Marie Curie and Spooky Rays: Crash Course History of Science #31

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Late 1800s and early 1900s saw a revolution in the very basics of what is is stuff. This story features killer rays and a family of geniuses. Its the of radioactivity the birth of particle physics and the life and enduring legacy of marie sk odowska curie.
Now nobel prizes. Which started being given out in maries time arent everything. But she was the first woman to win one the first person to win two of them.
The only woman and one of only four people to win in two different fields. And she remains the only person ever to win nobels in multiple natural sciences intro music plays before we get to marie lets review physics so far scientists around the world. Had worked out the physics of newtons universe.
In which large visible stuff collides due to the invisible. But lawlike action of gravity. As well as the strange world of thermodynamics and electromagnetism heat.
Is energy radio waves can carry signals around the world all weird and about to get weirder in 1895 german engineer. Wilhelm r. Ntgen was experimenting with making cathode rays or rays of electrons his device was blacked out.
But he noticed that a piece of cardboard painted with barium platinocyanide fluoresced or glowed when it was placed near the cathode ray tube. This made no sense no light meant no glowing and yet my dudes cardboard glowed so r ntgen set up another experiment he blacked out the machine turned the labs lights out. And saw that the painted board was already glowing in the dark faintly sure.
But glowing. The machine wasnt on no known source of energy could have been producing that spooky light so r ntgen threw himself into investigating what he called spooky rays after his friend count fritz von spooky. Im kidding he called them x rays after the letter mathematicians use to symbolize unknown variables and this phenomenon got spookier when testing the rays on different materials and arriving at lead r ntgen saw a projection of his own skeleton.
So he experimented with creating images of what he was seeing and at this point. Made the now typical scientist move he asked his wife for help because the couple that sciences together stays together. So anna bertha r.
Ntgen. Let her husband make an image of the bones in her hand using x rays and then r ntgen wrote up his experiments in a paper called wait for it on a new kind of rays this paper earned him an honorary medical doctorate the very first nobel prize in physics in 1901 and a place in the hall of fame of radiology or using radiation to see the inside of the body in fact. In his day x.
Rays were sometimes called r ntgen rays in early 1896 at the academie des sciences french physicist antoine henri becquerel heard about the discovery of x rays becquerel had been experimenting on phosphorescence or hitting materials with light to make them glow new colors. He reasoned that maybe some phosphorescence was related to r ntgens x rays so he busted out his inherited supply of his fathers uranium. Yes seriously.
This was a thing. Thanks dad becquerel soon. Realized using photography that some materials naturally gave off spooky rays like uranium left an impression in a photographic plate just by being near it some sort of energy was hitting the plate.
This was radiation energy. That comes out of matter as it decays or breaks down into other smaller forms of matter curie would later name this process of decay radioactivity becquerel dove into research on radioactivity. He figured out that uranium emits rays that can be deflected or pushed around by electromagnetism so theyre a different form of radiation from x rays which are not affected by electromagnetism at all becquerel also researched what happens when you mix radiation and magnetic fields showing that radiation can have electrically negative positive or neutral charge.
And he did important work on electrons. Which well get to next time becquerels contributions to radiation studies were wide ranging from basics to potential applications. When he accidentally burned himself by carrying around a piece of radium.
He and other researchers concluded that radioactive substances might be able to burn bad stuff. Like tumors. So they might have a medical use in fighting cancer.
This continued the tradition of using radiation as a medical technique that r ntgen had started and the curies would build on becquerel died in 1908 likely due to his work with radioactive substances. He was only 55. He left behind a clear research question what happens when matter radiates spooky energy.
Enter maria curie born marie sk odowska in warsaw at the time part of the russian empire born to science. But the russians outlawed lab science in schools and the university of warsaw. Didnt admit women so she went to a secret school called the flying university.
Which is totally real and you should google then in 1891. She joined her older sister bronis awa in paris. They made a pact to help each other finish degrees.
Marie smashed this goal. Despite not being great at french and with no formal training in the sciences. She enrolled at the university of paris.
One of the best schools on earth. And earned a degree with distinction in physics basically a masters in 1893 and a second in mathematics in 1894 at first she was super broke and hungry she tutored all night after her own classes and she was barely keeping up. But then after her first degree.
She was hired to study the relationship between magnetism and steel for the society for the encouragement of national industry. She needed a place to work and in her search for a lab. She met pierre curie.
Who taught at the school of physics and chemistry and they fell in love over science pierre proposed. But marie was like yeaaah. Im from poland.
The place germany and russia have been fighting over for a thousand years cold. Im moving back. And you dont want to do that right.
But plot twist pierre was like anything for you even leaving la belle epoque.

