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Odd question: danger?

  1. Nov 11, 2007 #1

    I'm curious, for a novella I'm writing, whether standing in front of an electron or other particle beam in a particle accelerator would be dangerous for a person. I would think not, because I'd presume the particles would just go through us as they're always doing. But maybe in such concentrated form, they are, like a laser, dangerous?


  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2007 #2


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    If you're talking about a typical 10 MeV or greater particle accelerator, then yes, it will eventually kill you.

    Remember what "beta radiation" is. It is high energy electrons. While its ionization factor is smaller than alpha, it is still dangerous enough to damage your body molecules. Proton beams would be even more dangerous.

    And we still haven't talked about the bremstralung radiation yet that could even be as lethal. This is why all accelerator facilities are enclosed in radiation shielding.

  4. Nov 11, 2007 #3


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    For comparison, a TV set electron gun is about 20KeV, isn't it?
  5. Nov 11, 2007 #4
    Ah, many thanks, very helpful. But when you say "eventually," what time frame are we talking? Minutes? An hour?

  6. Nov 11, 2007 #5


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    I'll tell you what I was told when I was working at the Tevatron (Fermilab), which is a proton-antiproton collider - the largest such collider until the LHC at CERN turns on next year. I asked if anyone ever worked in the beam tunnel (not even stand in the beam, just stand next to it) when the beam is turned on, and the guy giving me the tour just started laughing at me. He said that he would give such a person no more than one hour before he died, and it would be the most painful hour he ever experienced!!

    I know this is not very precise, but that gives you an idea.
  7. Nov 15, 2007 #6
    precise enough, thanks!
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