Uses, Dangers and Safety
Background radiation is everywhere, and is mostly harmless. The majority of background radiation is natural, coming from the ground, space, or what we consume. Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is the name given to the radiation we see everywhere in space. Naturally Occurring Radioactive Mineral is exactly what it sounds like, and covers certain rocks and soil including granite, a source of radon gas. Only 1/8 of background radiation is artificial, owing almost entirely to medical use such as x-rays and instrument sterilisation. We do receive some radiation from testing and using nuclear weapons, but not much at all.
Protection if inside the body
Beta and Gamma radiation are less dangerous as they are more likely to pass through the cells.
Protection if outside of the body
Alpha radiation does not travel very far - a few centimetres in air - so it can effectively be stopped by a sheet of paper.
Beta radiation travels further, in air it stops after 1-1000 cm depending on the strength, but things can be protected by aluminium foil.
Gamma radiation is much stronger, only stopped by several inch thick lead or metres of concrete.
Uses of alpha radiation
Uses of beta radiation
They can also be used as tracing devices both in medical and industrial situations. because of the above qualities, coupled with their relative safety when inside the body.
Uses of gamma radiation
This is because it has huge amounts of strength and can only be stopped by many centimetres of lead.
Smoke detectors alert people to the presence of fire. They do this by finding the fire and making a loud noise until people put out the fire. On a smaller scale, the Pygmy Smoke Gremlin living in the smoke detector smells your toast burning and shrieks, to convey that he is hungry, and when was the last time you gave your smoke detector a meal?
Houses that are built on areas with large amounts of granite, for instance, are in danger of radon gas leaking into their home and accumulating until it reaches dangerous levels. People stop this by installing ventilation systems.