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In Japan to map seabed radioactivity around Fukushima crippled power plant

Mapping Seabed Radioactivity together Participative, low cost, open source radioactivity mapping of Tohoku coast




Please download pdf here :

This is why we are in Japan. Please help us find a boat and map seabed radioactivity.

Please support us by voting for us here :


Text in English : 

The problem

The Fukushima nuclear power plant is leaking into the ocean, directly from the power plant, but also down the mountains via the rivers. We have great independent radiation maps on land by Safecast (JP), good sediment transports (rivers) maps by the CNRS (FR), and good simulation of ocean currents by NOAA (USA). A very important missing piece of the puzzle is a comprehensive map of seabed radioactivity. If we want the fisheries to re-open and swim safely in these waters, this information is crucial for everyone. 

Our idea

How to measure radioactivity on the seabed? Currently there are a few points being measured in strategic areas with Eckman bottom grab samplers. They are great machines but

  • mix surface sediment (more radioactive) and deeper sediment (less radioactive)
  • they let very thin particles sip out the jaws
  • they are quite expensive and bulky

We’re developing a rolling surface sediment sampler. A very low cost machine that you can operate at the end of a fishing rod from any boat that only captures a few millimetres of sediment surface (most recent and most radioactive). The bigger picture is to gather data and produce a map similar to Safecast on land, but for the seabed, by everyone for everyone.

How you can help

We are looking for a boat to test our idea.

Any boat. If you have a boat or know someone who can take us there, please let us know.We would love to sail along Japan east coast, for example from Iwaki to Sendai, in the legal waters of course.

The samples we collect would be time, depths and geo coded (with GPS) and made available to anyone who want to analyse and share publicly the results. We are working with SAFECAST and the French CNRS, extending their work in riverbeds into the ocean using their methods and instruments.

Dates : 2014/10/02 -10 and 2014/10/12 – 17
Money : we pay fuel, water, food so it is free for you.

Data : Public Domain

Please contact :

Cesar HARADA. French-Japanese Ocean roboticist, Former MIT Project leader, TED Senior Fellow.
Philippe COUTURE. French documentary Film maker, architect & permaculture researcher.



Text in Japanese  :

協働型 海底放射線マッピング







- 表層部分(放射性が強い部分)と深い部分(放射性が弱い)が混ざる

- 細かい物質を取りこぼす

- 高価格、かさばり運搬に不適用

わたしたちは、転動式海底表面堆積物試料採取器(rolling surface sediment sampler)を開発しています。非常に安価な機械で、どんなボートからでも、釣竿の先に取り付けて操作でき、数ミリの海底の表面の堆積物(もっとも新しく、もっとも放射性が高い)部分を測定します。最終的な目的は、誰もが自分でデータを収集し、誰でも見ることのできる、陸地の Safecast に準ずる海底のマップ作成です。






調査日時:2014年10月2日から10日、および  2014年10月12日から17日


データ:公有財産(Public Domain)


Cesar HARADA (メール 海洋ロボティックを専門とする日系フランス人。MITプロジェクトリーダーの経歴を持つTEDシニアフェロー。

Philippe COUTURE (メール: )フランス人ドキュメンタリー映画作家、建築家、パーマカルチャー研究者。


Help Protei get the Mazda Rebel Grant by voting – takes 10 secs

[Support] & [Submit] Protei for the MAZDA Rebel Grant

Please take 10 seconds to [SUPPORT] and [SUBMIT] Protei on Mazda Rebel Grant. And [Share] if you can.
The grant would be used to

Map radioactivity around Fukushima in the Pacific Ocean

Because we have many simulation but almost no MEASUREMENTS of radioactivity in the ocean off the Japanese. We plan to be at sea from Oct 1st to 10th. This will be the 3rd time we work in Fukushima, this time with better instruments and partners.

Build a 2 sailors Protei

A ground-breaking machine! We’ll test the limit of speed and agility of the shape shifting sailing boat in extreme conditions (wind, waves, currents). With your help we hope to have it sailing before spring 2015 in Hong Kong. If you are a top sailor and you want to be our crash dummy – get in touch !

Thanks a lot for your support – it means the world to us!

Want to learn about environmental radioactivity? Here a class slides I give to Hong Kong kids full of videos!
Want to learn about the shape-shifting sailing robot physics? Or see at TED talk about it?

This is why the future sucks

20130131 Japan, 2 years after

Fukushima ruins, after the tsunami

Brocken Home. Thousands of broken homes. How would you feel if that happened to you, your family?

Two years ago Japan experienced the most violent earthquake in its recorded history.


Nuclear accidents.

