Electromagnetic radiation works through the combined forces of light, electricity and magnetism. The energy contained inside these forces can create radiant energy in varying intensities. The electromagnetic spectrum portrays the many frequencies in which energy waves can travel. The different areas of this spectrum represent nature’s sources of radiant energy.
The electromagnetic spectrum is made up of waves that travel at varying frequencies, or rates. The slower waves are longer in length and sit at one end of the spectrum, while the higher frequency waves are shorter and sit at the other end. Radio waves, light that is visible to the human eye, ultraviolet rays and gamma rays are all sources of electromagnetic waves. These waves generate varying intensities of energy that affect living organisms in different ways.
Radio waves are a fairly slow form of electromagnetic energy, and one of the weaker sources of radiant energy. These waves travel in the range of 10,000 waves per second (kilohertz) to 100 million waves per second (gigahertz). Radio waves can be used for wireless transmission of sound, or to relay data or information. This frequency range is further divided into smaller ranges or “bands.” These bands are then divided into “channel” ranges. An example of this would be FM radio and television transmissions which operate in the 30 megahertz (100,000 waves per second) range.
The center of the electromagnetic spectrum is made up of waves visible to the human eye. The colors that make up visible light represent different wave frequencies, moving from violet (slow) to red (fast). Light waves are what make objects visible to the human eye. The different colors that appear are a result of light energy bouncing off the surface of an object. The object itself absorbs certain wavelengths from light rays, while reflecting certain other wavelengths. The visible wavelengths are the ones being reflected by the object.
Ultraviolet rays, or sunlight, is the next grouping along the electromagnetic spectrum, after visible light. Ultraviolet waves are the source of all light energy that exists on the Earth. Black lights are another source of ultraviolet rays. Sunlight emits radiant energy in what are called UVA, UVB and UVC bands. The Earth’s ozone layer blocks out much of the UVB and UVC bands, while most of the light that gets through falls within the UVA range. Black lights are lamps that emit long UV waves but little visible light.
Gamma ray waves are situated at the far end of the electromagnetic spectrum where wavelengths are short and fast. Gamma waves are produced by interactions that take place between subatomic particles. This type of radiant energy can have harmful effects on living organisms. Because of their intensity, these waves have an ionizing effect on organic matter. When gamma rays make contact with living tissue, they alter the atomic structure of the tissue. In effect, atoms become unstable and begin to function abnormally as a result of their altered structures.
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