 2005 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple should launch this for the public.

    Nothing would beat wandering around and realisng that the world is, and always has been, a radioactive place, to cure people of Nuclear Derangement Syndrome

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

      For sure, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing... wait til idiots accost some poor radiotherapy patient for being a terrorist.

      DARPA have a programme looking into the problem of separating natural or mundane sources from those that suggest something more sinister is going on... roving sensors and big data, etc. Not just radionuclides, but precursors to conventional explosive too. High acetone reading, ah, but it's outside a nail salon, likely mundane source.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

        "...but precursors to conventional explosive too."

        Don't see how you can possibly do that without too high a false positive rate. Remember, Oklahoma City was done completely with materials available to any farmer.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

          > Don't see how you can possibly do that without too high a false positive rate.

          That is what I was hinting at by including the Acetone / Nail Bar example that the DARPA programme manager gave. False positives are expected. Their plan is is use roving sensors (they talked of cars, but chemical sensors masquerading as smartphones fit this model too) to build a huge real-time data set and then use algorithms to highlight unusual cases. Fertilizer on a farm or agricultural wholesaler = normal. Fertilizer by a government building = worthy of investigation.

          I daresay that a similar approach is applied to purchases made online. Gallons of acetone supplied to a nail salon raises fewer flags than if it were supplied to a residential address in a certain area.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

            "Fertilizer by a government building = worthy of investigation."

            Bovine fertilizer in a government building = completely expected.

        2. Steve Todd

          Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

          Yes, the terrorists choice of champions is ANFO, Ammonia Nitrate (a common fertiliser) mixed with fuel oil, which incidentally was used by the US as the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history for a blast effect test (see

          1. Holtsmark Silver badge

            Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

            "Ammonia Nitrate (a common fertiliser)"

            ..Uhm.. Next time you get out of the bunker, you might want to read about Lebanon.

            You do not need to explain ammonium nitrate anymore.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

              OP didn't explain ammonium nitrate. That's only half of ANFO.

            2. Charles 9

              Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

              Most Americans don't need any reminding. Two words: Texas City.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

            i thought that was the russian equivalent of the Saturn5 blowing up?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      @AC I Call BS... Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

      The whole story is cover for a failed attempt of selling ipods to Russia to help monitor people around Chernobyl.

      1. I like fruits

        Re: @AC I Call BS... Apple should launch this for the public.

        Chernobyl is not in Russia.

    3. NoneSuch Silver badge

      Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

      "The Cupertino giant did not return a request for comment"

      They never reply to the Reg. No surprises here.

      1. First Light

        Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

        Is that still the case? I've worked as a journo and it's so lame of them to do that. Makes them seem like scaredycats.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

          There are rare occasions that Apple do reply, maybe two or three times in recent years, one, I think, in the last week or two. But yes, Apple are 5 year olds with a grudge :-)

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

      Beaten to it by Softbank who launched the Pantone 5 phone with built-in radiation sensor back in 2012...

      Obviously, with Fukushima in 2011, Japan was an obvious market for personal/pocket geiger counters - ether standalone or smartphone attached, that uploaded data and so permitted the creation of radiation heat maps.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

        The article is referring to a story about a project in 2005. If true, maybe it's still secret and not publicly available and so not beaten by a product from 2012. Or maybe it was never true in the first place, or just an abject failure.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Apple should launch this for the public.

          I was referring to the observation "Apple should launch this as a product" ie. they should release an iPhone/iPod in 2020 with this functionality, rather than let people who want it, purchase a third-party add-on for sub £50 from Amazon.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    We are through the looking glass

    Spooks can imagine it, geeks can make it work?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: We are through the looking glass

      Spooks can imagine it, geeks can make it work? .... chivo243

      I wouldn't be so sure that is the right way round, chivo243, given what one might know what spooks can do and have been doing since forever.

      However, that should in no way suggest your question is wrong worded and does not accurately represent the true nature of current developments with future horizons in present events.

      1. Trollslayer

        Re: We are through the looking glass

        Yup, you're from Mars.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: We are through the looking glass

        True. But then spooks can be geeks and geeks can be spooks.

    2. aki009

      Re: We are through the looking glass

      Yes. They definitely can.

      The inconspicuous radiation detector probably found use as we tracked down nuclear material in all kinds of interesting places around the world.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, the stories I could tell.

    But I won't ... as I signed the Official Secrets Act and various companies security policies, and I believe in trust, integrity and professional standards!

