Monday, June 27, 2011

Astronomy And Potential New Cancer Treatement

One of the many complaints that we often get from ignorant people is the question on why physics don't help to find the cure for cancer. We get such complaints whenever the topic is on the funding for high energy physics, for astronomy/astrophysics, etc.. etc., i.e. when people simply can't see how such funding has any direct impact on their lives.

Of course, anyone who knows anything about these fields can tell you that while there many not be any obvious and direct impact on our lives from the subject matter of these fields, the advancement and technology brought about due to progress in these fields certainly have a direct and immediate impacts on our lives. The advancement in particle accelerators alone can account for a huge selling point as a direct benefit from high energy physics.

Interestingly enough, here's another one, and it comes from the field of astronomy. Knowledge from astronomy may offer a way treat cancer!

In studying how chemical elements emit and absorb radiation inside stars and around black holes, the astronomers discovered that heavy metals such as iron emit low-energy electrons when exposed to X-rays at specific energies.

Their discovery raises the possibility that implants made from certain heavy elements could enable doctors to obliterate tumors with low-energy electrons, while exposing healthy tissue to much less radiation than is possible today. Similar implants could enhance medical diagnostic imaging.

So, in addition to the advances made in detector physics that also benefits the public, here's another aspect from astronomy that could have a direct impact on our lives.

The moral of the story here is that, one never knows how a particular knowledge or field of study may contribute to our lives. When politicians belittle certain aspect of research which they could not understand or have little realization on the significance, they could have easily jeopardized something that could be important. Something that may appear esoteric has been shown to have a significant impact later on. One needs to only look at the history of quantum mechanics.


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