Friday, October 24, 2008

Sticky X-Rays

Scientists at UCLA have been spending valuable time and money spinning out rolls of sticky tape. Are they mad men? Maybe, but we can't rightly judge from this experiment. Turns out that simply unrolling tape at three centimeters per second produces enough of an x-ray burst to photograph the bones in your fingers. The mechanism for this x-ray burst is still a mystery, but the cause is pretty well understood. When two surfaces rub against each other, one becomes positively charged and the other becomes negatively charged. When the tape unrolls, the charge difference between the adhesive and the polyethylene roll builds to the point that an electron jumps between the two with enough energy to create an x-ray burst. Practically speaking, this technique could be used for cheaper x-ray photography. According to one researcher involved, the same mechanism could be used to generate fusion. Though one of his colleagues points out that the energy used to unroll the tape would be greater than the energy produced by the fusion process. But you know, I'm not sure this is a new discovery. It actually explains a lot about that time I was abducted by the KGB and tied down while they twirled rolls of Scotch tape around me. I wasn't fatally irradiated, but they did discover a scalpel left in my skull after the lobotomy. More details here.

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