Google Celebrates the 115th Anniversary of the X-Ray

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OK, so it’s not a major milestone for the x-ray. But today’s cute Google doodle is a good reminder of the value of x-rays to modern life — not just for medical purposes, but also for checking the structural integrity of buildings, finding hidden layers in priceless paintings, detecting new sources of radiation in space, and security screening. My dad worked worked in x-ray machine sales and service his whole life, so I also have to thank x-rays for sending me to college!

While it’s not so simple to do x-ray activities with your kids at home or in the classroom, there is a related activity tied to an interesting discovery made in 2008: you can actually generate x-rays by simply ripping a piece of clear adhesive tape off a roll. That’s it. Just regular household tape. Of course, you do have to do it in a vacuum. But even if you don’t have a vacuum chamber handy, you can observe a similar effect by taking an ordinary roll of tape (clear or duct tape works well) and ripping it off the roll in a totally blackened room. Give your eyes time to adjust, and you’ll see a flash of blue light — the same kind of emission, except given off in the visible spectrum.

Check out the Wired link above, or go to my blog Home Physics to see a video of the demonstration and a report on what happened when we tried it at home.

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