What Is Radiation

Radiation is just the term for something that can travel through empty space. It could be a particle or a wave. There are many different sorts. However, we can make a distinction between radiation that does not have the energy to break chemical bonds (called non-ionising) and those that can break chemical bonds (called ionising).

Since we are made of chemicals then ionising radiation can be dangerous.

The form of radiation that we are most familiar with is light. Light is a wave and can be characterised by its wavelength or frequency. The wavelength is the distance between the crest of each wave while the frequency is the number of waves that pass a given point in one second. For example blue light has a shorter wavelength than visible light.

light spectrum

taken from Wikipedia - click on image to go to site

The shorter the wavelength the more energy the light has. Long wavelength light is not ionising since it does not have enough energy. However, longer wavelength light such as ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays are ionising and therefore can be considered dangerous.

Radiation can also be things such as electrons, protons or neutrons which are not bound in an atom. We will deal with these in the next few parts of this workshop.




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