alpha

Zealand to New Zealand, Rutherford to protons

Zealand to New Zealand, Rutherford to protons 0

If there’s a New Zealand there’s got to be an old one. We keep a lot of old things around, even countries and cities. A little later in this post I’m going to talk about a New Zealander named Ernest Rutherford. He did an amazing experiment. His “microscope” was as phenomenal as the LHC….Large Hadron Collider. And to me my little light microscope is pretty amazing but worlds apart from subatomic particle microscopes.

Back to part of the post title, Zealand. This is where I started getting confused. But let me try to explain this. Zealand is the largest island in Denmark. It’s Danish. Not Dutch. If you are from the Netherlands, you’re referred to as Dutch (apparently Dutch people are really a native ethnic group from the Netherlands). Let’s not go any further because I’m sure I’ll probably say something that isn’t correct (right). But there are some very famous Dutch people…very famous….van Gogh is probably someone practically everyone knows about.

On to Ernest Rutherford who is neither Dutch nor Dane. He was born in New Zealand however (a Kiwi ­čÖé ). And what his microscope did (in the UK) was find that the center of the atom (we call the nucleus) had a positive charge. If you remember anything about an atom, you probably remember that electrons carry a negative charge and the protons (in the nucleus) have a positive charge. It makes you wonder how over 100 years ago someone figured that out. To me it just doesn’t seem like someone without an iphone could possibly have figured that out. I know that sounded stupid but it’s just amazing what science has known for a long time. You know where we stand…on the shoulders…..

A tad bit more about his “microscope.” There is no way to see an atom with ordinary light. An atom is too small to see with visible wavelengths. He sent alpha particles (radium decayed positively charged helium particles that had no electrons) through a thin sheet of gold and measured what came out on the other side. He also measured what was reflected and didn’t go through. That was his microscope. He expected all the alpha particles would go through the other side but not all did. Some bounced back. Remember, positive repels positive. But there is a large empty space in an atom so most particles went through. And just remember, any ordinary light hitting a thin sheet of gold doesn’t go through the gold. It takes a way smaller particle to do that.

So, a patient I had some years ago had a tumor in his eye. I found it and took a picture of it. Showed it to the patient.  He ended up seeing a doctor somewhere in California for proton beam radiation treatment. Yep, thanks to all the scientific discoveries, protons were eventually harnessed for our benefit. And thanks to the Zealands, new and old. May they keep adding on to our rich wealth of history and discovery.

Here’s a fun website that compares the various sizes of things in our universe…big to small. http://htwins.net/scale2/

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Banana Equivalent Dose

Banana Equivalent Dose 0

I came across this chart not too long ago (see below) after reading a physics book and trying to understand the various particles released in beta and alpha emission. I think it mentioned bananas being radioactive. Now that sounds terrible! I had to find out more because I either had forgotten or never knew about this. My son eats bananas like a monkey! Well, no one needs to get anything in a wad over this. My son would need to eat 5 million bananas to do himself harm. How does any of this relate to vision? The only relationship is that in some of the decay of potassium there’s a gamma ray emission which is a type of photon. We can’t see gamma rays but they are very energetic and they are in the photon family of electromagnetic radiation way beyond what our eyes can detect.

Bananas aren’t the only food we eat that is radioactive. Before I say anymore, every day we’re exposed to radiation (come on! light is radiation, heat is radiation, it’s ok!). There are a lot of natural forms that we just can’t avoid. ┬áSome other radioactive potassium foods: Brazil nuts (even higher potassium decay rate), potatoes, kidney beans, sunflower seeds and other nuts. If you’re reading this and start feeling like you should eliminate those from your diet you couldn’t find any place in this universe to escape radiation. Our bodies are probably dealing with all kinds of things that are normal that we didn’t even realize were happening to us. I just hope if you’re reading this and want to read up a little more on gamma rays or other forms of radiation, I hope you find a website that is NOT trying to scare you into buying their pills or diets or contraptions.

I’ve found a few websites below that you can check out that might explain a little more about banana equivalent dose and what it means. Regarding that chart I found, someone created it to try and show what kind of radiation exposure resulted from the Japanese Fukushima nuclear reactor leaks from March 2011. Hopefully I didn’t scare any of you. I just find this kind of stuff fascinating when I read about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_equivalent_dose

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium-40

http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/life-is-rad#.UgjxFZLbN8E

http://io9.com/5783811/why-are-bananas-radioactive

http://xkcd.com/radiation/

 

banana equivalent dose

banana equivalent dose