Monday, October 13, 2008

California Living


Mondays are always interesting. That's when we get to do all the things we should have done on Friday but forgot, and over the weekend when we were just too damn lazy, such as the Worm Roundup.

I'm a native Californian. I've never seen anything unusual in being able to pick vine-ripe tomatoes for the Christmas dinner salad. Or going skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. Or visa-versa, depending on the tides and the weather.

But if you fail in your duties as a Worm Rounder-Upper there won't be any ripe tomatoes for your Christmas dinner, nor those BLT's you like to build. But Monday is also the day when the physicians treating my cancer decreed that I would have Mr. Roentgen's Mysterious Rays blasted through my right hip, into a photographic plate about 12 x 18. In fact, X-rays are about the last ditch when it comes to photographic plates, what with regular cameras and film being replaced by memory chips, disks and tapes. (I've got a hunch we'll soon see the last of film in x-rays, as a layer of fluorescing material is bonded to an ultra-high density array of photo-sensitive sensors. The resulting image would probably be a couple of gigabytes at a minimum and a terabyte isn't beyond reason. The advantages of a digitalized x-ray are almost too numerous to mention. This method is already in use in various scanning devices,(*) in which the digitalized data from a MOVING x-ray -- or other short wave-length emitter -- are fed into a computer which then generates a 3D image of the target area. (*) CAT Scan, PET Scan, SAT Scan and so forth.) But so far, no one has applied that technology to the Plain Vanilla x-ray machine, where you pump a few million volts between the cathode and the anode of a specially configured vacuum tube and direct the resulting X-rays toward the target, behind which you've placed a sheet of photographic film. To get to the film the x-rays gotta pass THROUGH the target, be it toes or telephones and the resulting image depicts the ease or difficulty of that passage.

The cancer is in my lower back and the pelvic girdal. Recent episodes of pain indicate that it may have gotten to my right hip as well, hence the need for Mr. Roentgen and his Rays. Which kept me from my duly appointed rounds in the garden and allow certain visitors to reach an unruly size, as shown in the photo. We don't use insecticides. But a lot of folks do. The catapillars quickly become immune to the stuff. But the birds that would normally eat the catapillars don't. The insecticides build up in the catapillars until they become toxic to birds. No more birds.

So I pick them off. Doesn't take long because we only have about half a dozen tomato plants, more than enough for our needs. A lot of folks from exotic places like Detroit or Buffalo give you funny looks when you mention growing tomatoes all the year 'round. But the worms believe it -- big wormy smile on their little wormy faces. Mebbe I could rig up some kinda portable X-ray emitter, couple of passes and all them caterpillars would be gonners. But until then I am the Official Worm Rounder-Upper. One of the burdens of living in California.

-R.S.Hoover

6 comments:

jc said...

Film is still used in aerial survey where stereo is required. The resolution (pixcel size) and size (number of pixcels) needed is orders of magitude from where we are now.

Looking at digital images in a stereoscope is like looking at a flat plain with rows of neatly planted bushes.

C R said...

The idea of using a sensor as the receptor for an x-ray image is certainly gaining acceptance, my dentist has been doing it for at least 3-4 years now. Granted that sensor fits in your mouth and its one hell of a lot smaller than anything a cancer patient would require. But my dentist claims the required dose of radiation for an electronic image to be an order of magnitude less(!) than if one was exposing x-ray film.

C R said...

The idea of using a sensor as the receptor for an x-ray image is certainly gaining acceptance, my dentist has been doing it for at least 3-4 years now. Granted that sensor fits in your mouth and its one hell of a lot smaller than anything a cancer patient would require. But my dentist claims the required dose of radiation for an electronic image to be an order of magnitude less(!) than if one was exposing x-ray film.

shepner said...

I find it both amusing and annoying that my dentist and the vet both have moved away from using film but the local doctor's office (and the hospital's emergency room) is still using film.

From a quick google search I found the Kodak Carestream DRX-1 System which replaces existing x-ray film cassettes. It looks to be pending FDA approval so perhaps there is hope.

Anonymous said...

In fact you are correct. You needn't even use a layer of phosphorescent material over a sensor. You can build Charge-Coupled Devices (CCDs) and CMOS sensors that are directly sensitive to X-rays. These were first used in fluroscopes (X-ray moving pictures) which were much more sensitive that the fluorescent screens that were previous used and hence lowered the patient's exposure to X-rays. They also lent themselves to storing these moving images more easily and as far as I know have all but completely replace the old fluorescent screens we remember from years past. Digital sensors are also beginning to replace photographic film for still image X-rays, but they are not quite as sensitive nor as fine detail in some applications, though they are rapidly getting there. Of course, digital fluoroscopes have the advantage of being able to look at the image immediately without photographic development and they naturally lend themselves to transmission over communications networks and easy storage and retrieval.

Coz said...

Ah, the tomato hornworms. The first I ever saw of them, I was too intimidated to forcefully go after them.

Jimson weed, (aka moonflowers, or devil's trumpets), makes for a good canary-in-the-coal-mine for hornworms. They choose the moonflowers first, and buy me the extra time to notice them before they get to the tomatoes.