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The German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen was not the first to observe the mysterious rays, but he was the first who studied them. Roentgen’s interest was piqued when a fluorescent screen was lit up during an experiment. When he passed his hand between the screen and the rays, he saw an outline of his bones. The X-rays were named as such, because Roentgen was not sure what they are and chose the common X for an unknown quantity. German, Rontgen’s native language, the rays are actually called Rontgen-Rays. X-Rays cannot just be produced by a machine, they are actually abundant in the universe, coming from galaxies and stars!

Today x-rays are powerful medical diagnostic tool which can detect anything from broken bones to tissue changes when used in CAT scans. However, it’s all about the dosage. In the early days the potential negative side-effects were unknown and an X-ray craze developed. Besides an immediate medical application, x-ray machines popped up at carnivals and in shoe stores. People working with them got x-ray burns and Thomas Edison’s assistant died from skin cancer.

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