Physics 2000 Einstein's Legacy X-Rays

X-Ray Safety

So why are x-rays bad?

We just saw that x-rays go into matter but not all of them come out. What happens to the missing x-rays?

So they check in but they don't check out? Sounds like a roach motel.

X-rays aren't alive like roaches, but something happens to them. The missing x-rays get absorbed in the body, disappear if you like, and the x-ray's energy is released.

Can that energy harm the human body?

Yes, Kyla. There is a lot of energy in a single x-ray, and the energy is transferred to an electron, which does a lot of damage in a small area. It's a lot like playing a game of pool.

Pool? Not another wacky analogy.

The absorbed x-ray gives all of its energy to an electron, and this electron can rip through a cell, tearing electrons from all sorts of atoms and molecules it meets. It is like a billiard ball spreading its energy to all of the other balls on the table. The fancy name for this process is ionization, because taking away electrons makes the atoms and molecules into ions.

But that doesn't seem very bad at all.

These high speed electrons do damage to the cells. Fortunately, the human body is good at repairing itself.

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