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Radioactivity, also known as radioactive decay, describes the process of spontaneous breakdown of unstable (or radioactive) nuclides, with the formation of daughter nuclei and release of subatomic particles and/or gamma radiation. A single decay (a.k.a. disintegration) refers to the degradation of one nuclide into another.
Modes of decay
- alpha decay
- beta decay
- electron capture
- spontaneous fission
- isomeric transition
Radioactive decay is a stochastic process, i.e. it is probabilistic, and it is impossible to foresee which specific nuclei will decay. Nevertheless, it can be predicted with a high degree of confidence the proportion of any sample of radioactive atoms that will decay in a specified period of time.
History and etymology
Henri Becquerel (1852-1908) discovered radioactivity in 1896 when studying potassium uranyl sulfate 2. Further early advances were made by wife and husband, Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867-1934) and Pierre Curie (1859–1906), who were co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics with Becquerel in 1903. It was Marie Curie who coined the term radioactivity 4.
- 1. William Alexander Newman Dorland. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. (2007) ISBN: 9781416023647 - Google Books
- 2. Gopal B. Saha. Physics and Radiobiology of Nuclear Medicine. (2010) ISBN: 9780387362816 - Google Books
- 3. R. F. Farr, P. J. Allisy-Roberts. Physics for Medical Imaging. (1997) ISBN: 9780702017704 - Google Books
- 4. Mould R. Pierre Curie, 1859–1906. Current Oncology. 2007;14(2):74-82. doi:10.3747/co.2007.110 - Pubmed