There is no words to express enough condoleances. 2 years after. More than 300’000 people are still displaced, many in prefab refugee camps. 21’000 people are currently involved in mitigating the aftermaths on the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We were in Japan recently and made measurements in the exclusion zone on land and underwater. I have the deepest admiration for those who stayed and are relentlessly reconstructing this part of Japan now. My prayers are with them. I feel privileged my family is safe in Niigata (about 100km from Fukushima).

More earthquakes, more tsunamis, more nuclear accidents will happen in the future. We need to learn from this. If “nature has no rules“, can we ever be prepared enough? Many Japanese believe in Kamis (nature spirits) and some feel betrayed. I feel differently. I feel we have been taking inconsiderate risks. We have decided that we can afford to loose the lives of many for fast technology and economic growth. We have ignored, and we continue to ignore the warnings. We constantly re-define what is acceptable in order to continue our march towards our grand visions. Irony.

Our officials share their sorrow and have made the promise to do whatever they can to repair the damage. One of my first blog post was a repost of Joi Ito’s interview in Technology Review. He says :

“One hundred years from now, the role of science and technology will be about becoming part of nature rather than trying to control it.”

I argue that we cannot wait a hundred years. We must do this right now. The anniversary of the great Tohoku Earthquake is a good way to be reminded that and work relentlessly in this direction.

2011 03 11 Japan Earthquake, Tsunami map NOAA

This terrifying documentary (about an hour long) explains what happened, with some interesting science  facts. The following video gathers more recent concerning press cuts :

20130131 Protei in WIRED Japan

20130311Protei Wired Japan

We’re in WIRED Japan !

Cesar Harada | セザール原田(右)
Gabriella Levine | ガブリエラ・レヴァイン(左)







──最もクールな職業は何だと思いますか? また、それはなぜですか?




PROTEI PRESENTATION VIDEO from toni nottebohm on Vimeo.

20130130 Protei and Safecast in Fukushima

Departure from Yoyogi

Last winter, thanks to the help of my dear friend Hiroshi Nomura and his family, Mako Mochizuki, the bicycle of Tom Nagashima and the dosimeter  from Greenpeace Japan, I cycled from Tokyo to Sendai measuring radioactivity, looking for the best location to deploy a fleet of Protei from the shoreline. This map below is my journey last year ending in TEDxTohoku.

View Tokyo -> Sendai. Radioactivity measures + pictures in a larger map.
I based my trip on the first estimate of radiation dispersion, and the most recent Safecast map.  I failed at working with Safecast, even if I was lucky to bump into Kalin on the road last year who instructed me of how to use the dosimeter and the geiger counter.

A year ago, I saw devastation on hundreds of kilometers of coastline. I met fishermen at the refugee camp that told me terrifying stories of earthquake, tsunami and radioactivity. To remind you a few facts : on 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9.03 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake about 70km off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC). Tsunami waves reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. 15,878 deaths, 6,126 injured and 2,713 people missing from the earthquake and tsunami alone. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. The World Bank’s estimated economic cost was US$235 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in world history.

According to the Woods Hole Institute, the Fukushima Nuclear plant accident “resulted in the largest accidental release of radiation to the environment in history” – if you want to understand how it compares to Chernobyl, please have a read at this informative poster.

I found several sites that would be good to launch a fleet of Protei from, and potentially sail around Fukushima to measure radioactivity. So I had to come back. This time with Gabriella Levine, and a Protei to test in the water, more prepared. We arranged a meeting with Joe Moross of Safecast.

Hacking a custom Geiger counter before driving all the way to Fukushima with Safecast

After a brief discussion we came to the conclusion that making underwater measurements was a research worth attempting. The other information was that water generally acts as “a shield”, and being many times denser than air, radioactivity tends to get “diluted” in the “mass of water”. So we decided to attempt measuring radioactivity on the seafloor. That would mean getting our sensor underwater, very close to the seafloor.
We ran to Akihabara with Prof Alvaro Cassineli of Tokyo University and spent most of our night hacking at the Safecast headquarters in Shibuya (picture above).


After a few hours of sleep, and before hitting the road, we stocked up some cute radioactive cake. Please have a slice :)


In the car, the co-pilot would get near-real time radioactivity informations and guide instructions to the driver from Tokyo to Fukushima, and later down from Fukushima to Kyoto trying to take yet unmapped / un-measured routes. We encountered snowy or icy road in the mountains that slowed down our progression.

Safecast Pinup on red car
Fukushima Disaster, firetruck wreck

The Safecast shiny red car took us all the way to Fukushima, where we found this wreck of a red fireman truck. Stark contrast.Fukushima ruins, after the tsunami

I knew we would come across brocken houses, but I can never get used to it…

Protei visits disaster area near Fukushima

We were everywhere reminded that nothing can resist the power of nature. “Tsunami Barrier” is an oxymoron. No matter how hard we try.

