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Description of X-rays:

X-rays are electromagnetic radiation that penetrates structures within a body and creates images of the structures on photographic film or a fluorescent screen. X-rays are a form of radiation that is very similar to light rays except X-rays are more energetic and are not visible to the human eye. The travel at the speed of light. X-rays can pass through air and soft tissue easily but will be stopped when it encounters more dense materials, such as a tumor, bone, or metal fragment.
Soft X-rays have comparatively high frequencies — about 3 × 1016 cycles per second, or hertz, to about 1018 Hz — and relatively short wavelengths — about 10 nano-meters (nm), or 4 × 10−7 inches, to about 100 picometers (pm), or 4 × 10−8 inches. (A nano-meter is one-billionth of a meter; a picometer is one-trillionth of a meter.) Hard X-rays have frequencies of about 1018 Hz to higher than 1020 Hz and wavelengths of about 100 pm (4 × 10−9 inches) to about 1 pm (4 × 10−11 inches).

Everyday Applications


Mammograms are X-rays most often used to detect breast cancer.

-DEXA scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry)

DEXA scans are bone density scans. They are used to detect bone-thinning diseases such as osteoporosis


Angiography is an X-ray procedure in which contrast material is injected into one of the arteries of the heart. This is used to discover blockage in the coronary arteries

Health Impacts

Negative - Many people believe that to much radiation from X-Rays can lead to cancer, which isn't necessarily untrue, though it has to be high dosages.

Positive - X-Rays can be helpful when Doctors need to detect an injury or disease. X-rays are also painless, and don't require any recovery time.

Interesting Article

How X-Rays Demystified a 2,500-Year-Old Battle Wound

Dr. Helise Coopersmith is a musculoskeletal and body imaging radiologist for the North Shore Health System, assistant professor of radiology at the Hofstra North Shore School of Medicine.

"I have worked as a musculoskeletal radiologist for many years and have seen a wide range of bone injuries." She stated. "The bone, discovered in Northern Greece, was brought to me by Anagnostis Agelarakis, a professor and chair of anthropology at Adelphi University. It was a section of the ulna bone, which is the inner of two forearm bones."

"My team and I took three X-rays of the ulna bone, and we found that indeed the films confirmed what Anagnostis Agelarakis had suspected." She continues. "But recently, I found myself for the first time using my X-ray table to look at a 2,500-year-old bone and a piece of an ancient arrow."

How Do X-rays Work?

Video Summary

This video explains how X-rays have very short wavelengths that, unlike visible light, are able to pass right through most tissues in the human body, because the bones in our body have calcium a dense material.