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Empress Palpatine
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"? Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one? If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?
Valentiinro
You could maybe use that as a metaphor for when radioactive atoms decay, if you like.
Empress Palpatine
I have heard that the radioactive matter slowly falls apart releasing deadly energies as it does so (a good reason not to wear uranium jewelry). But what about regular atoms, the non radioactive ones, do they exist forever, their bonds never breaking? Are they eternal?
Guest_Dan
As far as we understand, non-radioactive atoms are permanently stable. In the slim chance that they aren't, it's not their age that would cause them to break down but some extremely rare random subatomic process.
Empress Palpatine
If one should break apart, lets say an atom that is a part of a book I am reading, would it be a noticed event? Nuclear bombs let loose tons of energy, but what if just one atom should somehow split?
turin
No.

In the nuclear lab, I dealt with borderline dangerously active sources, which are basically tiny lumps of exotic material in which thousands of atoms are "dying" every second. But the only reason I would know that any atoms were "dying" at all is that there were warning labels everywhere, they were locked inside a heavy cabinet and each enclosed in its own lead container, and the geiger counter would go crazy. We have senses that detect a narrow range of photons (vision), subtle pressure variations in a certain frequency range (audition), some chemical reactions (olfaction/gustation), and direct mechanical and thermal stimulation (tactition). I know of no other (human) senses, and even thousands of atomic decays do not produce physical effects that can be registered (in my personal experience, although perhaps there could be a slight register of thermal tactition in some people). (Psychologically, I could sense this radiation intensely, I'll tell you what.)
AlphaNumeric
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 10:47 PM)
If one should break apart, lets say an atom that is a part of a book I am reading, would it be a noticed event?  Nuclear bombs let loose tons of energy, but what if just one atom should somehow split?

No. You, and everyone else, is constantly surrounded and even made up of radioactive material. It's only a small amount relative to everything else, but a few decays a second occur within a persons body.

Major sources of radioactivity some from limestone rocks (radon gas) and medical proceedures (Xrays or PET scans). Certain places in the world have elevated radioactivity levels due to human events. New Mexico was the scene of a number of nuke tests. Then there's the well known Chenobyl accident which sent radioactive dust over most of Europe.

Nothing noticable in the short term but some places do have higher amounts of cancers due to radon for instance. You can buy radon detectors if you live in a prone area.
Empress Palpatine
Thanks for answering that. Is it only radioactive materials that do this? Normal atoms stay together forever?

I loved glow in the dark paint when I was a kid. It wasn't radioactive was it?
turin
No. (At least I would hope not.) It probably contained phosphorescent material that required "charging" rather than fluorescent material that sustained the glow without "charging".
Empress Palpatine
I had several colors of florescent paint, but it needed a blacklight to glow. The blacklight was subtle enough to let the huge painting I painted on the wall look like it was lit up in the dark. When I turned all lights off, the glow in the dark stuff glowed in an eerie blue, lasting perhaps an hour. (Well, I hope my teenage art won't kill me.) It was the 1970's and both kinds of paint were readily available in craft stores.
turin
OK. That fluorescent stuff that "glows" under black light should also be harmless (well, non-radioactive at any rate; you didn't eat any, did you? dry.gif Also, if you learned anything from "Goldfinger", I hope you know to leave a small unpainted spot on the small of your back when you paint your entire body in it. biggrin.gif). It scintillates due to the absorption of the UV photons from the black light, not from the absorption of radiation from a radioactive substance embedded in the paint. The clue, of course, is the black light requirement.
Empress Palpatine
No I wasn't that hungry. laugh.gif I never had a florescent dip either. tongue.gif O.K. I think at some point I did paint a few lines or so on my face on some Halloween, but just a little.

I am glad to know I did not poison myself. (relief)

I remembered hearing a story once that some kids found a glowing substance. They were dazzled so they took it home to play with. It ended up killing them. I do not know when or where this happened as it is a story I heard through the grapevine.
turin
I probably happened in ... the internet. wink.gif
Jarred heath
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 04:53 PM)
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"? Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one? If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?

QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 04:53 PM)
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"?  Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one?  If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?

i think that u need to tell me Do atoms die? mad.gif
Nick
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 04:53 PM)
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"? Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one? If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?

In some GUT's(grand unified theories) protons decay after an extremely long time. If I remember correctly it is something like 10^46 years. After this amount of time you could expect hydrogen to decay. All the other heavier atoms are subject as well if proton decay is correct. But I don't think it is. biggrin.gif

Mitch Raemsch
Siau
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 04:53 PM)
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"?  Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one?  If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?

