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Process by which energy is emitted from a source and propagated through the surrounding medium, or the energy involved in this process. Radiation consists of a flow of atomic or subatomic particles or of waves. Familiar examples are light (a form of electromagnetic radiation) and sound (a form of acoustic radiation). Both electromagnetic and acoustic radiation can be described as waves with a range of frequencies and intensities. Electromagnetic radiation is also often treated as discrete packets of energy, called photons. All matter is constantly bombarded by radiation from cosmic and terrestrial sources, and radioactive elements emit several types of radiation (seeradioactivity). See alsoCherenkov radiation, Hawking radiation, infrared radiation, synchrotron radiation, thermal radiation, ultraviolet radiation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on radiation, visit Britannica.com.