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Atomic Physics

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What's the jist physicists! hey guys, so I had a question about the different types of radioactive particles/radiation.. which one is the worst type of radiation: alpha, beta or gamma? I realize that gamma is the worst in the sense that it's most penetrable. But apparently they have the lowest ionizing ability? 


so.. hypothetically, if they had the same level of penetrability would alpha particles be considered most harmful to health?


thanks a bunch guys.

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Okay, this is NCEA Level 2 stuff for me, so it may not be them most informative, but I'll cover what we learnt regarding this.


Alpha particles are the most ionising but they are the least penetrating, therefore it is very unlikely for you to be affected by them unless you swallow it. It can not break through the skin as it is blocked by even a few cm of air or a piece of paper.


Gamma rays are the most penetrating, but they have very little ionising ability. You need quite a bit of lead to block gamma rays.


Beta particles sit somewhere in the middle of the them. They are not extremely penetrating, but are far better than alpha particles though weaker than gamma rays. They are not as ionising as alpha particles but less than gamma rays.


I'm sure you've covered this, but it's best to just recap it for the next part.


How dangerous a particle (or ray) is depends on its location to your body.


If it is inside the body after being breathed/swallowed in, then alpha particles are the most damaging as the cells easily absorb them. Beta particles and gamma rays just tend to pass through them.


If the source is outside of the body, then alpha particles are not dangerous as it is unlikely that it will actually reach the body. However, beta particles and gamma rays are very dangerous because they can penetrate the skin and then get into the cells.


Therefore, how dangerous radiation is really depends on its location in relation to your body. I hoped this helped - I'm not the best at explanations.

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My physics is a bit rusty, but I think that the post by thesibyllinebooks is correct, and a good explanation to boot! So if Alpha and Gamma particles/radiation did have the same penetrating ability (which is definitely not the case in real life though) then Alpha would be more dangerous because it is more ionising. 

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