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Uber Physics Question

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chessmaster1990's picture
Joined: Oct 2005
Uber Physics Question

If you have a radioactive isotope and it is decaying. Why does it take a certain amount of time to decay. Why doesn't it all just decay immediately. I'm looking for ideas, insights, whatever...I don't care if its right or wrong. I don't want a page long answer about nuclear physics...I already know all that. I want to know why it doesn't all decay immediately. So far I've gotten answers that involve: equilibrium, chaos, entropy, and electrons...but I'm looking for other ideas...I don't really need an answer, my homework is actually to ponder the question, but its really bugging me cuz I wanna figure it out:confused: . Thanks everyone

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xenahorse's picture
Joined: Sep 2005

I'm not in pyhsics, but am in AP Chem. Shouldn't it have something to do with the energy levels having to bulid up to a certain amount before they can shoot an electron off? Or is it that so much energy builds up that it blocks the attraction between the protons and electron? Not sure...

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Hunterbender's picture
Joined: Nov 2007

Look over Robert Milikan's that electric charge always occurs at some integral multiple of a fundamental amount e. The idea of quantized charge.

The same concept can be apply. It's small pouches of energy getting release at a time interval. The more unstable..the more..well...energy it burst.

That's my educated guess.

mary008's picture
Joined: Nov 2007

it decays bit by bit because it has a HALF LIFE. so if the half life is, say, one day, then every day, 1/2 of what was there the day before goes away.

so if you start with 10 grams, the next day you'll have 5, then 2.5, then 1.25... and it eventually gets really close to 0.

i outlined the idea on my site:

the half life explanation and problems are at the very bottom of the page.


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