Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: Xray wavelength scale

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 02/27/2015
If x-ray were an animal what would be it's relative size in comparison to an animal of visible light or microwave? Or use any scale that would be a common reference.
- Don (age 62)
Villa Rica, GA USA

Electromagnetic spectrum has a wide range. Micro- and radio waves have quite long wavelengths (λ), whereas x-rays and γ-rays are on the short length end of the spectrum.  may be helpful to visualize to full spectrum. All these classifications refer to some wavelength (or equivalently a frequency) range, so let us pick some particular examples. The x-ray obtained at electron accelerators is about 0.1nm, and has an intermediate wavelength between soft (longer λ) and hard xrays (shorter λ). Airport scanners, or CT have slightly shorter λ than this. For visible light, we can take 500nm which corresponds to cyan. For microwaves, we can consider household ovens that run around 10cm.

So, if the visible light is a blue whale 30m long, the xray would be as small as an ant measuring 6mm, whereas the microwave would be 6000000m = 6000km wide, which is about the radius of the Earth.



(published on 02/27/2015)

Follow-up on this answer.