Radioactive Decay: Evidence That It’s Not Random or Uncaused


For me this is mostly off topic and definitely out of my field, but several commenters here in the past have had heated disputes over quantum indeterminacy. Here’s more fuel for your discussion. According to a Stanford University press release, radioactive decay seems to be influenced measurably by something our sun is doing.

But there’s one rather large question left unanswered. No one knows how neutrinos could interact with radioactive materials to change their rate of decay.

“It doesn’t make sense according to conventional ideas,” Fischbach said. Jenkins whimsically added, “What we’re suggesting is that something that doesn’t really interact with anything is changing something that can’t be changed.”

“It’s an effect that no one yet understands,” agreed Sturrock. “Theorists are starting to say, ‘What’s going on?’ But that’s what the evidence points to. It’s a challenge for the physicists and a challenge for the solar people too.”

[From The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements]

I don’t have the slightest idea how this interacts with other experimental evidence on quantum indeterminacy, but y’all are welcome to talk about it here.

1 Response

  1. tz says:

    Whatever is going on, it’s not evidence that radioactive decay is “not random or uncaused”.

    We already knew that if a particle hits an atom, the atom can “decay” (i.e., split). This is how nuclear bombs work, after all. They are just hypothesizing that another particle from the sun is causing the effect. The “random and uncaused” feature of radioactive decay is about what happens when no particles are bombarding a radioactive element — decay events happen spontaneously due to quantum mechanical processes and they are completely unpredictable, except for statistical description of large numbers of atoms.

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