Sciency Words: (proper noun) a special series here on Planet Pailly focusing on the definitions and etymologies of science or science-related terms. Today on Sciency Words, we’re talking about:
A while back, I told you about a few scientific terms that sounded to me an awful lot like magic spells. I couldn’t shake the mental image of Harry Potter style wizards and witches screaming these words at each other at the top of their lungs.
All of these terms have to do with the breaking of chemical bonds, caused by light (photolysis), electricity (electrolysis), or heat (pyrolysis). In that original Harry Potter themed post, I promised that if I found another scientific term that fit this same pattern, I’d draw someone in Slytherin colors casting the spell. All the Hogwarts houses should be represented, right?
Well friends, that the day has finally come! I was recently skimming through this online glossary of astrobiology terms when I stumbled upon the word:
Radiolysis is the breaking of chemical bonds due to ionizing radiation. To be clear, because there are lots of different forms of radiation out there, radiolysis refers to ionizing radiation only.
That’s the kind of radiation that most people find really scary, and rightfully so. Ionizing radiation is most commonly associated with atomic bombs and nuclear reactors and stuff like that. It’s also alarmingly common in outer space. The Sun, along with all the other stars in the cosmos, are giant thermonuclear reactors, after all! And despite their best efforts, all the best witches and wizards at NASA have still not found a shield charm that adequately protects our astronauts from the radiolysis curse.
I guess what I’m saying is radiolysis is some pretty dark and dangerous magic, so it’s appropriate that we get to see a Slytherin student playing around with this spell!
P.S.: And in case you were wondering why I was skimming through a glossary of astrobiology terms… I was doing preliminary research for a certain alphabet themed challenge that’s coming up soon. Stay tuned!