Gamma rays are used in medicine to kill and treat certain types of cancers and tumors. Gamma rays passing through tissue of the body produce ionization in tissue. Gamma rays can harm the cells in our body. The rays can also detect brain and cardiovascular abnormalities.
Gamma rays can be used to examine metallic castings or welds in oil pipelines for weak points. The rays pass through the metal and darken a photographic film at places opposite the weak points. In industry, gamma rays are used for detecting internal defects in metal castings and in welded structures. Gamma rays are used to kill pesticides and bugs in food. Gamma rays are also used in nuclear reactors and atomic bombs.
Gamma rays are often used in the food industry. The radioisotopes preserve foods. Although the rays never come in contact with food, beta radiation kills various organisms, such as bacteria, yeast, and insects.
Gamma rays can be used to detect beryllium. They also played a very important role in the development of the atom bomb.
Gamma rays bombard our bodies constantly. They come from the naturally radioactive materials in rocks and the soil. We take some of these materials into our bodies from the air we breathe and the water we drink. Gamma rays passing through our body produce ionization in tissue. High levels of gamma rays can produce dangerous ionization of the tissue and can cause skin cancer.
Protection from gamma rays can be obtained using a sheet of iron that is a 1/2 inch thick. This kind of shielding will block only 50% of 1 million electron volts of gamma rays. We can also protect ourselves from gamma rays with 4 inches of water. Lead provides the most protection from gamma rays. A 1/4 of an inch lead absorbs all the gamma ray exposure.
Gamma Rays from Outer Space:
In a few major bursts, the sun produces gamma rays with energies up to one million electron volts. The interaction of high-energy electrons, protons, and nuclei of the sun, emit the rays. Gamma rays can also come from the sun and other stars in space, through the creation and death of the stars along with the creation of solar flares. Astronomers have studied gamma rays to gain a better understanding of the astronomical process. To collect these waves, astronomers installed optical collects with wide apertures at the Whipple Observatory. Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to x-rays. Gamma rays may carry millions of electron volts. As gamma rays pass through matter, they lose energy, but at the same time, knock electrons loose from the atom which ionizes them. Uranium and other naturally occurring radioactive elements, which emit alpha and beta particles from their nuclei while transforming into new elements, also emit gamma rays.