The discovery process was particularly interesting, including Henri Becquerel's luck while observing phosphorescence, and Marie Curie's observation that the uranium ore were more radioactive than pure uranium, and must therefore contain other even more radioactive substances, which lead to the discovery of polonium (half-life 138 days) and radium (half-life 1600 years).
Most of the helium in the Earth's atmosphere comes from alpha decay, since helium is lighter than air and naturally escapes out out of the atmosphere.
As a result of that law, alpha particles have relatively little energy variation around 5 MeV or a speed of about 5% of the speed of light for any element, because the energy is inversely exponentially proportional to half-life. This is because:
- if the energy is much larger, decay is very fast and we don't have time to study the isotope
- if the energy is much smaller, decay is very rare and we don't have enough events to observe at all
Caused by weak interaction TODO why/how.
Most commonly known as a byproduct radioactive decay.
Gamma rays are pretty cool as they give us insight into the energy levels/different configurations of the nucleus.
Example: Figure "caesium-137 decay scheme"
The half-life of radioactive decay, which as discovered a few years before quantum mechanics was discovered and matured, was a major mystery. Why do some nuclei fission in apparently random fashion, while others don't? How is the state of different nuclei different from one another? This is mentioned in Inward Bound by Abraham Pais (1988) Chapter 6.e Why a half-life?