Study on radiation and the discovery of X-rays

After the discovery of X-rays and “uranium rays” (radioactivity) in 1895 and 1896 respectively, Intermittent search for new forms of radiation is spreading in laboratories around the world. In 1903, René Blondeau, a professor at the University of Nancy in France, during an experiment in which, among other things, he tried to pass X-rays through a quartz prism, “from the corner of his eye” noticed that the detector was an electric spark that was getting brighter. Since it has been shown that the x-rays are not deflected when passing through a quartz prism, The French physicist thought he had discovered a new class of rays he called “N rays.”In honor of his city.

Between 1903 and 1906 More than 300 research papers have been published N-ray by more than 100 researchers, which confirmed Blondot’s findings. The most fascinating aspect of this phenomenon was the hypothesis that these rays were emitted not only by bodies previously exposed to the sun, but even by the human body. Despite the weak radiation emitted by the human brain, their discovery secured a place in the history of science for Blondot who, now on his way to the Nobel Prize for Physics, was awarded the Leconte Prize by the Academy of Sciences in August 1904. (a) 20,000 francs.

The funny discovery of N-rays, or maybe not

Newspapers at the time wrote that humanity was riding a new wave, perhaps even more mysterious than the discovery of X-rays themselves. However, some researchers remained puzzled. The physicist Heinrich Rubens, summoned by Kaiser Wilhelm II, eager to see these famous N-rays, could not show him anything, although Blond kindly sent him detailed instructions.

During a conference in Cambridge, while discussing with his skeptical colleagues, Robbins suggested sending one of his former students, the American physicist Robert Wood, who was in Europe at the time, to Blondot’s laboratory. In fact, no English, German, or American scientist succeeded in obtaining the same results All documentation in this regard came from French laboratories.

On September 21, 1904, Wood appeared in Nancy’s laboratory, greeted by French scientists with proof of the existence of mysterious N-rays, capable of penetrating anything but wood (“wood” in English means “wood”, a unique coincidence!). Wood then sat in Blondut’s lab, and the assistant turned off the lights and asked him to look through the machine’s lens. Wood saw nothing.

Noting that the only evidence for the existence of N-rays was in the so-called variations of the irregular flicker of an electric spark, Without seeing it, Wood surreptitiously removed the aluminum prism from the spectrometer. Despite removing a staple from the experimental device, Blondot continued the experiment without worry, as if nothing had happened.. Before the lights went on, Wood returned the piece. Suspicious of the American physicist’s maneuvers, Blondot’s assistant intervened, saying that nothing could be seen, even though the post was back in place.

A few days after the visit, Wood published a short letter in Nature in which he spoke of his visit, claiming that he was “unable to report a single observation that seemed to indicate the presence of rays” andExpressing “the firm belief that those who obtained positive results have somehow deceived themselves”. in a simple and elegant way, Wood proved that N-rays only existed in Blundot’s over-optimistic imagination.

From the point of view of the error, it is difficult to understand the fatal error that Blondot made, on that day in 1903, when he interpreted the optical effect as a signal of a new form of radiation. Instead, the hundreds of articles published up to 1906 are astonishinggreat scholars such as Poincaré who went on to defend Blondeau, encouraging him to continue his research.

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