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Q & A: Radioactive Discovery

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
Who discovered radio active elements? What are radio active elements? What are the positive effects of them? What are negative effects of them?
- darrel (age 12)
brooklyn
A:

Marie and Pierre Curie were credited with the discovery of radioactive elements. They were husband and wife researching in Paris. Their discovery occurred within the years 1896-1900.

Their discovery was influenced by other scientists who had recently discovered interesting properties of Uranium. Marie tested all the known elements in order to see if they had the same properties of Uranium. Uranium was found to be emitting rays of energy and was found to make air conduct electricity better. Marie tested the other elements on the basis of whether or not the element could make air conduct electricity better, like Uranium. Marie invented the word radioactivity and is best known for discovering the radioactive elements polonium and radium.

Radioactive elements are defined as elements that are capable of spontaneous emission of radiation, either directly from unstable atomic nuclei or as a consequence of a nuclear reaction. Radiation is the propagation of energy in the form of waves or particles.

The positive effects of radioactive elements is that they can be used in science and medicine and they are naturally occurring elements in our environment. They are used in X-rays,in diagnosing diseases, and in cancer therapy. They naturally occur in such places as the earth’s crust and in our own muscles, bones, and tissues.

The negative effect of radioactive elements is that they can cause major health problems when they are present in high levels. Radioactive elements cause radiation, and too much radiation has been linked to tissue damage, cancer, genetic disorders, and even death. In fact Marie Curie (known as "Madame Curie" in textbooks) actually died due to radiation poisoning as a result of her research. There is an interesting page on the work of the Curies at: https://www.nde-ed.org/EducationResources/HighSchool/Radiography/curies.htm.


(published on 10/22/2007)

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