Introduction to Physics in Modern Medicine, second edition

Suzanne Amador Kane

CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group), Boca Raton, FL, May 1, 2009

ISBN 9781584889434 (paperback)

Read about it online at:

CRC Press


Instructor's Resources   Medical Physics Instructional Laboratories     Demonstrations    Errata       

This website features additional materials for teaching with the textbook. Click on the following links to find out more, or email the author. Be sure to check out my course website for sample syllabi and assignments, interesting medical physics weblinks and others ideas.  In particular, I'd appreciate hearing about any typos or errors in the new edition.

Contact CRC Press directly for complimentary instructor's copies and a solutions manual;  you may also email the author for ideas for additional exam and homework problems. (Please note that I will not email these to students or others who cannot demonstrate that they are course instructors.)


Physics for Life Sciences & Premedical/Prehealth Students:

Consult my Introductory Physics for Life Sciences Links for teaching resources & useful information about this topic.

AAMC-HHMI Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians

The AAMC and Howard Hughes Medical Institute have prepared a new list of guidelines for premedical student and medical student scientific curricula.  These proposed recommendations suggest that medical schools replace the current course requirements for premeds (such as a year of introductory physics with laboratory) with a new set of "competencies"--i.e., understanding of scientific principles and skills relevant to biomedicine.  The MCAT exam is also being revised, with a new version (MR5) to debut in 2015. 

Many of the topics in Introduction to Physics in Modern Medicine already address many of these competencies and the kinds of topics appearing on sample MCAT exam questions posted at the AAMC's  website, although I recommend using a standard introductory physics textbook (such as General Physics by Morton M. Sternheim & Joseph W. Kane, 2nd edition, J. Wiley, 1991) as the main curricular resource for an introductory physics for life science course.


Medical Physics textbooks not mentioned in the textbook that are especially good additional sources of problem set problems

Radiation Therapy Physics, (2nd edition) William R. Hendee, Geoffrey S. Ibbot, Mosby 1996.

Introduction to Health Physics, (4th edition) Herman Cember, Thomas E. Johnson, McGraw-Hill 2009

Medical Imaging Physics, (4th edition) William R. Hendee, E. Russell Ritenour, Wiley-Liss 2002.

Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, Russel K. Hobbie and Bradley J. Roth, Springer-Verlag, 2007.

Useful Books that also cover physiology, biomechanics and related topics too:

Physics & Technology of Medical Imaging Online, Perry Sprawls

Biomedical Applications of Introductory Physics, J.A. Tuszynski, J.M. Dixon, J. Wiley & Sons, 2002.

Physics of the Human Body, Irving P. Herman, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2007.

Physics in Biology and Medicine, Paul Davidovits, Academic Press, 2008.

Physics with Illustrative Examples from Medicine and Biology, volumes 1, 2, and 3. George B. Benedek and Felix M.H. Villars, AIP Press, 2000.

While I have not checked out these textbooks personally, others have recommended their use for their coverage of medical physics & biophysics topics:

General Physics, 2nd Edition, Morton M. Sternheim, Joseph W. Kane (J. Wiley & Sons, 1991).

College Physics, Alan Giambattista, Betty McCarthy Richardson, Robert C. Richardson (McGraw-Hill, Boston, 2004).

Physics, James S. Walker (Person/Prentice Hall, 2004).

Check out this website on biomedical applications problems for introductory physics, courtesy of the NSF Galileo project.


The best source of videos is to simply search online (Youtube, various websites for professional organizations, manufacturers websites, etc.) for relevant content. However, these older resources are useful, though getting dated. 

The Vision of Modern Medicine, Science Television ; written, edited and directed by Jeff
Hildebrandt; Publisher: Morris Plains, N.J. : Distributed by Lucerne Media, c1993. 1 videocassette (29 min. 14 sec.)

21st Century Medicine: Operating in the Future ; producer/director, Bill Hayes ; director, Jim Colman ; writer, Mona Kanin
; produced for Discovery Health by Advanced Medical Productions, Inc. ; a production of Discovery Health
Channel; New York, NY : Ambrose Video Publishing, Inc.[distributor], 2001. [First half covers diagnostic laparoscopic surgery, ductoscopy, endoscopic cardiac surgery; second half covers brain surgery and telepresence medicine.]

The Operation: Knee Surgery (VHS) The Learning Channel, Discovery Communications, 1993.[Repair of torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee using laparoscopic surgery. Approx. 42 min.]

Scientific American Frontiers: 21st Century Medicine (VHS) PBS Home Video, 2000. Alan Alda narrates conversations with physicians involved in four areas: 0:00-15:00 Computer-guided brain surgery using MRI and brain mapping; 15:00-23:00 Virtual Reality therapy for phobias; 23:00-31:00 Gene therapy; 31:00-42:00 Virtual Surgery; 42:00-end Electrical Muscular Stimulation.

 Medical Physics Laboratories (undergraduate level)

These laboratories have been developed with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. You may use the lab manuals so long as you acknowledge the source. We mention commercial sources for your convenience, but other vendors may offer similar products. See also our Medical Physics Demonstrations homepage for some less expensive ideas. (We have also found that some medical equipment manufacturers are willing to give away free demonstration models of some equipment, and that used medical equipment can be purchased inexpensively through online vendors. Also, you cannot improve on a fieldtrip to a local hospital if that is feasible.)

The Human Eye & Sound: 

Optical instruments (Human Eye lab) Also: Pasco Scientific has good basic experiments for optics, including packages for exploring image formation using lenses, the inverse square law falloff of intensity, total internal reflection and fiber optics, the transmission of laser light through various filters (modeling absorption by different tissues) (using their Advanced Optics Systems), and the operation of the human eye (using their Ray Optics Laser System). We also have an intro-level lab on Sound.

