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What is a decay constant in nuclear physics?

The decay constant is the probability of a radioactive nucleus decaying per unit time.

In nuclear physics, the decay constant is a fundamental parameter that characterizes the rate of radioactive decay. It is denoted by the symbol λ and has units of inverse time (usually per second). The decay constant is related to the half-life of a radioactive substance, which is the time taken for half of the original amount of the substance to decay. The half-life can be calculated from the decay constant using the formula t1/2 = ln2/λ.

The decay constant is a measure of the probability of a radioactive nucleus decaying per unit time. It is a property of the nucleus itself and is independent of the external conditions such as temperature and pressure. The decay constant can be determined experimentally by measuring the rate of decay of a radioactive sample over time. This can be done using a Geiger-Muller counter or other radiation detector.

The decay constant is an important parameter in many areas of nuclear physics, including nuclear medicine, radiocarbon dating, and nuclear power generation. It is used to calculate the amount of radiation emitted by a radioactive substance, which is important for determining its biological effects and for ensuring safe handling and disposal. Understanding the decay constant is therefore essential for anyone studying nuclear physics or working with radioactive materials.

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