    1. Stuart Moore

      To be fair, the current government don't believe in any of those things, so you might as well tell all...

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      You could indeed tell stories, but that's all they would be. Same as I could.

      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What the f*** did you just f***ing say about me, you little b****? I'll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I've been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I'm the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the f*** out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my f***ing words. You think you can get away with saying that s*** to me over the Internet? Think again, f***er. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You're f***ing dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that's just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little s***. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little "clever" comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your f***ing tongue. But you couldn't, you didn't, and now you're paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will s*** fury all over you and you will drown in it. You're f***ing dead, kiddo.

        Lots of woofs

        Copypasta the dog

        1. Stumpy

          Quote: "I am trained in gorilla warfare"

          So you're used to wrestling with Silverbacks then?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            he probably finds it difficult wrestling other seals because they are just so slippery

        2. First Light

          That is pretty much the style of things these days. In the past, the undiagnosed, untreated mentally ill person on the other side of the county, country or world couldn't get to you. Now not only can they harass you online they can also find out where you are in the world to come find you, if they are functional, crazy and wealthy enough to do so.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Did anyone else just get flashbacks to Jasper Carrots "Nutter on the bus" sketch?

        3. aki009

          Entertainment of the day

          Thanks. That was hilarious. I'm over-awed to be in the online presence of someone trained in gorilla warfare.

          Next time you need to work on being a bit more realistic. Like the Official Secrets Act you made reference to earlier. It's a term only used in England and a few of its former colonies, which kind of makes it difficult to explain why you would then be the Tom Cruise (i.e. top-everything) of the Seals and Marines, both of them being part of the US armed forces.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Well done, you just broke the Official Secrets Act by telling us you've signed it. I know this because I've signed it too, a very long time ago. Really it doesn't make you special.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Me too! but i used the AC tag, clever eh?

        So if you cant tell people you've signed it ... then the whole "i'd tell you but id have to kill you " thing is out the window...

        where does it end?

        "What do you do at BAE?"

        "cant tell you"

        "Aha! because you've signed the official secrets act! i'm reporting you for admitting that!"

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        I think at least 10% of my friends have signed it at some point in their lives.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          It's not that uncommon to have to sign to say you've read it. My mum, a retired schoolteacher, has signed to say she's read and understood the OSA. I can't say why she had to sign it but she did.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "a retired schoolteacher, has signed...the OSA"

            The first rule of Detention is: You do not talk about Detention!

      3. Martin Summers

        "Really it doesn't make you special."

        Signing the Official Secrets Act is on my bucket list. It would make me *feel* special, and that's all that matters.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Good news!

          Even if you have not signed the Officials' Secret Act you can still be prosecuted for breaking it.

          If you want to feel special you can put yourself on an NSA watch list. Just do a web search for 'tails'.

          1. Antonius_Prime

            Re: Good news!

            These days, its less common to be on their watch lists!

            In fact, these days they don't even bother with lists, they just go get your info direct from Zuck!

          2. David Shaw

            Re: Good news!

            I handed out hundreds of free DVD tails install/boot disks to random members of the public, at a expo, explaining how useful it could be to counter the rising crime threats to internet banking etc. this was of course, preSnowden

            Imagine my surprise when a highly privileged member of staff (economist) came and denied/disrupted/destroyed/degraded etc my actions by asking endless meaningless questions, stopping me from handing out further copies....

            ....but that's the world we live in, where I am subjected to a physical military attack by a trained agent for trying to do something useful for humanity, we later had a few coffees as she was a nice agent

            so I suggest you shouldn't search for a runtime boot DVD for The Amnesic Incognito Live System, and remember, finally, that recently "someone" created a whopping new 25% of TOR exit servers overnight. Which were kicked out from TOR as "untrustworthy", but reinstated a whole 24h later as "trusted" - impressive


          3. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Good news!

            Even if you have not signed the Officials' Secret Act you can still be prosecuted for breaking it.

            As somebody I know said once that applies to all laws, even gravity*.

            *although prosecution unlikely in that case.

          4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Good news!

            Even if you have not signed the Officials' Secret Act you can still be prosecuted for breaking it. ..... Flocke Kroes

            Oh? Presumably then would one be being prosecuted by an ass, Flocke Kroes. Not a good look for any sort of justice system practising laws, methinks. However, stranger things have surely happened.

