Friday, April 20, 2012

What Good are X-rays? Aren't They BAD for Us?

X-rays are used for a lot of different things, including medical diagnosis and treatment – CRT and CAT scans, fluoroscopy (i.e. coronary artery blockages) for diagnosis, and radiation treatments for cancer.

X-rays are part of the electro-magnetic spectrum which includes visible light we see every day. Visible light includes ultra-violet on one end; infra-red on the other.

x-raysThe X-ray spectrum is beyond the ultra violet range, and is bordered on top by the gamma ray spectrum.

X-ray radiation frequencies ranges between 3 x 10^ 17 and 3 x 10^19 Hz; wavelength ( lambda), ranges between 1 x 10^-11 and 1 x 1^-18 meters. X-rays are characterized by high energy which makes them suitable for interacting with electrons on the atomic level. It is largely this feature that makes them useful in detecting metals, or bombarding and penetrating the human body.

Applications include

• Security (airport scanners, truck scanners, border patrol)

• Medical Diagnosis (CRT, CAT scans, fluoroscopy)

• Medical Treatment (radiation treatment)

• Spectromicroscopy – used to detect paint layers, and pigment degradation in artwork masterpieces

• Crystallography – used to analyze minerals and metal alloys

• Astronomy – used to find and identify sources of x-rays in the universe

• Portable medical and dental x-ray systems


So....to answer the questions, x-rays can be harmful or beneficial.  Modern technology has put them to good use.  Sometimes the applications are good, sometimes they are controversial. 

Either way, I think they're here to stay.  What are your thoughts?

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