(Submitted January 09, 1998)
Hi, I'm in 8th grade and my science class is learning about the
the electromagnetic spectrum. My question is why are
gamma-rays so much more harmful than radio waves?
I already understand that gamma-rays have a higher energy
level in them than radio waves, but what makes this
energy so harmful?
The reason gamma-rays are more harmful then radio waves is because light
can be thought of as particles (photons) as well as electromagnetic waves.
A radio photon doesn't have much energy and doesn't travel through matter
well (that's why you don't pick up radio well in a tunnel). A gamma-ray
photon has enough energy to damage atoms in your body and make them
radioactive, and gamma-rays can easily penetrate into your body. It's
like the difference between getting hit by sand or a bullet. It takes
a lot of sand to do any damage, but only one bullet.
Thanks for your question.
for Ask an Astrophysicist