            And when an abiding human flaw with myriad vulnerabilities for exploitation, something automatically attractive to the intellectually active? :-) ....... which is really not something anyone would want to be held responsible and accountable for encouraging and activating whenever it may be catastrophically destructive.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Outski

        Not really, that only applies to certain sections. Every civil servant, member of the military or government contractor has to sign it as part of onboarding.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nobody signs the official secrets act, except perhaps some government official responsible for making laws. If anything, you only sign a scrap of paper confirming that the existence of The Act has been brought to your attention. The Official Secrets Act is an act of parliament and like any such act is part of the law that everyone in the country is subject to.

      6. aki009

        OSA Makes You Special

        Yes, it makes you special. While your friends are having fun talking about many a governmental topic, you'll need to shut up lest you cross one of those invisible lines. I.e. it makes you seem like one of those withdrawn loner types...

      7. John Bailey

        Ditto. As part of my work experience. Where the most secret thing I came across was...

        Well. Nothing really, I was told to sign it as a formality for working at a financial institution.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. macjules

      Not supposed to tell anyone you have been subject to OSA.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        I can neither confirm nor deny that I have signed the Official Secrets Act. However, if you ask, I'll be forced to tell you to mind your own business, and that even if I had signed, which is not to be taken as an admission that I may have signed it, I wouldn't tell you if I had signed it or not. So there.

        Is that clear enough? Hmmm... Do you here some helicopters?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          An actor on Kermode and Mayo's film program was asked if the rumour was true that he'd be in an upcoming blockbuster. Think it might have been Nolan's Dark Knight. Which he denies. They playfully ask again. He dodges the question. They ask a third time, and he says, "Look. I can't say. I've signed a contract that says I can't tell anyone." Oops. Nailed. Rookie mistake. Cue much mirth and hilarity at his expense.

          I haven't signed the OSA by the way. I've had it tatooed on my back in glow-in-the-dark letters so the aliens know that I can't answer their questions.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge


    > a customized version of the iconic Apple media player that could not only deliver music and video, but also hold other hardware. The purpose, Shayer reckons, was to create a discrete Geiger counter that could also pass as a media player.

    So it was only a guess that the iPod would host a radiation detector. That function doesn't sound very plausible to me. Would they go around "the city" waving their iPod at people, or what? Though it would be a good cover story.

    Given that an iPod is primarily a storage device, my guess would be that it would make an innocuous bug. Since iPods already had a microphone, there wouldn't be much point making them audio bugs. However due to being commonplace, they wouldn't raise much suspicion if spotted lying around somewhere - an office or laboratory, perhaps. Somewhere with a lot of, say, radio activity (as opposed to radioactivity). Especially as WiFi was starting to be popular around 2005.

    As for a modus operandi, we all know about "lost and found" thumbdrives. Devices that are left for unsuspecting but targetted individuals to find and plug into their computers out of curiosity. This could be similar, but less suspicious as it wouldn't need to be plugged in to anything. Just have the "mark" find an iPod that looked lost, pick it up, take it into their secure work environment and it sniffs the internal WiFi. Even inside shielded building.

    And better still, it plays music!

    1. xeroks

      Re: Supposition!

      think you're right about the geiger counter being a plausible lie for children. Less sure about it being a simple bug. In 2005, there many ways of doing that without this level of complexity, but I suppose it would be useful if someone was liable to be searched for a wire.

      Given they didn't come back, it may have been a general toolkit: that their software changes would have allowed for a variety of hardware.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Supposition!

        If you remember the fear of terrorist attacks of all sorts in 2005, a department given money to develop a disguised Geiger counter sounds plausible, especially since using roving mobile sensors is DARPAs stated MO.

        Audio recording could be done on a 2005 era phone, and supply data back to base in real time.

        So, why an iPod rather than a then-ubiquitous flip-phone? The iPod has greater internal volume to fit sensors, especially if the HDD is swapped for solid state (one assumes that high cost of solid state storage wouldn't have been an issue for the client, though the lack of disk noise might mark the iPod as suspect). In 2005, an iPod might be allowed into areas where a phone might not be. Or, it might be that someone waving an iPod around arouses less suspicion than someone waving a flip phone around.

        An iPod wouldn't send data back to base in real time, but I guess the agents could plug it into a laptop whenever they returned to their vehicle.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Supposition!

