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Explore the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

The diagram below shows the electromagnetic spectrum:

 

Electromagnetic Spectrum

 

It is a family of waves. Waves have the following properties: amplitude, wavelength, frequency and speed. Study the diagrams below, as some questions in this worksheet will be about the properties of waves. The speed of a wave is calculated using the following formula:

 

wave speed = frequency x wavelength

 

The properties of waves

 

The frequency of radio waves


The electromagnetic spectrum is actually radiation emitted from the nucleus of an atom. The wavelength decreases as we go towards the gamma ray end of the spectrum. Gamma radiation and X-rays are used for screening, diagnosis and therapy. They are both very penetrating and can pass through the body to treat internal organs.

 

Nuclear radiation increases the risk of cancer due to causing ionisation, which means it changes the structure of atoms and, hence, living cells. However, it can be used to kill tumour cells after they are exposed to it through radiotherapy - for example,  Cobalt-60,  which is  a very radioactive material that emits gamma radiation. It is also used to sterilise medical equipment.


When exposing tumour cells in the body to kill them, there is a danger of destroying healthy tissue, too. Therefore, treatment is set up in such a way so as to constantly send a large dose of radiation to the tumour but to only send intermittent, smaller doses to the surrounding healthy tissue.


Technetium-99m and Iodine-123 are two radioactive materials used for screening.


Microwaves are used for heating and cooking food, mobile phones, satellite TV and long distance communication. They penetrate about 1 cm into the outer layers of food. Microwave aerials are located on high buildings because transmitters and receivers have to be in 'line of sight'. Satellite dishes are microwave receivers which deliver satellite television channels. Satellites orbiting the Earth are in line of sight of a huge aerial on the ground, which handles a great number of phone calls and television pictures at the same time.


Infrared signals are used to make remote controls, wireless computer mice and security alarm sensors. Radio waves are also useful for wireless technology and the radio. They are reflected off solid surfaces, so sometimes provide signals in hard to reach areas.

 

Light has many uses, including communication, and can be sent with just a torch. This type of signal needs to be decoded. Visible light is the light from the Sun or even artificial light bulbs, which helps us see what is around us and different colours. We can only see the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum,  not the other waves.

 

That's quite a lot of information to take in, but studying the diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum at the top of this page will give you a visual picture of what's going on.

Are you ready to have a go at some questions now?

What do we call the family of waves that have many uses in our lives?

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetic spectrum

Light spectrum

How would you describe the amplitude of a wave?

Half the distance between the crest and the trough of a wave

Half the distance between two identical points of a wave

Half the distance between two waves

What part of the electromagnetic spectrum has the smallest wavelength?

Infrared

Gamma

Visible light

Tick the most penetrating rays listed below that are used to treat internal organs.

X rays

Radio waves

Infrared

Gamma

Microwaves

What is the name of the process that uses radiation to kill cancer cells?

Tick the radioactive materials listed below that are used in the treatment of cancer.

Carbon-14

Uranium-325

Cobalt-60

Technetium-99 m

Iodine-123

Plutonium-7

How do radiologists ensure that healthy tissue is not damaged during radiotherapy, but tumour cells are killed? 

They only send small, intermittent doses to the surrounding tissue

They send the radiation and hope the surrounding tissue is not damaged

They send a large dose of radiation to the tumour

They protect the surrounding tissue with paper

Tick the uses of microwaves from the list below:

Cooking food

Satellite TV

Radio

Coded light signals

Mobile phones

Treating cancer

What type of radiation is used for remote controls?

Radiotherapy

Gamma

Infrared

What is visible light?

Infrared and ultraviolet radiation

The part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see

Small wavelength radiation

  • Question 1

What do we call the family of waves that have many uses in our lives?

CORRECT ANSWER
Electromagnetic spectrum
EDDIE SAYS
How was that for a starting question? It wasn't too bad was it?! The family of waves that have many uses in our life is called the electromagnetic spectrum. Simple!
  • Question 2

How would you describe the amplitude of a wave?