ray is an african american who is currently enrolled-0
ray is an african american who is currently enrolled-0

Paris right as modern art is being born marie said. Ill think about it on summer break. She returned to poland and went up for a job at the prestigious jagiellonian university of krak w.
But the jagiellonians were clear they would never grant a professorship to a woman no matter how brilliant so marie returned to paris and started a. Phd she also made pierre finally finish his own phd. And he was promoted he admitted that marie was his biggest discovery.
Which is pretty sweet well in 1895. They got hitched. It was a secular affair marie wore the same clothes she wore to the lab marie found out about r ntgens and becquerels discoveries and being trained in the study of electromagnetism formulated.
An experiment she used a sensitive electrometer. Which measured electric charge and was developed by pierre years earlier to test how ray producing uranium affected electromagnetic fields. She found that uranium gave off rays that made the very air conduct electricity.
Her work also showed that the only thing that mattered in terms of this effect was how much uranium was present thats it the uranium. Didnt have to interact with anything in order to give off energy and change electromagnetic fields. What happened next thoughtbubble marie created for the first time a theory of radioactivity in some substances atoms themselves must be breaking down slowly releasing energy this theory became foundational for modern physics.
From the presocratic atomists to the the creator of the periodic table. Dmitri mendeleev. A long tradition of people studying stuff had built upon an imaginary indivisible unit of matter the atom that a woman from warsaw had just divided radioactive decay clearly violated the immutability of atoms so atoms could be split intense foreshadowing oh.
And a lot of this work happened between her marriage in 1895. And the birth of her first daughter in 1897 and it happened in a shed she scienced in an unventilated room unaware of the dangers of handling radioactive substances and when i say she i mean it she recorded her experiments and her ideas separate from her belov d. Husbands but they increasingly worked together as pierre realized that smart as he was she wore the brain pants err you know what i mean here are some highlights in 1898 she showed that thorium is radioactive around the same time.
As another scientist. Carl schmidt. Also in 1898.
Marie and pierre discovered. The element polonium naming it after her oppressed homeland also in 1898. Most famously.
She isolated. The radioactive element radium out of uranium ore in fact she developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes or forms of the same element with different properties which we now know are due to different amounts of neutrons. The curies shared a nobel prize with becquerel in 1903 basically for discovering that while most matter doesnt decay quickly.
Some relatively rare elements do and marie applied her theory. She used radioactive materials to treat cancer pierre had the idea of implanting small seeds of radioactive material into tumors to shrink them and when the great war broke out in 1914. She set up mobile.
Radiography units meaning x. Ray systems to help field doctors treat soldiers. Thanks thoughtbubble tragically marie died in 1934 of cancer.
She literally gave her life to help others and belatedly in 1995. Marie sk odowska curie. The first female professor at the sorbonne became the first woman to be entombed in pariss panth on aka science.
Valhalla for her own achievements. But marie was not the only professional woman scientist to succeed in the early 1900s other notables include american chemist alice ball one of the first female chemistry. Professors and one of the first professional african american women of science.
She developed the best treatment for hansens disease or leprosy until world war ii. Czech american biochemist gerty cori worked out the important cycle of how glycogen a form of sugar breaks down in muscles into lactic acid. And then is reformed as a source of energy.
This became known as the cori cycle and she won the nobel prize for discovering it in 1947. Finally the curies daughter. Ir.
Ne. Joliot curie. Was an outstanding chemist.
Who also won a nobel while nobels arent the only or best way to tell the story of the history of science. The fact that we could do whole episodes on three different members of the curie family is just dang impressive next time. We follow the development of modern physics into the office of a humble patent clerk with a big secret the key to the relationship between matter and energy its einstein o.
clock crash course history of science is filmed in the dr. Cheryl c. Kinney studio.
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