Everything continues until something interferes with it. Although his doesn't forbid something from interfering with itself such as to become something that it wasn't. But if an atom were going to interfere with itself, considering the light speed reactions holding it together and it's relative simpliity compared to larger molecules and objects, it would happen within a ery short time (like nanoseconds).

So I would say that any atom that survives more than 1 second, is likely to exist forever until something ELSE interferes with it. Radioactive atoms still require the touch of something else (usually to small to measure) for them to gain the impetus to come apart.

ALL change has cause.

smile.gif
Cédric H.
How do you want to make any quantitative prediction without writting any equations ?
rpenner
Muons and radioactive elements decay without an external cause, by a variety of mechanisms. If there was an external cause then the rates should vary widely over time or by temperature, or by chemical surroundings which is not observed. (Electron capture decays are the most suceptible because unlike other types they depend on the presence of electrons.)
http://www.fourmilab.ch/hotbits/
http://www.fourmilab.ch/hotbits/statistica...g/stattest.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD004.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF210.html
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Part...decayRates.html

If it was with collisions with other things, then faster muons should decay at least as fast if moving at high speed, but only the time dilation of their decay (an opposite effect) is observed.

http://www.egglescliffe.org.uk/physics/rel...s/srwrkans.html
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/relativ/muon.html

Cédric H, on an unrelated topic. Do you prefer Papillion Roquefort or Blue de Basque? (It's acceptable not to answer. Some of my Chinese friends think these are as horrible as Casu marzu. )
LearmSceince
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 04:53 PM)
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"? Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one? If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?

Some kinds of atoms are not fully stable and will decay into smaller atoms, by themselves. They don't "get old" though. It happens at random, and can happen at any time -- the probability does not increase as time goes on. Some kinds of atoms only last a fraction of a second! You won't find any of those, though (think about it). Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years! The "half life" is the length of time after which half the sample has decayed, or the length of time after which a particular atom has a 50% chance of decaying within.

See the cartoon at Webelements!

Even with a half-life of billions of years, there are a =lot= of atoms in a small lump, so that is still significant. Just like eggs and donuts come by the dozen and paper by the ream, atoms are measured by the "mole", which is about 6.022×10^23. That means that roughly a hundred thousand billion such atoms would decay in a year, in a quarter-kilogram lump of U-238.

So the half-life would have to be an astonishingly long time in order to not notice it, because there are so many atoms around us. Even so, so-called stable atoms have a probability of changing (either up or down) that is mathematically not zero. So after 10^50 years or so you would notice that all atoms except Iron will spontaneously turn into something else, at some probability.

However, if protons have the same property, all atoms will decay eventually as their component protons decay. Nobody has ever seen a proton decay, and efforts to do so put the lifetime at > 2.1 ×10^29 years. for a bound proton inside an atomic nucleus.

Long enough for you?

That is the curse of those who are immortal. After all the atoms disappear, they will still have forever to contemplate their fate.
Empress Palpatine
QUOTE (LearmSceince+Aug 8 2007, 07:34 PM)
Some kinds of atoms are not fully stable and will decay into smaller atoms, by themselves.  They don't "get old" though.  It happens at random, and can happen at any time -- the probability does not increase as time goes on.  Some kinds of atoms only last a fraction of a second!  You won't find any of those, though (think about it).  Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years!  The "half life" is the length of time after which half the sample has decayed, or the length of time after which a particular atom has a 50% chance of decaying within.

See the cartoon at Webelements!

Even with a half-life of billions of years, there are a =lot= of atoms in a small lump, so that is still significant.  Just like eggs and donuts come by the dozen and paper by the ream, atoms are measured by the "mole", which is about 6.022×10^23.  That means that roughly a hundred thousand billion such atoms would decay in a year, in a quarter-kilogram lump of U-238.

So the half-life would have to be an astonishingly long time in order to not notice it, because there are so many atoms around us.  Even so, so-called stable atoms have a probability of changing (either up or down) that is mathematically not zero.  So after 10^50 years or so you would notice that all atoms except Iron will spontaneously turn into something else, at some probability.

However, if protons have the same property, all atoms will decay eventually as their component protons decay.  Nobody has ever seen a proton decay, and efforts to do so put the lifetime at > 2.1 ×10^29 years. for a bound proton inside an atomic nucleus. 

