Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Today's Word: Kerma

Kerma is a ratio! Watch out, this one is long!

It sounds a lot like Karma, and it's not all that dissimilar in some ways. Karma, of course, is the Hindu and Buddhist term for the sum effect of a person's actions which then determines the course of their life - it accumulates, so some believe, and can have effect on future incarnations. Karma is some heavy stuff!

But Kerma doesn't have any linguistic or historical ties to Karma!

Nor does the modern term have anything to do with the ancient Egyptian trading center named Kerma. The city of Kerma was a hub of activity along the Nile that is a rich source of knowledge for modern archaeologists! Kerma pottery is distinctive because of its delicate tulip-like form and its bold red-to-black color transition!

Kerma, as it is used today, stands for 'Kinetic Energy Released in Matter'.

Kerma is a scientific term! It's a ratio that describes the release of charged electrons into a solid, usually due to radiation.

Kerma is measured in units called Grays. (Named after famed British radiologist Louis Harold Gray, who pioneered the use of radiation therapy to battle cancer. Gray loved the sciences, but couldn't stand languages! No, it took falling in love to bring literature to the scientist. He famously read volume after volume of classic stories to his wife who had been blinded in her youth. In addition to his warm heart and vast scientific mind, he was also an accomplished furniture builder and enthusiastic tea-drinker!) One Gray is equal to one Joule/Kilogram.

Kerma is important because by defining a measure of radiation's effects, Gray has given us the ability to control our exposure to radiation: Kerma gives us the ability to differentiate between radiation exposure that helps, and radiation exposure that harms. And that, my friends, is very important thing to be able to measure.

So how, you ask is kerma similar to Karma? To me, they are similar because they both measure the effect of energy on our lives - and in doing so, give us the choice to seek change for the better.



Blogger Mojo said...

Kerma Kerma Kerma Kerma Kerma Chameleooooonnn....

2:42 PM  

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