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Peeling ordinary sticky tape can generate bursts of X-rays intense enough to produce an image of the bones in your fingers.
Seth Putterman and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles used a motor to unwind a roll of sticky tape and recorded the electromagnetic emissions. Ripping the tape from its roll at 3 centimetres per second generated X-ray bursts of 15 kiloelectronvolts – each lasting one-billionth of a second, and containing over a million photons.
Putterman admits he is not sure exactly what is going on. "My attitude is to marvel at the phenomenon – all we are doing is peeling tape, and nature sets up a process that gives you nanosecond X-ray bursts."