Beta
X

03May

The Matter of Everything by Suzie Sheehy review – 12 experiments that changed the world

How the quest for a deeper understanding of particle physics has transformed the way we live

In 1895, the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen noticed that a phosphor-coated screen gave off a green light when exposed to a cathode ray tube. He quickly realised that he’d found a new invisible ray. Asked what he thought when he saw this green light, he replied: “I didn’t think. I investigated.” In fact he spent seven weeks investigating, locked away in his laboratory and only coming out when his wife, Anna, insisted he eat something. He rewarded her concern for his wellbeing by using the unknown rays to make an image of her hand on a photographic plate. It proved that they could travel through skin and flesh: the plate revealed her bones and wedding ring. When she saw the image, she was appalled, saying: “I have seen my death!”

In his notebook, Röntgen used a letter to denote the unknown rays: “X-rays”. As Sheehy says, this is “possibly the best unintentional branding in the history of physics”. Within a year of his discovery, X-rays were being used to find shrapnel in soldiers’ bodies on the battlefield.

Continue reading...

Related

The Women Who Saved the English Countryside by Matthew Kelly review – nature’s guardians

From the Lake District to Kent – the history of four women and the landscapes they rescuedIn 1951, ...

Read More >

Shadowlands by Matthew Green review – Britain’s ghost places

Sunken off Suffolk, buried on the Welsh borders, uncovered in an Orcadian sandstorm … an eloquent t...

Read More >

Reality+ by David J Chalmers review – are we living in a simulation?

A mind-bending philosophical investigation that argues virtual worlds are just as real as anything e...

Read More >

Time on Rock by Anna Fleming review – vertiginous adventures

An intimate account of 10 years spent learning to climb celebrates the “electrifying charge” of ri...

Read More >

When the Sahara Was Green by Martin Williams review – the sands of time

The fascinating story of a unique landscape surveys the climatic changes that made this desert dry –...

Read More >

Ancestors by Alice Roberts review – a story of movement and migration

A brilliant scientific storyteller reads stone, pottery and bones to bring us the latest moving upda...

Read More >