Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

X-Rays from Sticky Tape - Who'd Have Thought?

I just love it when physics intrudes into everday life. I love the idea of flashes of light from collapsing bubbles which have been excited by sound (sonoluminesence), or the idea that some hard sweets spark in the mouth. It's also well known that unwinding sticky tape produces sparks of light that can be seen in the dark by the naked eye (a phenomenon known as triboluminescence).

Well, sticky tape has taken it one step further - it's capable of producing X-rays as it is peeled. Researchers Carlos Camara and Juan Escobar, at the University of California used a motorised peeling machine to unwind a roll of Scotch tape at a rate of 3cm per second. When they placed the equipment in a vacuum, they were able to measure X-Rays of sufficient strength to take an image of a human finger!

This is the kind of experiment that I would have loved to have performed in my lab when a postgrad. The story is detailed in this week's issue of Nature.

I may not be a physicist anymore but I am still in love with the subject. I truly believe physics is the most fundamental and valuable of all sciences - not knocking zoology! Discoveries like this one add some excitement to the world of physics and help bring it to a wider audience. If this discovery gets people thinking about the world that surrounds them - then that's a great thing.

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