Radioisotopes in Biology and Agriculture: Principles and Practice

Radioisotopes in Biology and Agriculture: Principles and Practice

Radioisotopes in Biology and Agriculture: Principles and Practice

Radioisotopes in Biology and Agriculture: Principles and Practice

Excerpt

Radioisotope techniques, to the naïve, may represent the panacea for investigational difficulties--the royal road to successful experimentation; to the cynic they may appear as gadgetry, a fad that creates more problems than it solves. As always, the truth lies somewhere between the extremes. The really important contributions of these procedures in the biological field will be realized only insofar as they are utilized by investigators who are well grounded and have been working in the field of application. This is not to belittle the physical scientist, whose tremendous contribution is acclaimed by all. Nevertheless it is the biologist who recognizes the important problems in his own field, is familiar with the experimental material, and must be counted upon to make the interpretations.

A primary purpose of this volume is to bring home to the student and investigator an appreciation and understanding of how radioisotopes can fit into his program, and then to show how the experimental work can be undertaken. Chapter 1 presents certain basic principles unobscured by considerations of nuclear physics and experimental details. These principles are illustrated by examples drawn from such diverse fields as physiology, nutrition, entomology, and soils and fertilizers. The section on kinetics may be difficult for the reader with no background in mathematics, but an understanding of logarithms will enable him to use the methods. To follow the derivations will require some little knowledge of calculus.

Chapter 2 deals with certain difficulties inherent in tracer studies, describes the pitfalls, and attempts to show how they may be recognized, avoided, or taken into account in the interpretations. Chapter 3 is concerned with the practical problems of health physics and introduces the various units and physical concepts that are necessary for work with radioactive materials. Chapters 4 and 5 describe the facilities required and procedures suitable for studies with plants, laboratory animals, and domestic animals. Although it is recognized that methods and instrumentation have been improving rapidly, it seems that the approach is now fairly standard and that it is of value to know which methods have proved to be adequate in use. Rather than attempt to describe all the proce-

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