What is the cause of Radioactive Decay

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by RajeshTrivedi, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. RajeshTrivedi Valued Senior Member

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    Why it happens and what is the transition or trigger point?
    Since a neutron also decays and has a half life, is it not suggestive that radioactive decay is far more fundamental than the binding energy of nucleus?
    Is this decay so spontaneous that at t=0- we have the same characteristic holding element and at t = 0+ it disintegrates or there is a perceptible change in the characteristic of element giving an indication of decaying.

    Are there any recent work indicating some efforts in identifying the more fundamental cause behind radioactive decay or whatever is text available since decades is almost the last word on it?
     
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    I believe radioactive decay is uncaused.
     
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Rajesh:

    It appears to be a random process, just like a lot of quantum mechanical processes. We can say something about the probability of decay, but we can't predict exactly when it will occur for any individual nucleus or particle. I'm not sure whether we have really good theories that can actually predictive the average lifetime of a given radioactive nucleus, or the excited state of an atom.

    The decay of the neutron presumably has something to do with the binding energy of the quarks. Sorry, not my field of expertise, or I'd say more.

    If you're asking whether there's any prior hint that decay is about to occur in a nucleus, for example, then the answer is no, as far as I'm aware.

    Also, it can be useful to remember that there are three types of radioactive decay - alpha, beta and gamma - which are all quite different in terms of the mechanisms involved in the decay. But all are random processes.

    I don't know. It's an interesting question. A related question would be something like: what causes the spontaneous de-excitation of an atomic state, fundamentally? We can describe the process. We know that it's energetically favourable, and so on, but what actually starts the ball rolling? As far as I'm aware, nobody knows.
     
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Cause and effect explanation, and similar mental shortcuts or rule-of-thumb type comprehensions, only works in certain circumstances - but they are common. The technical explanation, the rigorous one for precise answers, is often unusable in practice - cause/effect explanation comes in very handy.

    So we would like one.

    Problem is, the rigorous theory is all we have for quantum world. It's apparently too far removed from the scale of sensory input abstraction that our minds were built to handle. ( My best guess would involve re-describing probability as a "thing" that "causes" events - following what we did in inventing "air pressure", or taking in reverse the way we handled electromagnetic radiation mentally by extending our sensory "causal" entity of color and waves. Using the equations to build virtual sensory organ perceptions, as a colorblind person would use them to build the idea of a rainbow. But I haven't been able to sell it)
     
  8. RajeshTrivedi Valued Senior Member

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    I am also inclined to believe the inherent randomness (non deterministic, a-causal) aspect especially at quantum level, but the moot question is maths/models Vs Physical reality. It is true that non deterministic probabilistic models nicely explain the physical reality, but can we conclude that since our models are based on probability theory the underlying physical reality is also probabilistic? Looks obvious but it really isn't. Your wide proposal of making probability a "thing" that "causes" event, is more from the inherent desire to seek a cause rather that surrendering to not so intuitive approach of randomness, despite the fact you may be a knowing substantially about the success of such models.
     
  9. RajeshTrivedi Valued Senior Member

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    Your posts begs couple of questions..

    So when an element (nucleus) decays, the trigger is neutron-proton binding energy or some fluctuation in quark-quark binding energy?
    Do orbiting electrons also plays a role in decay, kind of do we have different half life for an element's ionized state?
    How come a free Neutron has a very short half life (few minutes) but as a part of nucleus it is very stable?
    Heavier elements are inherently unstable, what is the possible troubling characteristic with heavier nucleus/elements (as compared to lighter ones) which is responsible for decay or instability? Is it not leading us to a probable cause that is "why" is known but "when" could be random?

    Idea is, are we complacent about few of our old theories?
     
  10. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    Is the word "PROBABILITY " a scientific nice word , but in plain is ignorance ?
     
  11. river Valued Senior Member

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    What do mean ?
     
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Of course. That was exactly my point. Cause/effect "comprehension" is very handy, and we humans inherently seek out such mental tools to help us think and act.
     
  13. river Valued Senior Member

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    Sure

    But in radioactive decay , is Cause/Effect deep enough to understand this reaction ?
     
  14. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    From Timojin Post 7
    There are various known processes which conform to probabilistic laws.

    Radioactive decay is one such process.

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, & quacks like a duck, it seems correct to call it a duck.

    If a process conforms to probabilistic laws, it seems correct to call it a probabilistic process.
     
  15. hansda Valued Senior Member

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    • Pure speculation and alternative theories are better posted in "Free thoughts" or "Alternative theories" than in the Science forums.
    You can try with my Instantaneous Law of Inertia. https://www.academia.edu/34096181/THREE_UNKNOWN_FORCES_TO_BE_CONSIDERED

    Some unknown force may be considered here.
     
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Dunno. My suggestion (and it's not just mine) is that the mathematical establishment of probability be taken in and understood as virtual perception (like a virtual sensory organ) of cause. That at the quantum level probability itself - as it is virtually "perceived" via mathematics and employed in QED - be taken as a cause. That it is a thing we can only perceive via mathematics and models, via what are in a sense mentally constructed virtual sensory organs, as we perceive X-rays and voltage and time.
     
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    I believe Bell's Hidden Variable Theorem applies here.

    In a nutshell, we are able to know that there can be no underlying force - even one of which we are unaware. If there were, it would manifest in the outcomes of the probability.

    You'd have to read up on the Hidden Variable Theorem; its pretty deep stuff.
     
  18. hansda Valued Senior Member

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    You mean Bell's Hidden Variable Theorem can explain the cause of Radioactive Decay?

    You mean you are aware of all the forces of Nature/Universe? There is no unknown forces in the nature?

    How probability is related with each of the known forces? How do you know that, unknown forces are not contributing in the outcomes of the probability?
     
  19. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    No. I was quite clear.
    Both you and Tim suggested there might might unseen forces at play. Bell's Theorem rules them out.


    No. I was quite clear.

    We can show that, if there were unknown forces acting within subatomic particles to cause decay, we would see that reflected in the results of our tests.

    I was quite clear. Bell's Theorem rules out unknown forces.

    That's why this is such a conundrum. If it were a simple matter of saying "we're sure there are forces, but we haven't discovered them yet" then radioactive decay wouldn't be as perplexing as it is, and this thread wouldn't exist.
     
  20. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    DaveC426913 and exchemist like this.
  21. hansda Valued Senior Member

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    Why do you think, it is pseudoscience?

    With my Instantaneous Law of Inertia, unknown forces can be discovered. This law also can be used in QM. In my above link, I explained how unknown forces can be developed. I also gave examples of three unknown forces, which can be considered.
     
  22. hansda Valued Senior Member

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    How Bell's Theorem rules out any unknown forces? I already gave examples of three unknown forces.
     
  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    You'll have to read up on bell's Theorem for that. There's no straightforward explanation.

    I do not see your examples. Perhaps they became known in the last 34 minutes.
     

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