# How Does Carbon 14 Decay so well

#### benit13

What causes them to pop? ...no one knows ... One idea (off the top of my head) is that there is a flux of unknown particles whizzing around ... different isotopes have different interaction cross sections for them , when an atom interacts with one it just pops ...Imagine bullets flying around and atoms are balloons of different sizes, a big balloon equates to a short half life
You've got the right idea, but it's very complicated. There are models in the literature that try to predict decay or nuclear reaction properties based on nuclear physics and quantum mechanics applied to configurations of nucleons with particular states, with varying degrees of success. An example is the "coupled-channel" models.

However, although a decay probability or interaction cross section can be estimated based on knowledge of the constituent particles, all experiments lead to the conclusion that there is no explicit mechanism exists that "causes" a decay (rather than not) for a given system at a particular time; even in models where there are intermediate states (e.g. excited states) and/or evolution of state as a function of time (reaction kinetics), the decays/reaction outcomes are completely random.

#### Woody

It is tempting to construct scenarios for something causing radioactive decay,
Perhaps by invoking other "unknowns" (e.g. Dark Matter, Dark Energy, etc...)

However there is completely zero evidence for anything, other than purely random happenchance, causing the decay.
And people have looked (and are continuing to look), but have found nothing (yet).

#### oz93666

zero evidence for anything, other than purely random happenchance, causing the decay.
But "random happenchance " is no explanation at all , that just means the mechanism of decay has not yet been discovered

neila9876

#### neila9876

I always feel that some chemical phenomina are similar to those in physics, e.g. H2O2 is not stable while H2O is stable.

#### topsquark

Forum Staff
I always feel that some chemical phenomina are similar to those in physics, e.g. H2O2 is not stable while H2O is stable.
Why do you say that $$\displaystyle H_2O_2$$ isn't stable? You can buy it at the supermarket!

-Dan

#### topsquark

Forum Staff
But "random happenchance " is no explanation at all , that just means the mechanism of decay has not yet been discovered
Unless QM is right and it is truly random...

-Dan

#### neila9876

"Why do you say that H 2 O 2 isn't stable? You can buy it at the supermarket!"
@dragon:
Can you find it in the Pacific?

#### oz93666

Unless QM is right and it is truly random...-Dan
If you think QM has an sensible explanation , I'm all ears ....

It's a little analogous to flipping a coin .... It could be wrongly said this is a random event . 50% will be heads 50% tails , any one flip will be 50/50 ... but that is only because we don't know all the causal factors , every time the thumb will flip with different force , sometimes the coin will spin 67 times , some times 91 times , too many unknowns we don't know ... but if we knew them we could predict when a head would come up and the illusion that flipping was a random event would disappear ...

A probing question is to ask what has caused a particular atom to just pop ...

neila9876

#### benit13

It's a little analogous to flipping a coin .... It could be wrongly said this is a random event . 50% will be heads 50% tails , any one flip will be 50/50 ... but that is only because we don't know all the causal factors , every time the thumb will flip with different force , sometimes the coin will spin 67 times , some times 91 times , too many unknowns we don't know ... but if we knew them we could predict when a head would come up and the illusion that flipping was a random event would disappear ...

A probing question is to ask what has caused a particular atom to just pop ...
Everyone who studies QM initially has this doubt. It's par for the course. Unfortunately, it's difficult to explain. Therefore, I'll defer to a statement on Wikipedia explaining it for me:

"In classical physics, experiments of chance, such as coin-tossing and dice-throwing, are deterministic, in the sense that, perfect knowledge of the initial conditions would render outcomes perfectly predictable. The ‘randomness’ stems from ignorance of physical information in the initial toss or throw. In diametrical contrast, in the case of quantum physics, the theorems of Kochen and Specker,[4] the inequalities of John Bell,[5] and experimental evidence of Alain Aspect,[6][7] all indicate that quantum randomness does not stem from any such physical information."

Source: Quantum indeterminacy - Wikipedia

topsquark

#### topsquark

Forum Staff
"Why do you say that H 2 O 2 isn't stable? You can buy it at the supermarket!"
@dragon:
Can you find it in the Pacific?
Can you find the element mercury in air? Just because we don't find $$\displaystyle H_2 O_2$$ in the ocean doesn't mean it isn't stable. Go buy a bottle of peroxide and see how long it stays peroxide.

-Dan