Nuclear Radiation Mutations In Humans

The first decay processes to be discovered were alpha decay, beta decay, and gamma decay. Alpha decay occurs when the nucleus ejects an alpha particle (helium nucleus). This is the most common process of emitting nucleons, but highly excited nuclei can eject single nucleons, or in the case of cluster decay, specific light nuclei of other elements. Beta decay occurs in two ways: (i) beta-minus decay, when the nucleus emits an electron and an antineutrino in a process that changes a neutron to a proton, or (ii) beta-plus decay, when the nucleus emits a positron and a neutrino in a process that changes a proton to a neutron. Highly excited neutron-rich nuclei, formed as the product of other types of decay, occasionally lose energy by way of neutron emission, resulting in a change from one isotope to another of the same element. The nucleus may capture an orbiting electron, causing a proton to convert into a neutron in a process called electron capture. All of these processes result in a well-defined nuclear transmutation.

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