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Radiation and Radioactivity


Radiation is energy traveling in the form of particles or waves in bundles of energy called photons. Some everyday examples are microwaves used to cook food, radio waves for radio and television, light, and x-rays used in medicine.

Radioactivity is a natural and spontaneous process by which the unstable atoms of an element emit or radiate excess energy in the form of particles or waves. These emissions are collectively called ionizing radiations. Depending on how the nucleus loses this excess energy either a lower energy atom of the same form will result, or a completely different nucleus and atom can be formed.

Ionization is a particular characteristic of the radiation produced when radioactive elements decay. These radiations are of such high energy that when they interact with materials, they can remove electrons from the atoms in the material. This effect is the reason why ionizing radiation is hazardous to health, and provides the means by which radiation can be detected.

Our glossary with definitions of more terms


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