What is the Electromagnetic Spectrum?

The Electromagnetic Spectrum refers to the full range of all possible Electromagnetic Field energy frequencies. This energy traveling through space is called radiation.

Radiation is everywhere and in everything that gives off energy. This includes the Earth!

Simply defined, radiation is a process by which energy particles or waves travel though space. Radiant Energy is made up of small packets of particles, called photons. Photons can travel alone or move around together in synchrony. When photons move together, they do so in waves.

These waves are all categorized by least powerful to most powerful, depending on their energy (E), wavelength (λ), and frequency (f). Energy is how much “juice” it carries. Wavelength describes the distance over which the wave shape repeats, and this repetition is the frequency. When the energy of a wave increases, the frequency also increases and the wavelength decreases.

To visualize these different spans of waves, scientists came up with the Electromagnetic Spectrum.

Pretty much all energy falls somewhere on this Electromagnetic Spectrum.

To give you some perspective, visible energy or the light energy we see with our eyeballs lands in the middle of the spectrum. Visible light energy is generally not harmful. It’s considered a safe zone.

To the right, you have high energy ionizing radiation, which is bad for you. Ultraviolet light is famous for wrinkling skin, mutating skin cells and causing melanoma. Even further out, X-rays or Gamma rays are capable of annihilating atomic structure.

So you may ask yourself, what about lower energy waves? How could they be harmful? In the video below, learn the difference between low energy, non-ionizing radiation vs higher energy, ionizing radiation.

Watch: Non-Ionizing vs. Ionizing Radiation

Non-Ionizing EMF Radiation

Electromagnetic Radiation is EMF radiation, or EMR. However, EMF radiation is what we commonly call the lower-energy radiation that enables electricity to function. Namely microwave-frequency radiation, which is interchangeable with radio wave-frequency radiation (RF), and extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation. These frequencies range from 30 Hz to 300 GHz. The resulting current from these waves can create action, such as computer microprocessors communicating. Scientists have been able to harvest this energy to make awesome tools for mankind like computers and the Internet. RF gives your phone a wireless connection, while ELF powers its internal circuitry.

In the modern age, EMF surrounds us when we turn on our TVs, cell phones, tablets and laptops. In the words of Neo from the Matrix, “it is everywhere.” We need it to listen to the radio, navigate to a new place, communicate with people on phones or laptops, power our homes, and even blow dry our hair! Anything that needs a plug or battery is emitting some EMF energy.

When you expose yourself to these forms of low-level energy radiation should you be worried? They are, after all, on the left side of the spectrum and visible light is safe. While visible light might be higher on the spectrum that RF and ELF frequencies, it has also been around naturally for millions of years. Man-made EMF has only been around for the past hundred, and our bodies aren’t as equipped to protect against it.

Unfortunately, even at the low end of the spectrum, radiation can be dangerous, and in some ways, even more dangerous. The reason being, you don’t necessarily see danger right away when the changes it cause take time. While the waves are sorted out on a spectrum, that doesn’t mean their effects on humans are similarly sorted. 

As with anything, a little bit of radiation may be good for you, but too much radiation creates poison.

You may immediately notice the damage of high level of energy radiation, but lower level energy radiation can have just as serious side effects.

It was thought by the scientific community for a long time that the only way lower level energy radiation can cause harm is by the energy having a thermal effect on our bodies; basically, with high power levels this low-energy radiation is able to heat up our cells and tissues, and cause heat damage. It wasn’t thought that biological effects could be present without a paralleled heating effect.

However, new research has established that biological effects on cells do exist, regardless of any heating effects!

This shows that it is possible for lower-energy radiation, like that coming from cell phones and laptops, to affect our bodies. This level of Radio Frequency and Extremely Low Frequency radiation exposure has already been linked to a variety of health conditions, including: fertility problems, cancer, and neurological disease.

While it doesn’t have quite the health effects of atomic warfare, small effects in cells can interfere with cell communication, the transport of hormones and neurotransmitters, and can eventually shift entire processes in your body. It can become a serious problem with chronic exposure, but it is something that is easy to mitigate in your daily living, even as the world becomes more and more hyper-connected.


Frequencies on the Electromagnetic Spectrum

The Frequency (F) spectrum starts close to zero (0) and can extend to infinity. The Wavelength (W) spectrum also starts around zero and extends to infinity, in reverse.

The following identifies frequency band designations, nominal frequency ranges, nominal wavelengths, and application uses.

Band Designation
Frequency (Hz)
Wavelength
Applications
Audible
20 Hz -­ 20 kHz
>100 km
Acoustics
Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Radio
30 Hz -­ 300 Hz
10,000 km -­ 1,000 km
Electronics, Submarine Communications
Infralow Frequency (ILF)
300 Hz – 3 kHz
1,000 km -­ 100 km
Not Applicable
Very Low Frequency (VLF) Radio
3 kHz -­ 30 kHz
100 km -­ 10 km
Navigation, Weather
Low Frequency (LF) Radio
30 kHz -­ 300 kHz
10 km -­ 1 km
Navigation, Maritime Communications, Information and Weather Systems, Time Systems
Medium Frequency (MF) Radio
300 kHz -­ 3 MHz
1 km – 100 m
Navigation, AM Radio, Mobile Radio
High Frequency (HF) Radio
3 MHz – 30 MHz
100 – 10 m
Citizens Band (CB) Radio (aka Shortwave Radio), Mobile Radio, Maritime Radio
Very High Frequency (VHF) Radio
30 MHz -300 MHz
10 m -­ 1 m
Amateur (Ham) Radio, VHF TV, FM Radio, Mobile Satellite, Mobile Radio, Fixed Radio
Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Radio
300 MHz -­ 3 GHz
1 m -­ 10 cm
Microwave, Satellite, UHF TV, Paging, Cordless Telephone, Cellular and PCS Telephony, Wireless LAN (e.g., WiFi)
Super High Frequency (SHF) Radio
3 GHz -­ 30 GHz
10 cm – 1 cm
Microwave, Satellite, Wireless LAN (e.g., WiFi)
Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Radio
30 GHz -­ 300 GHz
1 cm -­ 1 mm
Microwave, Satellite, Radiolocation
Infrared Light (IR)
300 GHz – 400 THz
1 mm -­ 750 nm
Wireless LAN Bridges, Wireless LANs, Fiber Optics
Visible Light
400 THz – 1 PHz
750 nm -­ 380 nm
Not Applicable
Ultraviolet Light (UV)
1 PHz – 30 PHz
380 nm -10 nm
Not Applicable
X-Rays
30 PHz -­ 30 EHz
10 nm -­ .01 nm
Not Applicable
Gamma and Cosmic Rays
>3 EHz
<.1 nm
Not Applicable

 

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