Radioactivity is a natural phenomenon that occurs when an unstable atomic nucleus undergoes radioactive decay, releasing energy in the form of radiation. This radiation can be classified into three types: alpha, beta, and gamma radiation.
Alpha radiation consists of alpha particles, which are essentially helium nuclei. They are the heaviest and least penetrating type of radiation, and can be stopped by a piece of paper or the outer layer of skin. However, they can be dangerous if ingested or inhaled.
Beta radiation consists of beta particles, which are essentially electrons. They are lighter and more penetrating than alpha particles, and can penetrate skin and other materials to varying degrees. However, they can be shielded by materials like plastic or aluminum.
Gamma radiation consists of gamma rays, which are high-energy photons. They are the most penetrating type of radiation and can travel long distances through air or other materials. They require dense shielding such as lead or concrete to block them.
To measure radioactivity, scientists use the International System of Units (SI) unit, the becquerel (Bq), which measures the number of radioactive decays per second. Another commonly used unit is the curie (Ci), which is equal to 3.7 x 10^10 becquerels.
Radioactivity is used in a variety of applications, including nuclear power generation, medical imaging and cancer treatment, and scientific research. While it can be dangerous if not handled properly, it also has many beneficial uses in modern society.
Btw, did you know that early 20th century consumers had access to radioactive products that were touted as the latest and greatest? Sounds insane, right? But these products ended up being incredibly dangerous and had devastating effects. You can watch our video on that here.