Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsAstronomy & Space · 3 months ago

Is literally everything radioactive?

Even if only to an infinitesimal degree? Like, is lead radioactive? Is iron?

3 Answers

  • 3 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    No.  Most elements are stable over a very long time.  Hydrogen created in the Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago is unchanged, and will remain so for trillions more.  Helium created then or fused from hydrogen inside stars is also stable.

    Radiation comes from larger, more complex atoms that have extra components and release particles from the nucleus or the shell.  Alpha and beta and other particles, shortwave electromagnetic radiation can cause ionization.  This is destructive to other matter, like humans who get in the way of cosmic rays, x-rays, atomic bombs, lab accelerators, uranium and similar materials.

    Lead?  No.  It is the end product of uranium and thorium that releases radiation until it stops.  It has run out of particles to release and is stable.   And it is very dense, so it makes a good shield against radiation.

    Iron is not radioactive, its atoms are stable also. 

    Someday, atoms of everything will start to fall apart or degrade.  This is so far in the future, theories cannot give a length of time.  Quadrillions of trillions of years? Black holes and dead stars, every bit of dust in space will slowly vanish.  Protons and neutrons will evaporate into energy.  Nothing will be left in the universe but a thin red fog of photons.

    Or the universe might collapse before that, the "Big Crunch", but that looks doubtful from theories.

  • John
    Lv 6
    3 months ago

    Tritium (H3) is radioactive. Carbon 14 is radioactive. Cobalt 60 is dangerously radioactive.  The Tritium Plug puts the bang in the buck of a thermonuke. 

  • 3 months ago

    Most elements have various isotopes;  98.9% of the carbon in the world today is Carbon 12, with 6 protons and 6 neutrons in it's nucleus. But, there are isotopes of Carbon that go from Carbon 8 to Carbon 22. 

    Of all those isotopes, only Carbon 12 and 13 are considered 'stable', while the others have a definite half-life. (We use Carbon 14 to date when an animal or person has died in some cases; it's half-life is about 5700 years.) 

    Lead has a lot more isotopes - ranging from Lead 178 to Lead 218. 

    Of those, Lead 204, Lead 206, lead 207, and lead 208 are considered stable.  The others have half lives ranging microseconds to years. 

    Even Hydrogen has isotopes; Hydrogen 1 and Hydrogen 2 are considered stable; Tritium (H3) has a half-life of about 12 years.  (There's even isotopes up to Hydrogen 7.. but these are synthesized in labs, and decay very quickly...)

    So... Yes and no... while *most* stuff we're around isn't necessarily radioactive - there's a tiny bit of that same stuff that *is*. 

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