Fukushima underwater test area

We arrived in Hisanohama, which is just south of the new exclusion zone. Exact location map.

We tested Protei v10.4 in the water. The electro-mechanics are working well but it lacked ballast (weight at the bottom of the keel) : the wind flattened it on the water and careless transport later broke the mast. We’ll work on the build again soon. Because we were in Fukushima, we focused not on Protei itself but on the radioactivity sensing part.

We tested our freshly built underwater geiger counter up to 6 meter depth without leak nor damage to the sensor.


This is our kit of underwater radioactivity measurement. It fits nicely in a bag, with our ~5kg lead weight.
From left to right :


What we measured the 2013 01 30, at Hisanohama port (XY = 37.1480, 141.0029) :

  • 0.224μSv in the air in HisanoHama
  • 0.002μSv midwater (3m depth)
  • 0.09μSv at the sea bed (3cm from sensor to sea bed) (6m depth)

other measurements we made, for indication :

Experimental set up

20130130 Hisanohama underwater radioactivity measurements - Protei + Safecast

And below is a very rough draft of what Protei could provide : autonomous sensor deployment for surface, “mid-water” and seabed radioactivity measurements.

Proposition for future work

20130215 Protei proposition for surface and underwater radioactivity measurements

We haven’t done enough background research about how radioactivity in the ocean is currently studied, but  we feel that the difference in values between

  • land surface
  • water surface
  • “mid-water”
  • seabed

are significant enough to make us want to investigate the topic further in partnership with Safecast.
Hundreds of thousands of people have suffered the earthquake, tsunami and on-going nuclear crisis. We feel such research is extremely valuable for the life of people, the future of Japan and other countries equipped with nuclear equipments and waste facilities. We don’t know yet what would be the value of a map of seafloor radioactivity similar to the one the Woods Hole researchers have been developing for surface water (below). I believe these would be 2 very complementary data sets and would help us understand much better radioactivity in the oceans in general. Such Protei deployment could also be used in other “Radioactive waters” which are not necessarily consequent to nuclear accidents in Africa and the Middle east (must read article).

As we are sailing around the world, we are making radioactivity measurement everywhere we go. Maps will come :)

Safecast + Protei

A million thanks to Safecast and Tokyo University Department of Applied Physics.
We’ll be back !!!

20130129 Unreasonable at Sea: Vignette – Protei Visits the FURO Robics Research Center in Tokyo

Unreasonable at Sea: Vignette – Protei Visits the FURO Robics Research Center in Tokyo from Unreasonable Media on Vimeo.

The Protei team took the opportunity to explore the strange and incredible creations at the FURO robotics technology center, and to see how the FURO team could collaborate on the processors built into their Protei sailing drones.

20130129 Akihabara, Flying Tokyo

Flying Tokyo #11


In the very last minute Gabriella Levine and myself were lucky enough to be invited to present Protei at Flying Tokyo, a small but high-profile event for New Media art. The artists below : Zachary Lieberman, Memo Atken and Daito Manabe all spoke for about 30 minutes each. I found a video for each but they are all very prolific artists with impressive portfolios, so please check their websites for more.

 Memo Akten :

Zack Lieberman :

Daito Manabe :

At this event it was also moving to see Kenichi OKADA and Tomoaki YANAGISAWA, we’re all three fron the same department of Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art, London UK, from different years.

Flying Tokyo, Media Art scene in Japan

I am big fan of Kenichi Okada’s work, so I had to add one video of his work above :) (With Chris Woebken).


Protei in Akihabara, with Prof Alvaro Cassinelli

Next stop after Flying Tokyo was diving in Akihabara electronic-crowded shops with dear friend and Assistant Professor Alvaro Cassinelli of the University of Tokyo. There is no end in how much one can explore the maze of Akihabara, not that it is vast, but it is dense.

Tour by Ian of Dangerous Prototypes of Akihabara the Geek Mecca.

Womanbot, in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan

We met some very special women outside of Akihabara… Tokyo is crazy and it reminds us where Protei comes from : the intersection of art and science. We must come back soon !

20130128 Unreasonable at Sea, episode 3

Unreasonable at Sea: Episode 3 – Revolutionizing Education in Japan from Unreasonable Media on Vimeo.

In this episode the team from Guru-G explores how their innovative teaching platform can be utilized in Japan’s education system. Guru-G is a gamified teaching, teacher training & open certification software platform that’s been adopted in 10 states across India, and they’ve also established partnerships with foundations & companies that directly support over 3,000 schools and reach over 2.5 million students. Find out if their software platform will be a good fit for the progressive Tokyo International School.

20130128 Protei in Japan! Meeting FuRo Chiba, Skytree Exhibition

Please play the little video above, it’s a slow start, but well worth it! Protei is in Japan!!! The Beatles in London, Protei in Tokyo!

