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Q & A: Do atoms reproduce?

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
Do atoms reproduce?
- Tremont Grade School
Tremont, IL
A:
In the sense that living organisms reproduce, no, atoms do not reproduce.

Some atoms are radioactive and decay into other atoms. Some emit "alpha" particles when they decay. An alpha particle is two protons and two neutrons stuck together. An alpha particle is the same as a helium nucleus. For example, Radon (a naturally ocurring gas, produced in the deacay of Thorium which is found in rocks) decays by emitting an alpha particle to produce a Polonium atom, which decays itself by emitting an alpha particle. Each of these alpha particles makes a helium atom.

But is this "reproduction"? Not at all! The helium atoms do not "grow up" to be like the atoms they came from -- they just stay helium atoms.

Tom

(published on 10/22/2007)

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