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What are X-rays?

While some might think the answer is simple, it's not. We asked Daniel Mittleman, a professor at Rice Universitys Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for the full explanation. Here's what he said: X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light, infrared radiation, microwaves and radio waves. But compared to these other types of radiation, X-rays are more energetic. An X-ray photon can be hundreds or thousands of times more energetic than a photon of visible light. Wilhelm Roentgen first described X-rays in 1895, an achievement for which he was awarded the very first Nobel Prize in Physics. During World War I, X-rays were already being used for medical purposes. Most of the X-rays in the universe arise when highly excited atoms decay back to their ground state configuration. For example, if an electron is removed from the inner shell orbitals of an atom perhaps by a collision with something then the atom will emit an X-ray photon as it returns to its equilibrium state. Another common source of X-rays is from a process called bremsstrahlung, which is German for "braking radiation. X-rays are emitted when a highly energetic beam of charged particles such as electrons is rapidly decelerated because it runs into a metal target, for example. In medical X-ray machines, a beam of energetic electrons is focused onto a target, usually a piece of tungsten. As the electrons are decelerated, this generates bremsstrahlung X-rays. In addition, the incoming electrons can collide with a tungsten atom and knock an electron out from its inner orbit. This kind of device actually produces X-rays by both mechanisms simultaneously. Finally, a synchrotron machine that accelerates electrons in a circular orbit can produce X-rays. As the electrons spin around, they emit powerful beams of X-rays, which can be used for many different kinds of scientific research. There are a number of these machines around the United States and around the world, including the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley Calif., the Advanced Photon Source in Argonne Ill., and the National Synchrotron Light Source in Brookhaven, N.Y. Collected by: B.RISHABH.BALIGA 8TH A2

Facts and Figures

1. There are 62,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body laid end to end they would circle the earth 2.5 times 2. At over 2000 kilometers long, The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth 3. The risk of being struck by a falling meteorite for a human is one occurrence every 9,300 years 4. A thimbleful of a neutron star would weigh over 100 million tons 5. A typical hurricane produces the energy equivalent of 8,000 one megaton bombs 6. Blood sucking hookworms inhabit 700 million people worldwide 7. The highest speed ever achieved on a bicycle is 166.94 mph, by Fred Rompelberg 8. We can produce laser light a million times brighter than sunshine 9. 65% of those with autism are left handed 10. The combined length of the roots of a Finnish pine tree is over 30 miles 11. The oceans contain enough salts to cover all the continents to a depth of nearly 500 feet. 12. Polar bears can run at 25 miles an hour and jump over 6 feet in the thin air. 13. 60-65 million years ago dolphins and humans shared a common ancestor. 14. Polar bears are nearly undetectable by infrared cameras, due to their transparent fur. 15. A single rye plant can spread up to 400 miles of root underground. 16. The temperature on the surface of Mercury exceeds 430 degree centigrade during the day, and, at night, plummets to minus 180 degree centigrade. 17. The evaporation from a large oak or beech tree is from ten to twenty-five gallons in twentyfour hours. 20. Butterflies taste with their hind feet, and taste sensation works on touch this allows them to determine whether a leaf is edible. Collected by: B.RISHABH.BALIGA 8TH A2