Nae, Patrick, Gabriella, Cesar
So good meeting with Protei network member Nae Morita! Photo : Nae, Patrick, Gabriella, Cesar. We met Nae in the Netherland years go when she was working at the V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam where we built Protei_006. Nae helped us so much and has now moved back to Tokyo and works at the Miraikan (the museum of the future – science, art and technology) – another place we love! Nae also runs her own smaller company called Maart that you can hire to produce cutting edge media art in Japan :)

Protei at FuRo
We had the most amazing meeting with FuRo researchers Dr Yu Okumura, Dr Kengo Toda and Midori Nomura, facilitated by Nae Morita. Academic papers by these brilliant individuals here.

F-Palette, FuRo, Chiba, Near Tokyo, Japan
They presented and gave us many parts of the F-Palette micro-controller and boards to put inside Protei. A few days ago we have bought a Lenovo PC in Shenzhen, China (post coming soon!) to start coding and building using F-Palette. We hope to document our trials and errors in English with F-Palette from Vietnam :)

F-Palette, FuRo, Chiba, Near Tokyo, Japan

We had the immense privilege to play with this “one-of-a-kind toy : F-Palette-Janssens Beast !” [that’s the name I call it – I don’t know it’s official name].

F-Palette meets Theo Janssens. Absolutely amazing. The most spectacular terrestrial robot I have ever seen. Theo Janssens would be so pleased to see this. So far I have only seen “Beasts” that are moving only in a straight line with all synchronised legs ; FuRo’s one has left and right channels that can be controlled separately, and it is so surprisingly agile and fast. We congratulate the genius of FuRo members for this!

The way how each leg works is very well explained here by Molybden.

Skytree at night, Tokyo, Japan
We than commuted to Tokyo Skytree (634m / 2080ft), near which FuRo has a permanent exhibition. Thanks to Midori Nomura who was instrumental in the making of this exhibition, we arrived after closing hours but still were allowed to have a guided tour of the marvels that FuRo makes.

Robot by FuRo, Skytree, Tokyo, JapanRobot by FuRo, Skytree, Tokyo, Japan

As you would expect, FuRo also makes the most agile small anthropomorphic robots. Here 2 versions of the same robot. Improving!

Quince, FuRo, by Skytree, Tokyo, Japan
But the robot that captured our attention in particular is Quince. Quince is a FuRo robot that has been deployed by TEPCO INSIDE the damaged Fukushima Daichi Power plant. It will soon be deployed again inside the power plant. We dream of deploying Protei outside of the Fukushima power plant, in the nearing water.

We are extremely excited to work with FuRo since they are already so active in contributing to Fukushima Power Plant diasater relief.
Just  a few days ago, TEPCO has released the pictures of the inside of the Fukushima power plant. Frightening. Shivers. Official TEPCO page here.

FuRo Exhibition, by Skytree, Design Exhibition Midori Nomura
Thanks to the amazing Midori Nomura, we could even test “Mars-rover-like” simulator. Such immersive piloting system is also very inspiring for how people could use Protei at sea. We fell in love with FuRo and now we have many F-Palette parts we will play and document our experiments in English. Thanks again to Nae Morita and all the FuRo staff for their hospitality. We’ll come back!

20130128 Protei meets Japanese translator Midori !

Meeting with Midori Katagiri, Japanese translator, THANK YOU !!!!

In Tokyo we had the luck of meeting with Japanese translator Midori Katagiri ! How amazing was it to meet the one that shares our adventures to so many friends and family members ! Midori is one of my closest friend in Japan, the daughter of my father’s best friend. So close I call Midori my cousin :) Midori is a talented painter that lives in Niigata, in the north of Japan, but she studied in London and worked in Paris for some time at the Cite Internationale des Arts.

Wonderful presents from my wonderful family in Japan!

We went for diner at her little sister Azusa near Yoyogi, had delicious gyoza only to remind me this moment last summer : in TechShop in San Francisco (photo above). The mother of Midori, Naomi had sent me a box full of Japanese snacks and delicacies. My big table at TechShop was covered with Japanese food, jealous eyes all around ;p


Unreasonable at Sea

Gabriella Levine and Cesar Harada have been selected to participate to the Unreasonable at sea for the Protei project.
Please watch the video above and you will understand why we are excited to be part of this great adventure. For several months on the sea, we will be in the company of some of the world most forward thinking entrepreneurs that will be our mentors. This is an immense honor for me and for the Protei Project and we will document this journey as well as possible to share this incredible privilege with the greatest number. You can see our dates of the travels and where we will stop on my time line.

View Unreasonnable at Sea in a larger map

Depart January 9 17:00
Arrive January 15 08:00
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