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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Angel Aguirre
Physical Geology
Fall 2013


The Uses and Dangers of Radiation

            There are many naturally occurring forms of energy that flow freely thought our planet. Many forms of natural energy can be identified as wind, fire, electrical energy or even water which can be used in the process of creating hydro electric energy. These forms of naturally occurring energy have been present since the formation of our planet and have been experienced by man kind ever since. The most common form of naturally occurring energy is radiation. Radiation is a form of energy that is constantly present in every moment and every circumstance among our daily lives. A way in which to verify the presence of radiation in any setting is to scan the environment with a Gamma Scout Geiger counter, a small hand held device used for detecting and measuring radiation levels. A detection of radiation will almost always occur regardless of the setting in which it is being measured. The most natural occurrence of radiation is that of which comes directly from the sun in the form of solar rays. Radiation is composed of chemical energy which is directly emitted from the sun that is strong enough to penetrate buildings and other thickly insulated structures. Although there are some dangers to radiation, there are also some good applications for the utilization of this form of energy. Three of the most commonly known uses of radiation include medical, culinary, and even for chemical warfare.


Radiation from the sun as it beams down onto Earth’s surface.
Photo courtesy of Tim Van Beek.

            Radiation is used as a way to fight and kill dangerous cancer cells that have mutated within cancer patients. When radiation is used to target and kill cancer cells the practice is referred to as chemo therapy or chemical therapy. The process involves purposely putting radiation into the patient’s body and using that radiation to annihilate any malignant cancerous cells and control their growth. The process is not always known to be one hundred percent effective but in some cases has been known to have a somewhat positive results on the reduction of cancerous cells and reduce the further spread of the disease thought the body. Although this form of treatment against cancer is somewhat effective it also brings with it several different side effects that many patients often suffer from. The most commonly recognized side effects of chemo therapy are localized skin irritation, swelling and inflammation near the location of the tumor, and a rapid decline in the patient’s hair growth. The use of chemo therapy is often criticized as being an extremely dangerous medical practice that can potentially cause great harm to the patient and can be worse than the actual disease it is supposed to cure. A common procedure that is used to target a specific cancerous area in the body is known as an IMR (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy procedure). This procedure is used to emit precise beams of radiation directly targeting damaged cells and tumors in order to minimize harm to surrounding healthy tissue.


IMRT procedure, radiology. Spot beam radiation treatment.
Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland.

            The use of radiation is perhaps one of the most commonly utilized tools for the purposes of cooking; this is through the use of the ever so popular microwave. Almost every individual in the United States is familiar with the ever popular microwave. This appliance is one of the most commonly known of and used kitchen appliances, it is guaranteed to be in almost every household across America and possibly even across the world. The function of this appliance is to quickly, effectively, and conveniently warm and sometimes cook foods. The way the microwave is able to perform its basic function is through the use of electromagnetic radiation. In the process of using the microwave to cook foods waves of electromagnetic radiation produced by an internal component of the microwave called the vacuum tube (magnetron) travel laterally on either side of the food item. As the bottom food containment plate rotates, the electromagnetic waves have an opportunity to expose themselves in a complete three hundred and sixty degree rotation around the food item. The energy that penetrates the food substance (electromagnetic radiation) causes the buildup of thermal energy producing a rise in temperature within the food item, thus heating up the delicious meal. It is rumored that those who use the microwave excessively through their lives may have a higher propensity to contract certain forms of cancer. 


Image courtesy of Leif Parsons, and author Anahad O’connor.
The New York Times,


Electromagnetic waves (micro waves) in action.
Image courtesy of George Retseck, and author Mark Fischetti.  

            The use of radiation as a form of chemical weaponry for militarized attacks against warring countries is a practice that has been seen in decades past. Although this practice is almost completely outdated and obsolete, it is still a last resort option for chemical warfare.  The use of radiation in warfare is categorized by intentionally inducing radiation poisoning among the population of warring countries without relying on the processes of nuclear fusion or nuclear fission. The process of nuclear fusion is simply when a pair of atomic nuclei combine to create a greater atomic nucleus releasing energy in aggregate amounts. Nuclear fission is defined as the course of action in which a large atomic nuclei separates out into more miniscule atomic nuclei. Some common symptoms of radiation poisoning from light exposure to it are headache, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and a sense of weakness through the body. For those who have been exposed to radiation in a mild way they will experience the following symptoms: fever, hair loss, vomiting blood, and a weakened ability to heal bodily wounds. For moderate radiation poisoning some notable symptoms are: severely high fever, low blood pressure (hypotension), and severe diarrhea. Highly moderate to severe exposure to radiation will bring about symptoms of intensified hair loss, dizziness, disorientation and if not treated immediately will cause death. Destructive devices that are manufactured for the purpose of causing radiation poisoning are described and categorized as weapons of mass destruction. These weapons are more specifically known as a nuclear weapons with a lingering radiological secondary effect that can bring about radiation poisoning.


Image courtesy of

To conclude, there are various uses for the amazing natural form of energy that is radiation. As noted previously some of its uses range from medical to culinary, and even for the purposes of causing great destruction. Radiation as a form of medical treatment against cancer and other medical conditions is an ingenious method of dealing with that devastating illness. Though it may have some secondary effects on the individual it has proven to be an effective method to combat the disease. The use of radiation in the kitchen has shown to be an innovative and convenient way to prepare meals for decades and will likely remain that way as time progresses. The simplicity and time saving factors associated with the use of electromagnetic radiation by means of the microwave is absolutely splendid. Though radiation can be used for the purposes of good, it often falls into the wrong hands. As uniquely wonderful as it may be, radiation can be used for evil purposes if it falls into the possession of those with destructive minds. Overall the use of this magnificent form of energy is an immensely fascinating natural form of conductivity. The way in which it is utilized is the responsibility of the individual that is to experiment with it.   



A short improvised poem on radiation

Radiation, radiation you are so neat

Capable of destroying entire nations, your gift is so sweet. (jk)

Radiation, radiation you give us more heat.


You aid us in healthcare and food preparation,

Your collaboration with science will forever be an interpretation.

Interpretation of your great commercialization for the purposes of industrialization


You inspire great minds for innovation now and for generations to come

Radiation, radiation, perhaps someday the battle for energy usage you will have won.




Works Cited

All images:

Radiation from the sun as it beams down onto Earth’s surface. Photo courtesy of Tim Van Beek.

IMRT procedure, radiology. Spot beam radiation treatment. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland.

Image courtesy of Leif Parsons, and author Anahad O’connor. The New York Times,

Image courtesy of George Retseck, and author Mark Fischetti.

Image courtesy of