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Q & A: Can a strong magnet affect the decay rate of Cæsium-137?

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Most recent answer: 10/02/2015
This may seem like an odd question but, can a powerful magnet change the rate of decay? For example, I have seen Random Number Generators that use Caesium-137 and a Gieger-Muller type of device as a detector. The data (Time between the detector detecting electrons) is fed through the COM port of a computer where this data is used to generate random numbers.If I had one of these types of random number generators, would it be possible to alter the decay of the caesium-137 in order to disrupt the natural decay process or even try and predict the output of the RNG. Thank you.
- David Wrisley (age 30)
Chicago, IL USA

Hello David,

Although very strong magnetic fields can affect the decay rates of a few chemical or atomic reactions,there is no credible evidence  that an effect exists for nuclear reactions.   Atomic reactions are mediated through electromagnetic forces whereas nuclear beta decays proceed via the weak interaction.  

The randomness of the decay process is an inherent property of quantum mechanics.  In principle with a fixed field you can change the rate but not the randomness.


(published on 10/02/2015)

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