          "An iPod wouldn't send data back to base in real time"

          Maybe radio transmission that was the extra hardware. Apple guy suggests something quite irrelevant to actual project? Thank him nicely and carry on.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Supposition!

        I can think of a lot of useful uses of being able to wander around with an hidden Geiger counter. Bearing in mind that this is from 2005 and the whole Iranian reactor thing that's happened since it's not totally improbable and in fact it'd be a rather handy toy for nuclear inspectors to have.

        In fact, it'd be a lovely toy to add to every iPhone to create a live worldwide radiation survey, with hot spots automatically flagged for investigation.

        However, to be honest as you say once you've got an iPod modified to leave empty room for a payload then one imagines that it's not beyond the wit of man to modify it to contain a different payload. I'd imagine that the OS wouldn't know what you were doing with it; probably the most integration with the OS that you'd want is an on/off command.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Supposition!

        I guess this guy only did the 'hiding data' part. Others elsewhere in Apple did the 'read values from this widget' part, others did the 'new hardware design which leaves an x * y * z space', and others did the 'new screwholes inside the case here, here, and here' part.

        If they all wake up in The Cube one day it'll be because this guy blabbed.

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Supposition!

      Would they go around "the city" waving their iPod at people, or what?

      yeah , they'd be better housing it in one of those PKE detectors from Ghostbusters, much less suspicious and more room for the components

    3. Michael Habel

      Re: Supposition!

      Since when did iPods have a mic? IIRC that was like a 60$ addon, from either Belkin, or Monster at the time. and, both stuck out like a pimple on an ass wort. then again I never saw much point in upgrading past my 3'ed Gen iPod either. So I don't know much about the metaloid "Classics".

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Supposition!

        Since the iPod Touch I think

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      If you're worried about someone bugging you

      You take away ALL electronic equipment from them. Or even things that are not electronic but rather mechanical/complex like a Rolex.

      Maybe it wasn't a geiger counter, but it sure wasn't to host a bug. There's no way even the dumbest security would allow people into something that shouldn't be recorded with an iPod.

      And are you SURE it had a microphone? What for? The iPod Touch models might have since they were basically a cut down iPhone, but what would the rest need with a microphone? They didn't accept voice commands and didn't have any ability to record music, so it seems kind of pointless. Of course you could add one if you wanted to turn it into a bug, but you could add a tiny microphone to a button on your suit and stand a MUCH better chance of getting it by security unnoticed than putting it in an iPod.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. iNuk

    Actually I looked into doing this with "Step" pedometer counters as they were a convenient size and less likely to arouse suspicion.

    Problem turned out to be making the sensor low power enough as the tube(s) typically needed 350V and though APDs were also

    available they needed 100-200V making them even less likely to suit the task.

    It would have worked with a single crystal Si photodiode but this wasn't sensitive enough.

    Useful tip: there are now single chip HV supplies available based around EL driver technology, even I2C controlled.

    AC because I got in enough trouble already for my "other" projects.

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge


    Nice one, Shaun Nichols in San Francisco. Uncle Sam/Silicon Valley/Wall Street/Departments of Defence needs the likes of you.

  7. Dinanziame Silver badge

    The cool thing is that he can say whatever he wants, and nobody can disprove it... Even the Geiger counter is just his assumption, it could be any piece of hardware, like a dumb hidden microphone secretly recording conversations.

  8. Chairman of the Bored

    I call BS

    If you want to differentiate between materials, you need something with energy discrimination- a scintillation counter, not a Geiger counter. That implies a liquid or solid scintillator... No need for high voltage electronics and photomultiplier tubes these days, we have silicon photomultipliers. See:

    But sensitivity varies directly as the volume of your scintillator. Something small enough to fit in a ipod will have very little volume and roughly the sensitivity of Helen Keller. Workable, but you need a lot of patience. Instead of wandering the city, you would be standing or lying still for tens of minutes to an hour until your pulse height discriminator has something to work with. Then you move another half meter. Unless you're pretending to sleep rough, this is not suspicious at all. Size matters.

    My coat? The one with the zinc sulphide in the pocket.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I call BS

      "a scintillation counter"

      Point of information - gas proportional counter also does this. It was the first system in use in the QUB carbon dating lab. But in terms of volume and need for high voltages, not in this application.

