As we move from the high energy and very dangerous gamma waves to the low energy radio waves, we see a huge difference in how they react with the human body. Gamma rays are nuclear and are deadly to the human body in large amounts. Radio waves, on the other hand, are completely harmless and surround us everyday. In fact, as we go down the electromagnetic spectrum, we will use examples from our everyday lives to explain the different uses of each of the sun’s waves.
Gamma-rays have the smallest wavelengths and the most energy of any other wave in the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves are generated by radioactive atoms and in nuclear explosions. Gamma-rays can kill living cells, a fact which medicine uses to its advantage, using gamma-rays to kill cancerous cells.
We all know x-ray waves from our visits to the hospital. These waves are what give our health care professionals the ability to see into our bodies to determine if we need medical attention. When a doctor takes an x-ray they are shooting x-ray wavelengths through our body onto a film on the other side. Since our bones are dense than our skin they leave an image or silhouette that is captured onto film. X-rays can be very harmful if not controlled and are why health professionals have to wear a lead vest to protect areas that are not being photographed.
Ultraviolet light waves have the third highest energy levels on the electromagnetic spectrum. These are the waves that give us those terrible sunburns at the beach. Ultraviolet waves are broken down into UVC, UVB and UVA waves. Our earth’s atmosphere captures most of the UVC and UVB waves. This means that 99% of the ultraviolet light that hits our planet are UVA light waves. Ultraviolet light and its three wavelength components are both good and bad for the human body. UV light aides the production of Vitamin D in our skin and without it, we face the very real chance of contracting such diseases as bone deficiencies. and certain types of cancers. In fact, tens of thousands of people die each year from lack of Vitamin D production. Ultraviolet light can also be very damaging and we all know the effects of a painful sunburn. However, scientist use UV light waves as a radiological treatment to kill everything from bacteria to cancerous cells. It is a very potent radioactive wave that must be used with extreme caution. Even limited exposure can be very harmful to the human body.
The fourth highest energy level, moving down the electromagnetic spectrum, is where we arrive to the wavelengths that are visible to our naked eye. Visible light wavelengths are what we see as colors of the rainbow. The colors of a rainbow are not all equal when you measure them electromagnetically. For instance, the color violet has more frequent wavelengths and thus more energy than the color on the opposite side of the spectrum, red. Although this energy level is less harmful on our bodies, it can still do damage if overexposed.
The third less frequent and less dangerous wavelength from the sun’s energy are infrared waves. These are the waves that produce heat and are known to scientists as thermal waves. The heat that we feel from sunlight, a fire, a radiator or a warm sidewalk is all infrared. The infrared wavelength is further broken down to three subsets; near, mid and far-infrared. Near infrared is not hot and you cannot even feel it. These wavelengths are used to send messages to our television from our remote controls. They are higher in frequency and have more energy than far-infrared, but to such a low degree that they do not harm our human bodies. Mid-infrared is where the thermal waves begin to produce heat.
Far-infrared is at the very outer of the infrared spectrum and has the lowest energy level and produces actual heat. Many people have far-infrared lights in their bathrooms. Far-infrared wavelengths have the ability to penetrate deep into our bodies. Studies have shown that far-infrared can actually penetrate up to 2 - 3 inches deep, heating the core of our bodies and penetrating deep down into our muscle tissues, fat cells and organs. Far-infrared light is not harmful to the human body except for the possibility of overheating.
Microwave wavelengths are common to most of us. Anyone who has heated up a dinner in their microwave is familiar it. A microwave oven works by passing microwave radiation through the food. Water, fat and sugar molecules in the food absorb energy from the microwaves. Microwave heating is most efficient on liquid water and much less so on fats and sugars. Microwave waves are also used in cell phone technology. Microwaves are beamed down from cell towers and relayed to other phones. Microwaves have been proven to be harmless to human beings.
The final spectrum produced by the sun’s energy are radio waves. We have been using these waves for close to a century to produce radio and wire transmissions. These wavelengths are the longest and less frequent (less energy) of all the sun’s wavelengths. Today, we find them in use for everything from television reception, radio stations and cell phone transmissions. Radio waves are perfectly safe for human beings.
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