Long enough for you?

That is the curse of those who are immortal.  After all the atoms disappear, they will still have forever to contemplate their fate.

Loved that cartoon! laugh.gif

So ordinary atoms can just go at any time? "New" and "old" not relevant, just the odds over an extreme length of time. Why would iron be an exception?

rpenner
Iron-56 is widely cited as the nucleus with with largest per-nucleon mass defect. This mass defect is the difference in the nuclear mass and the sum of the masses of the neutrons and protons that go into it.

Therefore, the end point of energy extraction from both fusion and fission is typically Iron-56. Elements heavier than iron are only made in large quantities in supernovae where the relatively steady fusion process gets very far out-of-balance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Binding...on_isotopes.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_energy
s0cratus
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 04:53 PM)
Everybody knows what happens when they split an atom; but I was wondering, do they ever come apart on their own just because they have gotten "old"? Do atoms have a lifespan even if a very long one? If an atom comes apart for this reason, does it release that same fantastic amount of energy in the same fashion when they purposely split them?

The free atom of hydrogen can live about 1000 seconds.
Cédric H.
You mean ground state hydrogen is not stable ?

How do you explain that ?
rpenner
QUOTE (s0cratus+Aug 10 2007, 05:45 PM)
The free atom of hydrogen can live about 1000 seconds.

And then 1000 seconds more and then 1000 seconds more....

Neutral atomic (as opposed to molecular) hydrogen lasts for (at least) billions of years.

http://www.universetoday.com/2004/02/04/cl...ound-andromeda/
Cédric H.
Experiments and theory show us that neutral hydrogen atom are stable.

So if you write things like " The free atom of hydrogen can live about 1000 seconds. " please be more specific or highlight the fact that it is your own theory ...
s0cratus
QUOTE (rpenner+Aug 10 2007, 05:54 PM)
And then 1000 seconds more and then 1000 seconds more....

Neutral atomic (as opposed to molecular) hydrogen lasts for (at least) billions of years.

http://www.universetoday.com/2004/02/04/cl...ound-andromeda/

it is only hypothesis.
The author uses "cold dark matter" but
nobody know that is "cold dark matter"
rpenner
Read the article closer next time.
QUOTE
Astronomers are able to use radio telescopes to detect the characteristic 21-centimeter radiation emitted naturally by neutral atomic hydrogen.
What was detected was not dark matter, but hydrogen.
Trippy
Not only that, but the 21 cm emission of neutral Hydrogen has absolutely no relationship to the radioactive decay of Hydrogen.

It's a spin-flip transition.

It's a transition from a paralell state to an antiparalell state.
It's highly forbidden (as most spin-flip transitions are), and has a half life of ten million years, but there are a bunch of factors that can alter this.

Note that it is the transition that has a halflife, not the neutral hydrogen. The transition ahs a half life because it exists in an energy state that's slightly above ground state.

Another example of a spin-flip transition is the one that gives glass it's green colour. It's a spin flip transition between d-orbital electrons.

Forbidden transitions do occur, but they only occur very really.
Nick
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Jun 22 2007, 07:01 PM)
I have heard that the radioactive matter slowly falls apart releasing deadly energies as it does so (a good reason not to wear uranium jewelry). But what about regular atoms, the non radioactive ones, do they exist forever, their bonds never breaking? Are they eternal?

Only radioactive atoms get old. Those hard liittle things don't get brittle.
LearmSceince
QUOTE (Empress Palpatine+Aug 9 2007, 12:04 AM)
Loved that cartoon! laugh.gif

So ordinary atoms can just go at any time? "New" and "old" not relevant, just the odds over an extreme length of time. Why would iron be an exception?

Right, each atom has, for its type, a characteristic probability of decaying. It's like rolling dice. Each throw is a new chance. When its number is up, *pop*.

Iron-56 is the most stable. No matter how you change it, it would take an input of energy to do so. In general, small atoms release energy when you add particles to them, and big atoms release energy when you remove particles from them. Iron is where the two trends meet.

BTW, your smoke alarm is made using man-made (alchemy!) radioactive material called Americium-241. It has a half-life of 432.2 years.
yquantum
Greetings,

I am sure someone has mentioned this but just in case.

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change its form.

The total quantity of matter/atom's and energy available in the universe is a fixed amount and never any more or less


This includes radioactive material.

caio_
yquantum

Friend in the USA has a www that could be of help.

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase...ser.html#coneng
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