      1. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: I call BS

        Nice! Thanks

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I call BS

          Primary counter was, IIRC, 1.5 litre Cu cylinder surrounded by a longer toroidal counter with multiple wires (at this remove in time I can't remember whether they were anodes or cathodes) in anti-coincidence. I think there might have been a shield between them possibly a mercury-filled lining for the anti-coincidence .

          All several feet down in a brick-lined pit covered with a few sheets of old steel (have to avoid cobalt) and then concrete floor slabs to walk on. You can tell how long ago this was - they eventually also used the pit as a fire safe to hold backups of the punched cards.

          The sample was converted to methane and was the actual counter filling, geologically old methane for the anti-coincidence ring filling.

          And thanks for the extra info on solid state PMs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I call BS

      Me too... heard it before except it was the mid 80s and involved a Sony Walkman which was modified to play one stereo track through both earphones to appear normal but the secret data was recorded on the other track. Supposedly made by the same genius that knobbled the leader in the Grand National one year by disguising an ultrasonic horn in a pair of binoculars. All to be found on Snopes I'm sure :-/

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I call BS

      Yes, mucho $$$ and I did try to get samples but it was not simple.

      The AD500-8 * 3 I found online do seem legit, though not the voltage I asked for.

      Incidentally my interests include hacking Bluetooth leeches so what about combining the two?

      I could feasibly add a sensor in a suitably large earpiece hooked up to MIC IN powering the sensor with an HV85x and with two of them set to different energy levels this would make a passable directional indicator.

      Anyone want some experimental data?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The First Rule of OSA.......

    NONE of you have signed the OSA, it's a law not a contract and it simply applies to you if you fit the correct criteria.

    You might have signed a statement to the effect that they agree to abide by the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act, which if you had read it you would see that you really shouldn't be telling anyone that you are subject to it.

    Ironically this is meant to be a reminder for you to understand the laws in which you are now subject to.

  10. Daedalus

    Hard reality

    If you're looking for U235 you're out of luck, because it doesn't emit that much radioactivity that you can detect beyond a metre or so. Materials such as uranium ore contain radium which will emit gamma rays for your clicking pleasure, but pure uranium is dull dull dull. The half-life of U238 is half a billion years, which makes it great for dating rocks, but not for being detected on the street. I suppose you might pick up elevated levels of radon or something. If you do find yourself getting lots of clicks on your Geiger counter, you may have wandered into a heavily contaminated area, such as the one in the infamous incident of the incorrectly disposed-of gamma ray cancer treatment device. People took the contents home because they glowed in the dark.

    1. Stuart Halliday

      Re: Hard reality

      Yeah, don't try it in Aberdeen.

      One of the most natural radioactive cities in Britain....

  11. lglethal Silver badge

    It's the old bait and switch...

    They "talked" about needing space for extra hardware and the ability to write to the harddrive on their own, and they walked out with a custom version of iOS. But lets face it that was the plan all along! They just wanted what we all want - a version of iOS that doesn't make you use the bleedin' iTunes store!

  12. Neoc

    Meh - these days all you need to do is put some dark sticky tape over your camera lens and watch for the sensors on your camera to react to the radioactive decay.

    Not as much around my town as I though there would be. But then again, I never go to try it next to an actual radioactive source (X-Ray, etc).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re. Meh

      Takes your sticky tape and raises you extremely thin pyrolytic graphite.

      Also makes the camera somewhat sensitive to alpha particles as well but only if the silicon is exposed.

      Protip: WASH THE GRAPHITE first with acetone, and ideally Epoxy or light cure adhesive the graphite to make sure the sensor stays working. Long term exposure at short range tends to eat the sensor but you get to see individual flashes as the cells burn out.

      For bonus points put a tiny blob of Ag doped ZnS directly onto one corner of the chip.or fragment of a suitable Indiglo (tm) or other EL sheet fragment having first tested it with alpha source to confirm that it glows.

      AC but I can be reached on +44 778* 43*7+8

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is using the geiger counter likely to have them thinking you're listening to this Kraftwerk track or vice versa?

  14. cortland

    Not exactly new now...

    From the How To Geek site:

    >>Android: While we’d hope you’d never need it, clever researchers have figured out how to turn the camera on your Android phone into a makeshift Geiger Counter with nothing more than an app and some black tape.

    It’s not as versatile as a true Geiger Counter (it doesn’t measure as broad a spectrum) but for a free application that could be quickly deployed during an emergency to the hundreds of millions of smartphones floating around, it’s pretty awesome. From the app author’s web site: <<

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