July 1, 2013 Issue

Physics To Go 137 - X-ray vision

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Physics in Your World

Roentgen's Discovery of the x-ray image
image credit: National Library of Medicine (NLM); image source; larger image

Roentgen's Discovery of the x-ray

This photo is one of the first x-ray images, made by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. It shows the bones in his wife's hand. The calcium in her bones absorbed much of the energy from the x-ray beam and cast a shadow. Notice the shadow of her ring.

To learn about the early history of x-rays, see Roentgen's Discovery of the x-ray and, to learn more, check out this illustrated article from Stanford University.

Compare the amount of detail in this image with what you can see just to the right in From Physics Research.

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Physics at Home

MIT Technology Review: X-Rays Made with Scotch Tape

It's easy to produce x-rays--just unwind scotch tape (but you have to do it in a vacuum). For the next step, an x-ray image, see the video in this MIT Technology Review article.

(This feature was updated on April 26, 2014.)


From Physics Research

Argonne University scientists reveal insect respiratory function image
image credit: James Waters and Jon Harrison; image source; larger image

Argonne University scientists reveal insect respiratory function

The image above is an x-ray of a fruit fly, made with x-rays produced by a particle accelerator. As you can tell from the parts of the image where the legs overlap the body, you are able to see right through the fly.

X-rays are one kind of electromagnetic waves. The image above was made with "coherent" x-rays, which means that all the waves were in step, just like the radiation from a laser.

For an x-ray image of a beetle, showing the breathing tubes inside its body, visit this article.

Living insects can be imaged in this way. To see inside a living beetle, see this University Of Chicago article. Notice the pair of images, which show the beetle airways contracted and expanded. These two images prove that the insect is breathing.

Worth a Look

X-rays from free electrons

Visit X-rays from free electrons to learn more about how synchrotron radiation is produced. Be sure to see the second section of this site.

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