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ETpro's avatar

Can measurements of atomic structure made frequently enough eternally prevent decay of a radioactive atom?

Asked by ETpro (34505points) August 26th, 2010

I recently read that if we set up an experiment when a single atom of a radioactive isotope is measured for decay often enough, it will never decay, no matter what its half life. Now quantum mechanics boggles my mind every time I delve into it. The very notion of observation collapsing a wave function is mind boggling. But if this everlasting isotope experiment is true, it REALLY boggles my mind. Does anyone know if this author is right?

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4 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I am having a hard time imagining setting up the experiment so that the measurement happens often enough to produce the eternal isotope. It seems to me that the device doing the measurement would break down at some point allowing for a lag and thus decay.

I completely agree with you that the quantum world is bizarre. The idea that two particles can be linked and be light years away from each other is fantastic. Observing one has an instantaneous affect on the other. Simply weird.

ETpro's avatar

Supposedly, measurement even as seldom as 10 times a second will do the trick. Of course, the measurement tool couldn’t last forever. But the principle can be demonstrated wuite effectively with an isotope that has a short half life.

Quantum entanglement is, for certain, just as bizarre as the idea of the radioactive isotope that never decays.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

(Since this is Social and not General…)

Hey, from now on I’m just going to throw out glib answers without checking sources. I’ll make them short and humorous and try and get them in at the start of a thread and then bail from it when real back-and-forth gets going.

I bet you the rate at which I accumulate lurve will increase dramatically. ;)

ETpro's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop Now don’t go turning into a point whore I me. If you do, I won’t respect you in the morning. :-)

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