How does the electromagnetic spectrum include x-rays, radiowaves and microwaves?

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sasha asked the Naked Scientists:

I have a question, why are there radio WAVES infrared RADIATION and x-RAYS, in the electronic spectrum?

What do you think?


Offline DoctorBeaver

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Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-Rays. He noticed that when he made sparks in a vacuum tube, a flourescent tube at the other end of the lab glowed slightly. He didn't at first know what caused it but assumed it was some kind of "ray". As these rays were unknown, he just called them X-Rays and the name has stuck ever since.

I think radio "waves" are so-called because photons, which mediate the electromagnetic force, can behave like waves or particles, but it is their wave-like properties that make radio transmissions possible.

As for why it's called infrared radiation -  - although I have seen them also referred to as infrared waves.
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Offline Pumblechook

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They are essentially all the same.  Just different frequencies.  Radio waves are what we use for radio communications. 



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The EM spectrum was there long before humans arranged it into categories.
These categories are mostly based on the way we generate them or detect them. The visible part was obviously different from the rest simply because we could see it.
Radio waves of various frequencies could be generated and detected using 'circuit' components. Their various Bands and descriptions were largely based on steps in advancing technology.

This system of categorising leads to an significant overlap between X rays and Gamma rays; X rays are generated using an electrical source and the lower energy Gamma rays (same frequencies as high energy X rays) emanate from Nuclear reactions.
We can get too carried away with taxonomy.