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X-Rays - Another Form of Light

The new form of radiation was discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen, a German physicist. He called it X-radiation to denote its unknown nature. This mysterious radiation had the ability to pass through many materials that absorb visible light. X-rays also have the ability to knock electrons loose from atoms. Over the years these exceptional properties have made X-rays useful in many fields, such as medicine and research into the nature of the atom.


Eventually, X-rays were found to be another form of light. Light is the by-product of the constant jiggling, vibrating, hurly-burly of all matter. Like a frisky puppy, matter cannot be still. The chair you are sitting in may look and feel motionless. But if you could see down to the atomic level you would see atoms and molecules vibrating hundreds of trillions of times a second and bumping into each other, while electrons zip around at speeds of 25,000 miles per hour. Then charged particles collide--or undergo sudden changes in their motion--they produce bundles of energy called photons that fly away from the scene of the accident at the speed of light. In fact they are light, or electromagnetic radiation, to use the technical term. Since electrons are the lightest known charged particle, they are most fidgety, so they are responsible for most of the photons produced in the universe.


The Electromagnetic Spectrum
The Electromagnetic Spectrum. The wavelength of radiation produced by an object is usually related to its temperature.

Producing X-rays
X-rays can be produced by a high-speed collision between an electron and a proton.