Radioactive decay: Discovery, process and causes

Radioactive decay is the strange and almost mystical ability for one element to naturally and spontaneously transmute into another. In the process, those elements tend to emit deadly forms of radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Radioactive decay is most commonly associated with nuclear disasters, such as at Chernobyl (opens in new tab), where the resulting harmful radioactive decay in the surrounding area necessitated the creation of an exclusion zone. Radioactive decay occurs in atoms that become unbalanced, called radionuclides, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (opens in new tab). These radionuclides follow their own unique path of decay, transforming into different elements until they reach a stable state.

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