Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Electromagnetic Spectrum... Huh?!?!?!?

I bet that just from this title you already susupect this will be a very confusing blog about a confusing topic. Well You Are WRONG! Really the electromagnetic spectrum is just a fancy shmancy term scientists use to group together all seven types of waves. Some characteristics of electromagnetic waves are they all are a type of radiation. These radiations are a stream of photons(basic particles of electromagnetic radiation) that travel in waves and each contain an amount of energy that varies depending on which type of wave is being transferred. The seven waves that form the spectrum, in order of wavelength sizes in longest to shortest are: Radio, Microwave, Infrared, Visible, Ultraviolet, X-Rays, and Gamma Rays. All seven of these waves have very similar characteristics and together, form the Electromagnetic Spectrum. A Tagxedo of these words can be found below:

The one thing that makes these waves unique from all other types of waves is the fact that none of them require a medium to travel through, they can travel through a vacuum. Now, I will discuss in depth TWO of these seven waves. The two waves I have chosen are Gamma Rays and Radio Waves.

Gamma Rays:
       Gamma Rays, opposing popular opinion, (at least my opinion), DO EXIST! In fact they have the smallest waves and the most energy in their photons of any other waves in the Spectrum. Since Gamma Rays are so small, they can and will often pass through the atoms of detectors. Therefore a special kind of detector, which contains densely packed crystals, is used to detect Gamma Rays. They can detect these rays by observing the effects on the matter contained in the detector. Gamma Rays can do three things with matter: 1. they can just bounce off the electrons in the matter, 2. they can push the electron to a higher energy level, or 3. they can create new matter together. The picture below is called the Compton Scattering. It is a physics experiment that authenticates the nature of radiation waves to be particles and waves. When the Gamma ray interacts with matter, its energy decreases as the wavelength increases. It was first discovered by Arthur Holly Compton in 1923 and convinced physicists that Gamma Rays can behave as a stream of particles whose energy is proportional to the frequency or as simply a wave.
 Gamma Rays have a frequency of less than
and a wavelength of greater than
Gamma Rays are used to determine which basic elements are on other planets by scientists and can be found in supernovas, nuetron stars, and pulsars in the night sky.

Radio Waves:
      Radio waves are the opposite of Gamma Rays, at least in the respect of their wave lengths. Radio wavelengths are the longest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. They were discovered in the late 1880's by Heinrich Hertz. Radio waves do exist on their own in nature, they are not soley for playing music. Almost every planet produces radio waves in space. Below is a picture of a graph of the radio emissions of different planets.

Radio waves have a frequency of 
and a wavelength of 
Usually, as the frequency of a wave gets higher, the length of the wave gets shorter. Radio waves are used every day to transmit music over the radio stations and television. The military also uses Radio waves to communicate with eachother over long distances.

Works Cited: