Talk:Radioactivity

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Implications of Quantum mechanics should go here, i.e., the "random" nature of radioactive decay. --Ed Poor Talk 14:57, 8 July 2008 (EDT)

I deleted the page, because it refers to "particles" in a misleading way. Also, I understand from high school physics that there two kinds of radioactivity:

  1. Electromagnetic: X-rays, etc.
  2. Sub-atomic particles, like neutrons; see nuclear radiation

We need a simple, basic article that explains how your dentist's assistant makes X-ray pictures of your teeth - and whether it's as dangerous to your reproductive organs as taking a plane trip from NY to LA. It should also explain the nuclear reaction which generates electricity - and why the US is safer in this than the Soviets were; see Chernobyl. The basis for atomic weapons should also be explained.

Other topics include background radiation, cosmic rays, and the medical use of radiation, as in cancer therapy. --Ed Poor Talk 16:32, 8 July 2008 (EDT)

Xrays are neither radioactivity nor produced by radioactivity. An Xray is produced in a cathode ray tube (akin to a traditional television). A gamma ray is produced when a proton is converted into a neutron. This sends a neutrino and a positron out of the nucleus. The positron immediately interacts with an electron and they annihilate each other. This produces two 511 keV photons which are in the Gamma ray range of the spectrum. This form of radiation is used in positron emission tomography.
In essence, all radioactivity is the emission of a particle of some sort or another. Any photons or electromagnetic waves (depending on how you want to think about it) is the result of an antiparticle annihilating.
It is also important to to confuse radiation with radioactivity. The two are separate and distinct concepts. --Rutm 18:03, 8 July 2008 (EDT)
Oak Ridge Labs defines radiation as "A general term referring to particles (e.g., electrons) and electromagnetic waves (e.g., radio waves) that carry energy." So in what way are radiation and radioactivity separate or distinct? --Ed Poor Talk 18:33, 8 July 2008 (EDT)

I dont think it is the release of particles actually. Is it not matter(particles) converted into energy via E=MC2? The radioactive element Radium for example releases small amounts of radiation by releasing the energy contained within its mass. JJacob 18:10, 8 July 2008 (EDT)

Radium releases alpha particles (2 protons and 2 neutrons). Beta radiation are protons. A chart of the decay chain of uranium can be see at here. The decay product of Radium is radon. Specifically, radium has 88 protons and 138 neutrons and becomes radon with 86 protons and 136 neutrons -- two less protons and two less neutrons. There is also a small amount of energy released in the form of kinetic energy (heat) that was previously holding the alpha particle in the nucleus causing the atom to move. It is this heat/kinetic energy that is captured in a fission power plant. You can read more about the exact nature of the decay of radium here. --Rutm 18:21, 8 July 2008 (EDT)

Thanks for the reading material. I just finished reading a very good book called "E=MC2" by David Bodanis. Check it out, it is a fantastic read. God bless! JJacob 18:25, 8 July 2008 (EDT)


Clearly I have not made the proper distinction between radiation and radioactivity. Is one a subset of the other? If not, how are they related? --Ed Poor Talk 18:27, 8 July 2008 (EDT)

Radiation is the product of any body that changes from a higher energy state to a lower energy state. For example, when you run a current through a piece of metal it causes the electrons to move to a higher energy state. As they return to a lower energy state, they emit a photon. This is radiation and how a light bulb works. Čerenkov radiation is produced when a charged body slows down to the speed of light in a different medium. In the case of Čerenkov radiation, a proton is slowed down to 0.75 C (the speed of light in water) and gives off photons. A slower proton is at a lower energy state than a fast one. This concept of energy state also applies to the nucleus of an atom.
Radiation can be divided into two types - ionizing and non-ionizing. The distinction is how they interact with matter. Non-ionizing radiation are things like microwaves, radio waves, viable light. Ionizing radiation are subatomic particles and high energy photons. This type of radiation can knock off an electron from an atom or molecule leaving an ion. Xrays and even ultraviolet can be ionizing, but they are not produced by a radioactive substance.
A substance that is radioactive (a radionuclide) emits ionizing radiation naturally. Uranium, radium, radon, carbon-14, etc... For fun, carbon-11, nitrogen-13, oxygen-15 , and fluorine-18 are the radionuclides used in PET scans - radioactive substances are sometimes more familiar elements than the classic big heavy atoms. The distinction is that a substance used to produce x-rays in an x-ray tube is not naturally producing it. Not all ionizing radiation is from a radioactive substance. Gama rays, for example can be formed with supernova. Xrays are given off in the jets from a black hole as electrons are wiped around magnetic fields. --Rutm 18:50, 8 July 2008 (EDT)
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