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Recent Developments in Physics - Physics in medical diagnosis and therapy | 12th Physics : UNIT 11 : Recent Developments in Physics

Chapter: 12th Physics : UNIT 11 : Recent Developments in Physics

Physics in medical diagnosis and therapy

Medical science very much revolves around physics principles. Medical instrumentation has widened the life span due to the technology integrated diagnosis and treatment of most of the diseases.

Physics in medical diagnosis and therapy

Medical science very much revolves around physics principles. Medical instrumentation has widened the life span due to the technology integrated diagnosis and treatment of most of the diseases. This modernisation in all fields is possible due to efficient application of fundamental physics. 

The development in medical field has been proportional to the evolution of physics as indicated below (Not for examination)

1. 1895 : X-rays (Wilhelm Conrad-Röntgen) - Radiology-Xray imaging

2. 1896 and 1898 : Theory of Radioactivity (Antonie Henri Becquerrel, Pierre Curie and Marie Cuire) - Radioisotope imaging Nuclear Medicine

3. 1934: Artifical Radioactivity (Joliot and Irene Curie) - Scintigraphy

4. 1950: Echography & Sonography - Ecography

5. 1979: X- ray computed tomography (Cormack and Hounsfield) - Computed Tomography (CT)

6. 1952: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) (Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell) - Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

7. 1934: Artifical Radioactivity (Joliot and Irene Curie) - Positron Emission Tomography

8. 1940’s: Optical fibre - Endoscopy, Biomedical sensors

9. 1960: LASER - Surgical instrument and diagonsis tool

10. 1959: Nanotechnology - Nanomedicine Drug delivary

 11. 2005: Dual Source Computed Tomography (DSCT) - Computed Tomography (CT)

 12. 1998: Nuclear medicine (David Townsend, Ronald Nutt) - Fusion Imaging Techniques



The recent advancement in medical technology includes


The innovation in medical diagnosis has taken leaps and bounds due to the integration of technology and basic physics. A few of such advancements are discussed.

1. Virtual reality

Medical virtual reality is effectively used to stop the brain from processing pain and cure soreness in the hospitalized patients. Virtual reality has enhanced surgeries by the use of 3D models by surgeons to plan operations. It helps in the treatment of Autism, Memory loss, and Mental illness.

2. Precision medicine

Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. In this medical model it is possible to customise healthcare, with medical decisions, treatments, practices, or products which are tailored to the individual patient.

3. Health wearables

A health wearable is a device used for tracking a wearer's vital signs or health and fitness related data, location, etc. Medical wearables with artificial intelligence and big data provide an added value to healthcare with a focus on diagnosis, treatment, patient monitoring and prevention.


Big Data: Extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

4. Artificial organs

An artificial organ is an engineered device or tissue that is implanted or integrated into a human. It is possible to interface it with living tissue or to replace a natural organ. It duplicates or augments a specific function or functions of human organs so that the patient may return to a normal life as soon as possible.

5. 3D printing

Advanced 3D printer systems and materials assist physicians in a range of operations in the medical field from audiology, dentistry, orthopedics and other applications.

6. Wireless brain sensors

Wireless brain sensors monitor intracranial pressure and tempera- ture and then are absorbed by the body. Hence there is no need for surgery to remove these devices.

7. Robotic surgery

Robotic surgery is a type of surgical procedure that is done using robotic systems. Robotically-assisted surgery helps to overcome the limitations of pre-existing minimally-invasive surgical procedures and to enhance the capabilities of surgeons performing open surgery.

8. Smart inhalers

Inhalers are the main treatment option for asthma. Smart inhal- ers are designed with health systems and patients in mind so that they can offer maximum benefit. Smart inhalers use bluetooth technology to detect inhaler use, remind patients when to take their medication and gather data to help guide care.

Other recent developments in physics

Particle Physics

Particle physics deals with the theory of fundamental particles of nature and it is one of the active research areas in physics. Initially it was thought that atom is the fundamental entity of matter. In 1930s, it was established that atoms are made up of electrons, protons and neutrons.

In the 1960s, quarks were discovered and it was understood that proton and neutron are made up of quarks. In the meantime, the particle physics research gained momentum and has grown exponentially both in theoretical and experimental perspective. Later it was found that the quarks interact through gluons. It is the field which received more number of noble prizes. Recently in the year 2013, famous ‘Higgs particles’ also known as “God” particles were discovered and for this, Peter Higgs and Englert received noble prize in physics. It is the ‘Higgs particle’ which gives mass to many particles like protons, neutrons etc.


Cosmology is the branch that involves the origin and evolution of the universe.

It deals with formation of stars, galaxy etc. In the year 2015, the existence of “gravitational waves” was discovered and noble prize was awarded for this discovery in the year 2017.

Gravitational waves are the disturbances in the curvature of space-time and it travels with speed of light. Any accelerated charge emits electromagnetic wave. Similarly any accelerated mass emits gravitational waves but these waves are very weak even for masses like earth. The strongest source of gravitational waves are black holes. The discovery of gravitational waves made it possible to study the structure of black holes since it is the strongest source of gravitational waves. In fact, the recent discoveries of gravitational waves are emitted by two black holes when they merge to a single black hole. In fact, Albert Einstein theoretically proposed the existence of ‘gravitational waves’ in the year 1915. After 100 years, it is experimentally proved that his predictions are correct.

Gravitational wave

Black holes are end stage of stars which are highly dense massive object. Its mass ranges from 20 times mass of the sun to 1 million times mass of the sun. It has very strong gravitational force such that no particle or even light can escape from it. The existence of black holes is studied when the stars orbiting the black hole behave differently from the other stars. Every galaxy has black hole at its center. Sagittarius A* is the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Black hole sagittarus A*

The famous physicist Stephen Hawking worked in the field of black holes.

Actual photograph of a super massive black hole M87*

Super computers and eight telescopes stationed on five continents (EVENT HORIZON TELESCOPE) were used to develope a huge data to accomplish this. It has once again confirmed the Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Quantum information theory (Not for examination)

It is another fast developing research area which deals with improving the information storage using quantum computers. The present computers store information in the form of ‘bits’ but quantum computers store information in the form of ‘qubits’. ‘qubit’ refers to quantum bit and it is the basic unit of quantum information. Classical bit implies either 0 or 1. But qubit not only includes 0 or 1 and also linear superposition of 0 and 1. This technology reduces the calculating time exponentially. This research field has very promising application in future.

Many striking innovations and discoveries originate from scientific fictions. Robots are also no exception to this. The word robotics was derived from the word robot. It was introduced in the play ‘Rossum Universal Robots’ by the Zech writer Karel Capek in 1920. The word robot comes from the Slavic word rabota, which means labour or work. The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called robots. They looked like creatures that can be mistaken for humans (picture shown). These characters were very similar to the modern ideas of androids.

(A scene from the play Rossum Universal Robots, showing three robots)

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