Random Radioactive Decay

Most recent answer: 07/18/2018

Concerning radioactive decay.I understand the idea of half life. That probabilisticly half the atoms of a given element will "pop" in its given half life. My question concerns what happens on a singular atomic level. I understand that it is not possible to predict exactly when a single atom of a particular element will "pop", but why? What makes one atom "pop" in a millisecond and an identical one in a year?Regards Eric
- Eric Ireland (age 58)

Wonderful question. 

What we know is that random quantum events, including radioactive decay, are not secretly determined by some hidden variables, unless the whole universe s conspiring to trick us. The reason is that any such hidden variable idea has some experimental implications (Bell's Inequalities"), regardless of the details, and in all cases tested those implications are false. So what looks random is really random all the way down.

Weird, isn't it?

Mike W.

(published on 07/18/2018)

Follow-up on this answer