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What Is an X-Ray?

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There is more to an X-Ray than you think.  You probably don’t know discovered the x-ray, how they work, what are the uses of x-rays, and what happens if you receive too many x-rays.  X-rays have a very small wavelength so they are invisible to the human eye.  They are absorbed by dense material such as bones but pass through skin or soft tissue.  This explains how doctors can use x-rays to determine if you are hurt or have an injury.  This is just a little bit about the x-ray.  Let’s learn more!


Wilhelm Roentgen, a German physicist. is given credit for the discovery of X-rays in 1895.  It was said that his discovery was by accident.  He was passing electrical current through special tubes.  He noticed a change to photographic plates.  When he added black paper to the tubes, a nearby screen started glowing.  He began to experiment by placing different objects between the tube and the screen.  He found that no matter what he used, the screen still glowed.  He named this X-rays since x was a scientific number for anything that was unknown.  In 1901, he was awarded the Nobel prize for physics because of this discovery. 


An X-ray is a type of light ray which is invisible to the human eye.  The X-Ray wavelength is one hundredth of a light rays that you can see (Unknown.)  The X-ray moves at the speed of light.  This is about 300,000 kilometers per second (Unknown.)  When X-rays come into contact with body tissues, they produce an image.  Soft tissue, such as skin and organs, cannot absorb the X-rays so they pass through. Bones are denser so they absorb the x-rays.


The common use of X-rays is in the form of an X-ray machine which takes photos of a person’s body.  X-rays can also be used to kill cancer cells.  They can also be used to determine the structure of crystals or molecules. 

Airports use X-rays to check passengers and baggage.  Historians can use x-rays to look at old objects or paintings (Newman).  While X-rays are mainly used in medicine, they are used in many other areas as well. 


X-rays can cause changes within a person which might lead to cancer later in life.  The amount of radiation received can vary.   It varies by the type of image that is taken as well as the location of the image.  An example would be that a chest X-ray gives out a different amount of radiation than a spine X-ray.  “According to one study, by the age of 75, X-rays will increase the risk of cancer by 0.6 - 1.8%” (Newman).   While X-rays are beneficial, they can be dangerous to a person if they are overexposed to X-rays.


We learned more about who discovered the x-ray, how they work, what the uses of x-rays are, and what happens if you receive too many x-rays.  X-rays have a very small wavelength and are invisible to the human eye.  They are absorbed by dense material and can pass through less dense material.  While X-rays are mainly used in medicine, they are used in many other areas such as airports and historians use them.  We have learned how beneficial x-rays are but we must remember that they can be dangerous if people are overexposed.  The x-ray was a very important accidental discovery!

References:
Newman, Tim. “X-Ray Exposure: How Safe Are X-Rays.” Medical News Today. N.p., 9 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
Unknown. “Discovery of X-Rays and some of their uses.” Unknown. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.




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