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Thread: Beta Decay

  1. #1 Beta Decay 
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    Hey Everyone,
    So I was wondering, why is it that beta decay produces electrons? From what I can figure, when beta decay occurs a proton or neutron breaks down into something less massive. But since electrons are a type of Leptons so they aren't affected by the Strong Nuclear Force, and also aren't made up of Quarks either. I just can't figure out where the electrons come from. I could be completely wrong, so feel free to set me straight.


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  3. #2  
    KJW
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    Beta decay isn't about the strong force, it's about the weak force.


    There are no paradoxes in relativity, just people's misunderstandings of it.
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  4. #3  
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    This is a somewhat involved question. Depends what hat you want to wear...traditional nuclear physics or quantum field theory. I've had it explained a half dozen times over the years and still only 'kind of get it'.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Masters Degree Implicate Order's Avatar
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    Hi AJ50nemb

    Remember as humans we like to categorize things to give them meaning. This does sometimes come at the risk however in creating a perception that these 'things' are actually seperate from their context. Until Quantum Mechanics, this perception was widespread through classical physics and gave a perception of particles as seperate 'billiard balls' that travelled through spacetime (a billard table) unfettered and were involved at times in classical billard interactions.

    Probably the best way to describe a particle is to not think of it as a permanent 'thing' but rather as the properties that are attributed to an 'event' or interaction in a specified region of spacetime. What governs the properties of that interaction that takes place can be attributed to conservation laws and their symmetries (eg. the context of the region that the interaction takes place in). Viewed this way you can perhaps see that the properties ascribed to a 'fundamental particle' are actually the constraints applied to finite amounts of energy in that context. At the 'fuzzy' quantum scale the context takes on a different form to what can be classically envisioned. So during the course of Beta decay, the constraints applied within the nucleus are different to those applied outside the nucleus. The form that the energy takes outside the nuclear context therefore typically are described through the notions of things that (by virtue of the context) can exist outside the nucleus such as electrons and so forth. The form that the energy takes within the nucleus is described by different things that can exist within that context.

    Of course this is just verbage which is trying to describe the mathematics going on with the 'weak interaction'. :-))
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    One reason an electron is produced is because of charge conservation; an electron is the lightest particle with the required charge. And then an anti-neutrino is required to conserve lepton number. (And all of these have to conserve spin and momentum.)
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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