Effects of Gamma Radiation on Living Cells
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Have you ever imagined that Gamma-ray bursts can release more energy in 10 seconds than the Sun will emit in its entire 10 billion-year lifetime? Have you ever believed that a Gamma-ray is actually the most energetic photon in the electromagnetic spectrum? As a matter of fact, scientists believe that a gamma-ray burst will occur once every few million years in the Milky Way, but has it ever crossed your mind that a gamma ray burst is the MOST powerful known explosion in the galaxy?
Well, Gamma-rays are extremely high frequency waves that have very small wavelengths and carry the largest amount of energy in the entire electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, these waves are produced by radioactive atoms as well as nuclear explosions. Because Gamma-rays passes through almost any material and are quite difficult and in some times may be impossible to stop, one may need a large concentration of lead or concrete in order to block them out and reduce their damage significantly. Gamma-rays also have the ability to cause serious damage when engaged by living cells due to their high energy substance.
How Gamma-Rays are produced?
Gamma rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and are photons, or in other words, packets of energy. The term photon itself means visible light particle, however, photons inside gamma rays are called gamma photons. These photons inside the gamma rays have million times more energy than visible light. Gamma rays originate or come from the nucleus of an atom, and as a result, they are produced when an atom is radioactive and contains too much energy in the nucleus (the center of an atom). When the atom is very active it emits a beta particle, which is an extremely high speed electron or proton that is emitted when an atom is radioactive. However, when the atom emits a beta particle it still contains too much energy so it emits a gamma photon, or in other words, gamma radiation.
Gamma rays are high energy ionizing radiations that are also part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Gamma photons have no mass and no electric charges; they are neutral and have 100% pure electromagnetic energy. Gamma Radiation is a type of energy that has a very high frequency, and therefore, consists of extremely short wavelengths. Gamma Rays can travel at the speed of light due to their high energy levels; they can cover thousands of meters before consuming all their energy. Consequently, gamma photons can pass almost any type of material that includes human tissue. For instance, lead is used as a shield to slow down or stop gamma photons.
Gamma rays, which are basically electromagnetic radiations emitted by radioactive or atomic decay, are used in many purposes, from killing cancerous cells to measuring soil density. Even though Gamma rays contain some cancer-causing properties, they are somehow used to treat some types of cancer. In the procedure called gamma-knife surgery, various intense beams of gamma rays are actually directed on the growth (the cancerous cells) in order to kill these cancerous cells. Well, first of all, Gamma rays are used for treatment purposes, mainly for killing cancer cells, tumors and other malignant cells in the human body. In fact, a tracer, which is in other words, a radioactive substance, is put inside the human body, and its path (trace) inside the body is then followed. A special gamma camera uses those rays to build up a picture, this picture gives the doctor a complete vision of what he is treating and dealing with. The patient, however, gets only a small dose of the radiation and does not suffer. Secondly, Gamma Rays are used in sterilizing (killing the microorganism in a cretin environment environment) medical equipment by killing bacteria. They are also used to kill bacteria, microbes and insects in foodstuffs, particularly meat and vegetables, basically to maintain freshness. Furthermore, gamma rays are used to gauge thickness of metals in steel mills, measure and control flow in liquids in industrial processes, as well as provide very interesting images of the universe. Finally, Gamma rays have also revealed huge information about the structure of the atomic nucleus, as they actually interact with matter by various detached elementary processes.
Gamma radiation is the most penetrative type of energy currently known; gamma rays can get past even some of the densest materials in use, making them both a great benefit and a hazard or a double edged sword. Because the photons that cover up gamma radiation are so energetic, their effect on human health is deep. Effects of gamma rays are well-known to the public from treatment of nuclear fallout. Gamma rays are the most dangerous form of radiation emitted by a nuclear explosion because of the difficulty in shielding them. Close contact with radioactive materials of an especially significant size causes damage to skin tissue and deaths are very likely. Generally, burns occur almost directly while nausea, fatigue and vomiting take hours to appear after exposure. The burn is very painful and deep. Hair loss and bleeding may take up to a few weeks to months to start heeling and return to normal. Gamma rays are generally accepted to be the most physically major grate by which ionization radiation causes cancer and heredity disease.
Among all, Gamma-rays have the shortest wavelengths, highest frequencies, and, as a result are the most powerful and energetic form of light in the universe. As mentioned before, it has the most energy of any other wave in the electromagnetic spectrum. Gamma rays can kill living cells, a fact which medicine uses to its advantage, using gamma rays to kill cancerous cells. Gamma radiation is the most penetrative type of energy currently known; can get past even some of the densest materials in use, making them both a great benefit and a hazard.
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