Archive for December, 2011
Why is the neutron stable inside the atom, but decays when it is free? Our next paper explores what’s happening in the neutron to cause these effects.
It turns out that the answer, at least when viewed through the cordus lens, is to do with the electric field structures of the neutron. Basically, the neutron does not have a full set of these. This is not a problem when it is inside the atom, because the proton has enough to cover for it. The way the proton and neutron bond together sorts this out.
But when the neutron is free of the atom, then its inadequacies start to show. It has a marginal stability, and eventually something comes along that tips it over the edge and it decays.
We also anticipate what it is that causes that instability. We can also explain why the lifetime of the neutron is an exponential distribution. This part of the paper is really basic, perhaps even pedantic, but it’s important to be clear about what an exponential decay means.
That’s all the paper was originally intended to cover. It was supposed to be the simple closing paper in a bracket of three. But, this being a thought-experiment, we always like to push the ideas to the limit.
Doing so suggests that the neutron decay rates are likely to be variable rather than constant. That is an unorthodox outcome, because these rates are generally believed to be strictly constant. Strangely enough, there is a body of empirical testing that has been done over the years that suggests variable rates, though it is a controversial area of physics (see related articles below). So it is a pleasant surprise to see that the thought-experiment has something to contribute to the debate in another indistinct area of physics. So there is a twist at the end of this paper.
Full paper is here at the physics archive vixra: Stability and decay: Mechanisms for stability and initiators of decay in the neutron
- A Brief Review of Nuclear Physics by Michael Fowler, University of Virginia
- Beta decay, Wikipedia
- Live Chart of Nuclides – Table of Nuclides [Shows whole periodic table, with all nuclides. Interactive]
- Three Types of Radioactive Decay
- Half-life heresy: Accelerating radioactive decay, New Scientist
- Solar ghosts may haunt Earth’s radioactive atoms, New Scientist