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Radioactive Decay

  1. Feb 25, 2012 #1
    I am not quite sure why there are only four types of decays, alpha, beta plus and minus, and electron capture.

    I know that heavy nuclides undergo alpha decay because it is a fast way to loose 2 protons and 2 neutrons, also that the alpha particle is very stable.

    For beta plus and minus, and electron capture, I was told that it was to maintain the belt of stability on the chart of nuclides.

    The above explanations do not feel "complete" to me. For example, why does it have to be alpha decay? Can't the atom spit out something so that it will just drop to a stable state?

    This website, http://www.walter-fendt.de/ph14e/decayseries.htm, talks about dividing the mass nuclide by 4 and you would get remainders 0,1,2, and 3. I don't understand how this is related.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2012 #2
    The atom would certainly spit out anything to gain stability but in units made by these components only. Just like you can measure any weight with the units 1,2,5,10. You don't need others. Isn't it?
  4. Feb 25, 2012 #3


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    A few heavy nuclei decay by spontaneous fission, so your list is not complete. You could view this as the nucleus 'spitting out' something heavier than an alpha particle. Also excited nuclei emit gamma rays.
  5. Feb 25, 2012 #4
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Feb 25, 2012 #5
    Ok, but i wouldn't get many marks if I wrote this on my midterm. What are the reasons (asides from the ones I have stated) that it must be these components only?
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