# Are microwaves and radio waves similar?

All electro-magnetic radiation is similar. Microwaves and radio waves are among them.

But that doesn’t mean electro-magnetic radiation is simple! Have a look at the NASA URL, below. The Wikipedia article “Electromagnetic spectrum” covers similar material (it’s just more boring.)

The universe is largely radiation and matter. Matter, you know a fair amount about, because it doesn’t move around too much, you can touch it, eat it, shampoo with it.

Electro-magnetic radiation (EMR) is much trickier, because you can’t see or feel a good part of it. Except for visible light and heat, you need instruments to even figure out it’s there. And it moves really fast, much of the time at the speed-of-light. All EMR has a wavelength, microwaves and radio waves are just radiation at different wavelengths.

Although they are different wavelengths of the same thing, they behave quite differently. Infrared radiation is the heat on a vacation beach on a sunny day. You see the light waves in visible radiation. Your cell phone communicates on radio radiation. You were scanned at the airport by X-Ray radiation. They heated up your meal on the plane (but hopefully not your dinner tonight) using microwave radiation.

So the answer to the question is that microwaves and radio waves are both EMR, they just have different wavelengths.

Can you switch one kind of radiation for another? Yes. Some convert very easily. It’s no big deal to turn visible light into heat, for example. X-Rays are more difficult, dentists and doctors, for example, typically slow them down with sheets of dense material such as lead. Gamma-Rays, which are even smaller than X-Rays, are incredibly difficult to stop.

But EMR gets weirder, the more you look into it. Einstein wrote E = MC squared. What that *means* is that energy and matter are convertable. It’s the basis of atomic energy plants, for example.

You’ll also enjoy considering at leisure that microwaves and radio waves aren’t really waves. At least not completely. Sort of. They are also particles, depending on what aspect of them you consider. Muahahahaaha. (Take a deep breath, and have a look at the second URL. It has pictures, it’s ok.)

You care about radiation. Maybe the details are bewildering, but the little pieces you can grasp are critical to understand, maybe even to your life. As a personal example, I need to wear special sunglasses. Polaroid glasses don’t cut it. Why? Because Polaroid just removes a particularly annoying kind of visible light. Ultraviolet radiation, also in sunlight, causes skin cancer and cataracts. That’s right. Your typical sunglasses are useless against the radiation that really hurts your eyes.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help being a little confused and even afraid of radiation. We don’t seem to understand it very well and in many cases we can’t control it well.

Now you can understand why many people just don’t believe the cell phone companies that cell phone use is completely safe! Because truthfully? They don’t really know. We’re just learning to understand about that.

But one thing I like about radiation. Something that’s scared me since I was a kid. This is silly, but … you know … bedtime nightmares. It used to be said that black holes were so dense nothing escaped them. Not matter, not even electro-magnetic radiation. Everything got sucked in, and nothing ever left. Turns out, black holes can emit radiation. “Hawking radiation” is the way the universe avoids getting sucked into one big mass. So when I’m going to sleep, I think good thoughts about radiation.