Since X-ray machines were invented, doctors have been able to see exactly which bone is broken or fractured and where. Before that, the only way to see inside the body was to cut it open, which is quite a lot more painful than taking an X-ray.
X-ray Specs. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, like radio waves, or light. They were discovered in 1895. German scientist Wilhelm Rontgen was experimenting with electron beams and noticed that they could pass through cardboard and other materials on to a screen.
When he put his hand in front of the generator, an image of the bones inside his hand appeared on the screen. By chance, he’d discovered a new kind of radiation, which he referred to as ‘X’. The first X-ray image ever taken was of Rontgen’s wife’s hand.
X-rays allow us to see through skin and the squishy bits inside our bodies to the bones because the skin and squishy bits are made up of smaller atoms, which don’t absorb X-ray photons very well. The calcium atoms bones are made of are bigger, so they do absorb the photons and show up on X-rays.
Today, a combination of X-rays, ultrasound and magnetic resonance (using radio waves) provides amazing 3-D images of our insides, the bones and the squishy bits too.
Danger-rays: X-rays are a lot less dangerous and less messy than cutting open the body, but it wasn’t realized that X-rays are dangerous in a different way until years after they were discovered. Too much exposure to them can cause cancer.
Have you ever had an X-ray?