Radiation is energy that travels as particles or waves and can be naturally occurring or man-made. It is all around us in various forms ranging from radio waves to x-rays to cosmic radiation.
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We gain benefits from this energy and we classify these energies into two main types:
- Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to excite atoms (making them move more rapidly), but not enough to ionize them (altering them physically). Examples of non-ionizing radiation include microwaves, radio waves and visible light.
- Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms (ionization) and can be damaging to the DNA within living cells. Examples of ionizing radiation are X-rays, gamma rays and alpha & beta particles.
There are three main kinds of ionizing radiation:
- alpha particles, which include two protons and two neutrons
- beta particles, which are essentially high-speed electrons
- gamma rays and x-rays, which are pure energy (photons)
How Radiation Isn’t Killing You : Discovery News (Oct 2013)
Daily ultraviolet radiation doses from sunlight vary by latitude and season. Credit: NOAA
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