Chances are you’ve had an X-ray to check for broken bones, find the source of that niggling back pain or to reveal holes hiding in your teeth. X-rays are also the basis of CT scans that reveal, slice by slice, a detailed picture of our inner workings.
But these magical rays that can see through flesh and bone can be put to many more uses. Here are just a few that have caught our eye.
1. Take A Peek Inside A Mummy
In earlier days of Egyptian archaeology numerous mummies were unwrapped and pretty much destroyed in the process of unlocking their secrets. More recently X-rays and CT scans have been used to reveal more about mummies without damaging them. They even provide a bit of a health check, albeit a few thousand years too late to be of practical help.
2. Find Lost Golf Balls
Where did those golf balls get to? And why is that python bulging in a strange way? X-rays quickly solve both mysteries. Getting the golf balls out of the python? That’s another matter.
3. See The Fine Detail In Fossils
For another look into the (very distant) past, a narrow beam of high-energy (and deadly) X-rays has been used to reveal the fine detail of a fossilised Archaeopteryx, believed to be an ancestor of modern birds. Not just hidden bones were revealed, but feathers too, which may help scientist work out whether or not Archaeopteryx could fly.
4. Discover Hidden Artwork Behind Famous Paintings
Before becoming famous, many struggling painters reused canvases because they couldn’t afford new ones. In other cases, over-painting was used to improve composition or hide imperfections. X-rays can ‘peel back the layers’ the layers without damaging precious artwork, and what lies beneath can be just as interesting at the visible work.
5. Create Beautiful Art
It’s amazing what you can X-ray, given the right equipment. Artist Nick Veasey uses a variety of X-ray machines to produce amazing images just for their aesthetic appeal (we particularly like the lightbulb).
Veasey still uses traditional X-ray film, but in line with the trend in most types of imaging X-rays are moving into the digital age. But there are still a lot of old, silver-based X-ray films sitting in storage and some films are still processed with liquid chemicals. There are effective recycling solutions for both films and chemicals that not only ensure safe disposal, they recovery valuable silver as well.
Image: Nick Veasey
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