CORRECT ANSWER
Half the distance between the crest and the trough of a wave
EDDIE SAYS
Now this was quite a bit trickier, wasn't it? Don't let all these long descriptions get you down - if you weren't sure of the answer, it's a good idea to go back to the Introduction and have a look at the diagram on the properties of waves. Visual aids are often really helpful. Having looked at the diagram, you'll be able to see that amplitude is half the distance between the crest and the trough of a wave. Another way to describe it would be to say that it is the distance from the middle to the top or the middle to the bottom.
  • Question 3

What part of the electromagnetic spectrum has the smallest wavelength?

CORRECT ANSWER
Gamma
EDDIE SAYS
Once again, if you found this hard to answer, go back to the Introduction and study the diagram at the top of the page. All those waves make much more sense when you can actually visualise where they appear in the spectrum. The gamma radiation end of the electromagnetic spectrum has the smallest wavelength, whereas radio waves, at the other end of the spectrum, have the longest.
  • Question 4

Tick the most penetrating rays listed below that are used to treat internal organs.

CORRECT ANSWER
X rays
Gamma
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this one? The two most penetrating rays that are used to treat internal organs are gamma radiation and X-rays. These ones are also ionising and can cause further damage themselves. However, the risks of not spotting an internal injury outweigh the risks of maybe causing more damage.
  • Question 5

What is the name of the process that uses radiation to kill cancer cells?

CORRECT ANSWER
Radiotherapy
EDDIE SAYS
Radiotherapy is used to kill cancer cells. It uses a high dose of gamma radiation that will kill cells, but only the ones that are in the target areas - it leaves the other ones alone (mostly). Isn't science amazing?
  • Question 6

Tick the radioactive materials listed below that are used in the treatment of cancer.

CORRECT ANSWER
Cobalt-60
Technetium-99 m
Iodine-123
EDDIE SAYS
Wow, this was a tricky one with all those complicated names. Don't worry if you didn't get them all - you won't be the only one! There were three correct answers here: Cobalt-60 is a very radioactive material which emits gamma rays. It is used in radiotherapy.
Technetium-99 m and Iodine-123 are two radioactive materials used for screening for cancer. Carbon-14 is sometimes used as a radioactive tracer in medicine, but its most common use is in dating the age of organic material such as by archaeologists. Uranium-325 is used as fuel for nuclear power stations and plutonium-7 is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
  • Question 7

How do radiologists ensure that healthy tissue is not damaged during radiotherapy, but tumour cells are killed? 

CORRECT ANSWER
They only send small, intermittent doses to the surrounding tissue
They send a large dose of radiation to the tumour
EDDIE SAYS
Did you get both the options here? They constantly send a large dose of radiation to the tumour, but only send intermittent, smaller doses to the surrounding healthy tissue. They do this by spinning the machine around so only one area gets the full dose.
  • Question 8

Tick the uses of microwaves from the list below:

CORRECT ANSWER
Cooking food
Satellite TV
Mobile phones
EDDIE SAYS
There were three options to tick this time - how did you get on? Microwaves are used for cooking food, satellite TV and mobile phones. This makes some people worry about mobile phones cooking your brain, but because they use different types of microwaves, this doesn't happen.
  • Question 9

What type of radiation is used for remote controls?

CORRECT ANSWER
Infrared
EDDIE SAYS
This wasn't too bad, was it? We can eliminate the first two options because we've already seen their uses in cancer treatments, so we were left with only the third option. Using a process of elimination is often quite a good method, especially if you're not entirely sure of the correct answer! Infrared signals are used for remote controls. They are just below the visible light section, hence the term infra - infra means below, and ultra means above.
  • Question 10

What is visible light?

CORRECT ANSWER
The part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find the word 'visible' a bit of a clue here?! Visible light is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see and comes from the Sun and artificial light, such as light bulbs and torches. You're one step nearer to getting that physics sorted - well done for all your hard work!
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