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Zoe Louise Matthews | ASY-EOS | UK

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Beautiful x-ray peek inside an interesting left foot

Around the time of my birthday, I broke my little toe whilst dancing. After a few days of struggling, I begrudgingly went to the nearest Swiss hospital for a scan. A few weeks on, I found something in my letterbox that I assumed would be a bill, but instead it was a copy of my foot x-ray! This made my day, because, as you will see below, I have an uncommonly interesting foot!

X-rays provide proof that Zoe is wierd on the inside

X-rays provide proof that Zoe is wierd on the inside

If you look carefully on the left you can see the break on the little-toe proximal phalanx that caused this picture to be possible. However, the most striking part is on the right – two big screws! A few years ago I had an operation to fix a “bunion”. This was a deformation of bone, where the big toe bent inwards, its metatarsal separated from the others leaving a big gap, and a large bone growth formed at the base making shoes painful, uncomfortable and prone to getting holes worn into them! The surgeon removed the bone and broke the toe, cut tendons and screwed into my bones – it took a long recovery, and I was saddened at the time to not be allowed a copy of the x-ray “before-and-after” pictures! So to get this in my postbox was like a late birthday present (even if it came with a rather irritating side-effect!)

I still wish I had a picture of my other interesting skeletal oddity – I have a spare rib in my neck. Yes, you read that correctly.  1 in 500 people have one. Under X-rays, I look like a slightly lopsided Frankenstein.

This has got me thinking – if you wanted to start talking about electromagnetic radiation and its applications you could spend a lifetime. I would like to dedicate the next few blogs to some interesting and taken-for-granted uses (and unusual behaviours) of various parts of the EM spectrum, linking the apparently mundane and ordinary to the extreme, and to the work particle physicists are doing with it.

We have been having some very stormy nights here in St Genis, France. The lightning has been falling very close to where I and some other CERN PhD students live, and it is interesting to see how fascinated we all are as physicists by the experience – we have an almost childlike excitement about it (and in my case, a very childlike fear!) Natural lightning has been measured to produce x-rays, but it isn’t very well understood why (it doesn’t reach temperatures anywhere near hot enough to explain it). However, the x-rays are apparently quite useful in helping scientists try to predict the path of otherwise fairly unpredictable lightning strikes.

Interesting stuff! I will come back to the topic of X-rays when I have more time.

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One response to “Beautiful x-ray peek inside an interesting left foot”

  1. ingrid says:

    Hi Zoe,
    so we have one more thing in common – I also have an additional rip in my neck.