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The School of Looking: INVISIBLE LIGHT | Banana Music

© The School of Looking, Banana Music, 2020.

“I wouldn’t know a gamma ray if I saw it”

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

BANANA MUSIC: radiation from a banana creates music

It's easy to forget that Gamma rays are a form of light. If we think of these rays at all, we think of them as nuclear radiation (which is correct) that has little impact on our everyday world. A banana is a rare source of this invisible light which is emitted in tiny – and therefore safe – quantities by the potassium in the fruit. This artwork is about making this most subtle light source perceptible.

© The School of Looking, Banana Music (detail), 2020.

Gamma rays are photons emitted by the nuclear decay of radioactive isotopes such as Potassium 40. Like X rays, they can pass through matter, but they are higher in energy and shorter in wavelength and, therefore, more penetrating and dangerous.

Gamma ray imagery, confined until relatively recently to physics labs, is now used in medicine (PET scans) and in astronomy (Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope studies the elusive but spectacular Gamma-ray bursts associated with the birth of black holes).

Like other forms of ionizing radiation, Gamma rays can be detected by a Geiger-Muller Counter.

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