Ultrasound Imaging:  Ultrasound Imaging Laboratory Lab Manual--appropriate for any intro or sophomore level course in waves or medical physics. Uses 3B Scientific ultrasound laboratory equipment.

Radiography:  Radiography with Visible Light--a simple, low-cost series of exercises demonstrating some issues in x-ray image formation.

Computed Tomography:  Klinger Educational Products makes an x-ray based Computer Tomography lab setup (in 2008, about $8K if you have their x-ray appaeratus, about $28K complete.)  Also, see this article for a full writeup: "A simple medical physics experiment based on a laser pointer", Colin Delaney and Juan Rodriguez, Am. J. Phys. 70, 1068 (2002) and their website for the backprojection software.

Positron Emission Tomography:  "A simple experimental setup to demonstrate the basics of positron emission tomography", Kerstin Sonnabend, Wolfgang Bayer, Peter Mohr, and Andreas Zilges, Am. J. Phys. 70, 929 (2002).  Also: Let's Play PET website

Properties of Ionizing Radiation: Pasco Scientific and other vendors sells a variety of Nuclear and Gamma Spectroscopy laboratories appropriate for this section. Students can study the energy spectra of radiation emitted by a variety of long-lifetime isotopes; detectors can be purchased to allow detection and spectra analysis of alpha, beta and gamma radiation. The absorption of radiation by foils made from a variety of materials of varying thicknesses can also be studied. The Isotope Generator (Ba-137m) kit allows one to make short-lived isotopes from a "cow" generator system for studying half-lives. You can make measurements of source activity vs. time using their radiation detectors and software, or those from Vernier Software. (We would like to do a simple mockup of gamma camera imaging using a home-made phantom with hidden radioactive sources and several detectors.)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): We have Magritek's instructional Terranova-MRI device (about $10K in 2008).  See the website of TeachSpin, which sells experiments on Pulsed NMR, Magnetic Torque and Earth's Field NMR which combined yield an excellent introduction to the principles underlying MRI;  we have spoken with other instructors who've adapted this for simple imaging by taking advantage of its field gradients. Pasco Scientific also sells an Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) experiment useful for illustrating the basic principles of spin resonance.

Virtual X-ray Imaging Laboratory from Duke University


Second edition

Please send me email if you note typos or errors.

1)  Page 26: in the equation for magnification by thin converging lenses, the equation listed gives only the magnitude.  Since the image is inverted, this equation is more commonly written M = - di/do, to take this into account.

2)  Page 111, Problem 3.3 a should have the units of laser spot diameter as microns (10^-6 m), not "m".
3)   Page 14, on Figure 4.12(e), the order of activation currently reads: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 5, but should instead read 1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1, as indicated by the shading.

4)  Page 284, on Figure 6.9, the label on the figure itself reads ‘position’ rather than ‘positron’.

5)  Page 74, middle of page "1 milliwatt (10^-2 watt)"  should read  "1 milliwatt (10^-3 watt)"

6)  Page 395, start of second paragraph "MRI has been show to be"  should read  "MRI has been shown to be"

7)  In the expression for the cumulative activity, pg 304 for Eq. (7.2) T<<T1/2 , the factor 1.443 should be omitted.

8)  The definition of the Roentgen, pg 301, should read: 1R=2.58E-4 C/kg

First edition only

1) Figure P2.2(a) on page 39 is missing a line at the top. It should look like a helical tube throughout.

2) The energy units of electron-Volts (eV) are used in the caption to Fig. 3.7 on page 51 without being defined in the text. The text should include the definition: "One electron-Volt (1 eV) is equal to 1.60 x 10^-19 Joules, so a chemical bond energy of 6.4 x 10-19 J is equal to 4 eV."

3) Equation (4.6) has a typo at the bottom of page 97. In the equation for the transmitted intensity, istead of "100" it should read "100%".

4) Problem 4.3 should be done using the speed of sound of 1540 m/s. It should include a note that the distances obtained using echo times of several milliseconds will be too large to correspond to distances within the body.

5) Problem 4.5: students can assume a beam width several times the wavelength assumed, since this exercise uses estimation rather than exact values. The goal is to get a ballpark time for doing a typical abdominal scan, and to apreciate the challenges involved in 3D imaging.

6) Page 155: In Table 5.1, the units for density should be g/cm^3 not g/cm^(-1)

7) Half-lives have units of minutes in Table 6-4.

8) Page 242: mSv are used before their definition on page 243.

9) Page 244: Equation (7.3) should read: Phi = (radiation absorbed by target organ)/(radiation emitted by source organ)

10) Page 259, Fig. 7.8a. This figure was accurately adapted from the data in Fig. VI on page 157 of the UNSCEAR 1994 Report Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation, as noted in the text. The units of ERR are defined in that figure as (1/Sv), which is perplexing if ERR is defined as a dimensionless number. The problem is that UNSCEAR's report defines the same symbol, ERR, in two different ways, and I did not catch this when reproducing this figure: as excess relative risk (a dimensionless quantity), and as excess relative risk per unit dose, with units (1/Sv). (See page 20 of the UNSCEAR report cited in the text.) Thanks to James S. Meyer for pointing this out.

11) There is an error in the text on page 18, in the sample calculation. The statement in the second paragraph "note that since the ray travels from a faster speed of light (higher index) medium into a slower (lower index) medium..." should be replaced with, "note that since the ray travels from a slower speed of light (higher index) medium into a faster (lower index) medium..."

12) One person suggested rephrasing something she found confusing: "on page 307, when you say "steps (2) to (4) to map the new slice", I would say "steps (2) THROUGH (4)".

13) On Table 6.4 (page 228) the half-lives given are in units of minutes.