In November 1961, Stan Lee (in charge of the writing) and Jack Kirby (in charge of the drawing), created the first comic book series in which the protagonists are a superhero family. We are talking about the Fantastic Four comic book, which would have laid the foundations in the following months of the entire modern Marvel Comics Universe. The comic book is an unexpected success and introduces innovative elements of everyday real life that had never been seen before in the adventures of the superheroes of the time. Moreover, the adventures are not set in fictional cities, but in well-known American cities such as New York. An almost unprecedented novelty for superheroes.

During the testing of an experimental rocket, the four crew members (scientist Reed Richards, his girlfriend Susan Storm and her brother Johnny, pilot Benjamin Grimm) are hit by an out-and-out storm of mysterious cosmic rays, forcing them to make an emergency return. They would later discover that they have acquired fantastic and unexpected powers that would have forever changed their everyday lives.

But let’s find out in reality about the discovery of cosmic rays, how these contribute to the natural radiation to which each of us is subject to every day, how the field of radiation protection has consequently evolved and it has always been a topic of daily study to the medical physics specialist.

Cosmic Rays were discovered between 1911 and 1912 by Austrian physicist Victor Franz Hess, with his experiments on radiation (then called ‘penetrating’), using simple balloons. With these experiments, the brave physicist noticed how the electrometer placed on the balloon measured an increasing amount of electric charge as the altitude from the ground increased.

These experiments led to the identification of a mysterious radiation coming from the cosmos, definitively denying the hypothesis that the intensity of Earth’s natural radiation could only be generated by the radioactive primordial rocks that have been present since the Big Bang in the Earth’s crust.

Primary cosmic radiation interacting with the atmosphere produces a cascade of secondary cosmic rays that hit the ground, contributing roughly 16% to the natural radiation, also known as the natural background.

On average, each individual is exposed to a dose of radiation of 2.4 millisieverts / year, although that varies greatly from place to place. Of these, about 0.3-0.4 mSv / year is due to cosmic radiation.

Radiation protection is based on the principle that each dose of radiation, regardless of its extent, increases the risk of causing damage to one’s health.

The specialist in Medical Physics, following the principles of Radiation Protection, collaborates with the professional figure of the Radiation Protection Expert in the study and development of predictive models, useful for assessing and predicting the risks associated with radiation exposure.